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Comedy and Social Science: Towards a Methodology of Funny by Cate Watson

By Cate Watson

While there were many sociological and mental reports of humor, few can declare to be humorous. Humor should be considered as a valid subject for social scientists, yet quite often, they current their examine fairly heavily. In academia, humor has a tendency to be trivialized and brushed aside. this is often greater than only a neglected chance for differently fun-loving lecturers. In literature, it really is quite simply authorised that comedy is necessary to the human . to disregard humor is to reject a very likely insightful methodological method, because the funny worldview offers specific possibilities for investigating the social. This booklet constitutes a distinct source, proposing chapters on irony, satire and parody as instruments for research and technique of illustration, in addition to contemplating humor within the behavior of analysis, and providing assistance on getting released. via proposing examples from around the social sciences, the ebook seeks to cajole and encourage instead of to prescribe an method – a closure which might (ironically) be inimical to the multiplicity and ambiguity which characterizes funny study and lends it its particular edge.

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As with satire and irony, parody is a contested term leading to what Gerard Genette (1997a) has called ‘an onerous confusion’. This, he says is, ‘because it is called upon to designate at times a playful distortion, at times the burlesque transposition of a text, and on other occasions the satirical imitation of a style’ (p. 24). Genette spends some time teasing out this confusion, eventually emerging with a usable taxonomy, which he then proceeds to dissect with an exquisite delicacy. Perhaps the most universally agreed minimal definition of parody is the rewriting of a text—hence the title of Genette’s work, Palimpsests: Literature in the second degree.

The Bum-bailiff’s head was split in nine places, one of the beadles had his forearm wrenched out of its socket, and the other had his upper jaw so dislocated that it fell half over his chin, and exposed his uvula, with notable loss of incisors, and canines. At a signal from Trudon, who varied the note of his drumming, the gloves were whipped away, quite unperceived, and sweetmeats were handed round again with renewed laughter…. (Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, 1955, pp. 478–482) Four hundred (or so) years after Rabelais published his comic masterpiece, Gargantua and Pantagruel, the Three Stooges released their first short, Women haters (1934), in the process reinventing the rules of slapstick comedy: Never be caught unprepared in a pie fight, Never slap one wise guy in the face if you can slap three in a row, and Never underestimate the value of a good poke in the eye.

According to this view, then, one of the reasons slapstick—and many other forms of comedy—endures is because it is essentially transgressive, posing a potential threat to the established social order (though not the least of laughter’s ambiguities is its function in being both transgressive and a social corrective, enforcing conformity). The Three Stooges may be the evolutionary descendants of Rabelais, but in the process it seems laughter has become vestigial and sanitized. The physical nature of the Stooges’ slapstick is a pale reminder of the corporeality and the grotesque that inhabit Rabelais’s world and endow it with much of its significance.

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