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The Truth Behind Comedy: An Analysis Of Comedians And Humor

2511 words - 11 pages

“Every joke has a kernel of truth.” A common saying such as this has numbed us to the reality of what jokes really are. Many comedians allow their outrageously dark thoughts to dictate their routines. Audiences listen waiting to hear ridiculous puns and jokes completely unaware of the twisted messages behind most punch lines. By analyzing comedians Jim Gaffigan, Dane Cook, Maz Jobrani, and Aries Spears through the frame of reference given by Professor Peter McGraw in “What Makes Things Funny,” we will understand the implicit message received through an explicit joke.
In order to understand the message being conveyed through humor, we need to explore the science of a joke. When analyzing the explicit message, it is categorized into 1 of 3 options. A joke can be benign, a violation, or a benign violation. Benignity occurs when the subject being discussed is not strongly committed to the norm, psychologically distant, or justifies an alternate explanation. Violations are best described by Professor Peter McGraw, “A violation threatens the way the world should be.” Two specified violations are social norms and moral norms. A benign violation is the perfect mixture of both. Another way to distinguish the message being delivered is by looking at the person presenting the ideas. Comedians have two strategies to deliver their jokes; the first is the Silverman. Sarah Silverman is a standup comedian who entertains the audience with the complete shock of every joke. She makes remarks no one has ever thought… or at least never said out loud. The second is the Seinfeld. Jerry Seinfeld intrigues the audience because his jokes are real life. Jerry’s moments are moments we have all had and he allows us to relate with the joke. Comedians may be different but every explicit joke has an implicit message and by evaluating these humorous people, we will see the true genius behind every goofy person.
Jim Gaffigan is the epitome of an American comedian. He magnifies Americans complete obsession with self-improvement and over indulgence of food. In the beginning of his Beyond The Pale routine, Jim talks about obesity, “But really, we're a country that loves food. I mean, think about it-- once a week on the news, there's a piece on American obesity.” He states a very serious problem, a problem which marks the United States and gets everyone to laugh at it making the start of the joke benign. He follows this fact up by saying, “They always show a big guy walking. They’ll block out his face— but that guy knows it's him. “Well,… Oh, crap!” poor guy gets to work—“Hey, Bill.” In this particular joke, Gaffigan brings our attention to the “big guy walking.” Pointing out an obese man and making him a victim is a violation because it goes against our social norm. Many people see obesity as a choice yet the comedian gives insight on how it must feel to be obese. Jim Gaffigan is very similar to Jerry Seinfeld because the context of every joke is very relatable. Every person has...

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