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Margaret Mahy on humour

March 27, 2012

“humour dances around fundamental human preoccupations and is received with pleasure and relief when, by joking, it informs us about the sort of veniality and self-interest that we readily recognise in others.” pp7-8

Mahy asks: “Why do we laugh? …Does laughter mean that humour is automatically present? …When we talk of a sense of humour what do we mean? Wit? A sense of oddity? A sense of the disproportion of things? Response to the incongruities that haunt our daily lives? A good laugh can certainly bring about enormous relief, signalling, as it does, recognition with the world after a moment when a particular sort of surprise has disconnected us, and many definitions emphasise that laughter indicates good nature.” p8

“With children there are two main categories I think… the things that children are given to laugh at… things that they are encouraged to find funny, and the things that they find funny within their own society – things, in some cases, they are encouraged NOT to laugh at.” p6

“As I get older I find I laugh just as much but my laughter becomes increasingly ironical, as I have to cope with the increasing complication of human experience.” pp9-10

“Humour is tied in with the way we perceive the ridiculousness of the human world and cope with the pressure this implies… and it is also a response to the world’s alarm and it is made up of not one, but many responses.” p13

Mahy points to the idea “that words, juggled and exaggerated, have the power to make us laugh, that laughter not only reinforces our necessary bond with language, but signals release.” p23

Ref: Margaret Mahy (2004) Tragedy’s Wild Twin: The Mixed Nature of Humour. Auckland College of Education: Auckland.

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