Ep 109: Comedy - should I laugh or should I cry?
All I do is sit at home and watch Netflix. Kyrie Irving (Basketball player)
We love our TV shows. Watching TV is Australia's most popular after dinner activity.
Author Aaron Allston said about the difference between tragedy and comedy: "Tragedy is something awful happening to somebody else, while comedy is something awful happening to somebody else." Is this true? What makes something funny?
The line between comedy and tragedy can be very fine. Sam Chan explores comedy, shares a joke or two and helps us see something bigger from the shows that make us laugh
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Bigger questions asked in the conversation
Sam, we’re talking today about comedy - do you like comedy?
What have you been watching lately?
We’ll test you on how much you know about popular comedy TV shows.
Comedy - what makes something funny?
So Sam, does it surprise you that Australia’s Funniest Home Videos was one of Australia’s longest running TV comedy shows?
Why do you think it was so popular?
One of the reasons for the demise of Australia’s Funniest Home Videos is the rise of the Internet and YouTube and popular “fail” websites like EpicFail and FailArmy. FailArmy YouTube videos have combined views of over 4.6 billion. So why do we like laughing at the misfortunes of others?
Is this what makes something funny?
Do your kids find you funny?
What about the bumbling hero? The shows that you like - Mr Bean, Jane the Virgin, Crazy ex-girlfriend - they often seem to have bumbling heros. Why do we find them endearing? What do we learn from them?
Tragedy vs comedy
There does seem to be a fine line between tragedy and comedy though. Some people can’t watch shows like Mr Bean because it’s too painful. He’s just too bumbling. Do you agree?
Author Aaron Allston said about the difference between tragedy and comedy: Tragedy is something awful happening to somebody else, while comedy is something awful happening to somebody else. Is this true? Could you say that Australia’s Funniest Home Videos should be Australia’s most tragic home videos?
Comedian and director Mel Brooks said: If I got a paper cut, that’s a tragedy. If you fell down an open manhole and died, that's comedy.
At the heart of both comedy and tragedy is often recognising something wrong about the world. Do you think we should laugh at things that are wrong?
But can we go too far though? Perhaps that’s where dark comedy pushes the boundaries (a comic style that makes light of subject matter that is normally considered serious or painful to discuss). Are there things which are too tragic or painful to ever make comedic?
Laugh in the face of Meaninglessness
It’s important to laugh at lots of things - the things that are wrong in the world - but what about meaningless - if the world is without ultimate purpose or meaning.
Comedian and director Mel Brooks
"I have no firm philosophical base. I believe in God with all my heart three days a week. Humor is just another defense against the universe. I don't know any more than anyone else.“
Can we laugh in the face of meaninglessness? Do you empathise with Mel Brooks?
If the universe is meaningless, does that make laughter better or worse?
The Bible’s reflection - comedy and meaning
Now Sam, the Old Testament wisdom book of Ecclesiastes, in the Bible, talks a lot about the meaninglessness of life, or the frustrations of life.
In Ecclesiastes 1 the book starts:
2 ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’
Everything is meaningless.’
3 What do people gain from all their labours
at which they toil under the sun?
Is life really meaningless?
Ecclesiastes goes on in Chapter 3, verse 1
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
What does this mean?
The author then goes on to give a beautiful poem about time and in verse 4 says,
a time to weep and a time to laugh
a time to mourn and a time to dance
When is the appropriate time for either? How do we discern the time?
The Bible’s reflection - Jesus and comedy
What about Jesus? Do you think Jesus ever told jokes?
Is Jesus a joker?
Reflections on Meaning
So was Jesus’ life a tragedy or comedy?
Do you think your life has been a tragedy or a comedy?
The Big Question
So Sam, should I laugh or should I cry?
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Dr. Sam Chan is one of City Bible Forum's national communicators. He is a cultural analyst, theologian, public speaker, author, medical doctor, and karaoke buddy. Sam was born in Hong Kong, grew up and lives in Australia, studied medicine at the University of Sydney, and did his PhD in Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), Chicago, USA. He is author of two books; Evangelism in a Skeptical World and Preaching as the Word of God.