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An eminent psychiatry wrister said humor means someone has to be humiliated when it comes to modern American humor. Are we reacting as a people or puppet. This Syrian people or puppet is produced by the Union Theological Seminary of New York in cooperation with the National Association of education or broadcast news under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center on today's program entitled What you will hear the views and voices of critique Modern Dog and television executive Edward friendly October Kenneth Barker. Logan Robert McAfee Brown and called here for the use of the man who analyzed some of the concepts created by our modern mass media and compare them with our crude be sure no more religious than. Here is the commentator for people are puppets of the president of the Union Theological Seminary in
New York Dr. Henry Pitney even do it before we turn to our guest authorities for their analysis of humor today its place and its function. We'd like to offer not some representative samples of humor but some examples of extreme humor these grotesque irony her humor a crim that merits analysis. This does not mean that the school of poking fun at oneself is completely lost. A dramatic example of this was cited by a critic Jade who Shanley in a New York Times review for January 29 1958. Less than a month after having been hospitalized by a cardiac asthmatic attack. Red Skelton returned to work last night for several minutes he joked about his illness. At one point he said that when his wife visited the hospital he was met by a nurse who told her I don't like the way your husband looks.
According to the comedian Mr. Skelton replied Neither do I but he's good to the kid. Mr. Skelton of the good. The clown who can make adversity de-mining boy. Irony and satire have not so much faded from the current scene as they have taken on the tune of scorn and morbidity satire has tended to become sick. You have this sick joke may be a very significant kind of humor today even though it is very likely that some of our killed or the priorities may not have encountered any more of it than in a few. Charles Addams cartoons or in a Samuel Beckett play. And so we are going to present a few samples of popular sick joke for our guests to analyze. Why do I walk around and got up around they all the other. What. Pushed my old lady over because look we've all broken body
parts. My rep. Shut up you get a brain don't you know you've got no more. Of. This type of humor has found its way into bestselling comic books such as Tales From The Crypt and the vault of horror into pocket books such as the mad reader subtitled humoring the juggler vein even into an area previously known to Goodwill. The greeting card. Here you are liable to run under cover of a large folded car ended by the smiling face with the grieving. So it's your birthday. You open the card and the fame they throw a lot. On the cover Mayock with a drawing of a scantily clad female standing
before a bedroom door with a copy of her private room you open the card to read. Pretend I'm not your wife. Or you may find the very simple variety which they put on the cover. I remembered it with our anniversary now and the entire bug at it. A leftist could hear form of this humor has found its way onto office and slogan any day now you might run into a posted printed piece reading advice. Keep your eye on the ball your shoulder to the wheel your ear to the ground not quite a work in that position. Or are my mom already. Don't confuse me with the phone. Or the familiar think sign th e I am or are the sign that simply state that. One analysis can we make in relation to the specific humor you just where
is the humor. If not what is humor. Y d. These are the questions our producer Philip asked of our guest authorities. Martin at borken lectures on the philosophy of education at the College of Columbia University. Mr. Gordon is a film for corrective Megatherium and a writer for many publications. The noise of laughter the phenomenon of laughter is not necessarily a response to human. This is. Psychological commonplace Laughter can be a very common. Childish senile and panic reaction. Much of the sick joke if you like. You have some instances here. Which are sick enough. They are attempts I think to trying to say something funny. In other words to say something Sam something with a sense of
proportion in a situation in which we are simply powerless. Powerless can you construe a joke about the total obliteration possible in an instant with an atom bomb. But laughter is a form of behavior that is not necessarily a response to comedy. But as a response in an explosive situation of one kind or another. It can be a panic reaction. We can see some of these excitations to laughter. That's perhaps a response in a panic situation. And the more. Exacerbated the type of human. The more abrasive. It is upon our sensibilities. The more we may say that we're getting into a state where we need more and more shock. Nothing strikes us as funny unless it really strikes us with a club. Let's go or just a few of the jokes that we had in the earlier portion of the program. And. I'd like to ask you what do you think may be panicking
us in these particular jokes and what it is that we're laughing at her example. This sign I. Think you spelled T H I M K Camp. Well I think that that sign them and the other one snide. Are very healthy signs I mean this is a kind of good old American Uma whereby we take postcard slogans and billboards slogans and make fun of them. Here we've been looking at this sighing thing which was the great brainstorm of the great magnet of a great industry which is supposed to lead us toward success in the stock market success in the future and everything else. And you find it written on on anonymous doors down in subway basements I think. Well you see this ultimately becomes a kind of very healthy protest I think against this kind of sloganeering. I mean think and snarl for me so pined might be a good.
Statement of an American slogan at this point I think I think that's a healthy kind of humor. I don't think it's not healthy at all. I must admit that I smile a little when I am about Ledger's death said. But what about the one that followed it dropped dad now this is simply a statement. That doesn't appear to me as satirising anything. Well now what do you mean drop dead literally or with that figuratively. You know ultimately this is the this is the absolute ultimate retort. I mean Ambrose Bierce in his Devil's Dictionary defined repartee is what you think of on the way home after an argument. Or this is the kind of repartee which is possible at any point in an argument and can ultimately destroy your opponent. It's simply a tactic if you might say and at some point a very strategic one although of course now it's so deep in our politics that it has no effect anymore. You tell somebody to drop dead and he pats you on the shoulder and says Ah go on.
Still Mr. Walken I hear we've got guilds that are that are making fun of somebody within the Plutonia. I mean I was in saying that these jokes were good or bad and I was also you remember saying that not all laughter is in response to something you or us. In other words I'm sorry I was simply talking about what these things may be responses to. You know that a lot of laughter occurs in very unfunny situations a lot of so-called comedy is in response to a lot of unfunny predicaments in many cases there is only one there's only there's nothing a man can do but laugh. What else is going to do in some situations but laugh. But there are other things. Involved here that these images of horror come to the mind consistently and not simply as aberrations as an odd joke. I must say something about the state of mind of the society of its time. What people find your MRIs.
What they find. Laughable. May have a great deal to do. With something. Much greater deeper outside or surrounding them that this kind of a joke is around seems to me to be a very unfunny phenomenon. If the fellow in the behavioral plant. And a preacher at Bennington College. Loan kind of book many books the grammar of motive the rhetoric of motive and the philosophy of literary form I'm my good man I plan to write I get dragged down in this bathroom as it were offered as examples of the sect and connection with Dragon thing I have observed our tragic play your gander second condition get whacked into an indeterminate shipping betweens that isn't magic. And now many sick dogs to get the family development and colony the one on one team your
brains God in the sudden flurry about hiding and wincing and out of the tangle and may conceivably Americanese froze in the act. Particularly of the figure waving the flag general expectation of laughing and when a comedian already had an audience in a mood of consent. When did one thing that could be said for even the most grows on the stairs cited in connection with the very and proverbial formula brevity of the soul of when there is what is the role I'd say is one thing in favor of the yokes that they suddenly build up a significant figure waving and pointed out by forcing us to adopt a striking out at you with regard to what right is mad at me but I've been in a role not merely of consumers of receivers but of active collaborators. In some I'd say is a virus that the fans have on their defensive on the ground of their economy which helped us suddenly to be overwhelmed by suddenly imagining him while lots of them are problematic of the Gulag and being taken by surprise they can leave long before the whole alarm while sensitivity is involved. This parking Ownie
response is somewhat like that I've seen in the case of a dog when it intently involved in blocking a vote. Ever take a dime. The dogmatic is that only put his hand on the dog's flank the dogleg turn to bite them usually the dog realizes the situation before actually biting the sig it seems to me jumps things up quickly that we can associate a part of our response in this from the right and we have a lab before I turned her in. However they instead at the lab might arrive in black in the family I was giving them for responsibilities and they would seem to be a viable road to the situation were not that they weren't repros that for it. As really advice keep your eye on a bar out of the way out of the ground. Now try to work in that position. The trick there is not only in building up was that you weighed in by the unexpected twist of the last line but also by the fact that the brakeman and vowed and vowed there was with a new bike validate something with him and get his ass dials that proverbs are always a fact given our
gargle argument. So I'd say that any ability to refurbish an old thing by putting it in a new light as a talking point. The president weighs dare I say it in the Rye way it makes the maxims and which the maxims are in effect played against one another. Another thing I like about comic invention of rowing in particular with things no matter how slight their returns may be now what can you do with the ubiquitous iin zine. Ordinarily you have to let them be there but I have a modest invention of Ph. I am again the inventor is that it is Mike. Mikey you're good. Reasonably asked with some skimpy material to work on. Favorite example bed to start in the colony. Edward is the director of the department of public affairs programming with a kind of a can network at the National Broadcasting Company. There are some cool in the world and a condition of life. That we should have. Now in the Young Turks and
break up. The barbarous jokes of this at their word. It's not really surprising for a generation that grew up. On a great world. They aren't very funny to me. But who knows what amused her the young mind. You remember when Marlon said to another moron this is many years ago but this was the kind of joke that went on. I suppose that this kind of a catharsis. Some apprehensions and fears. And. Because these are the youngsters who are going to live and the spread of action. What you expect what kind of you should pick. Something that they do not yet understand. I. Don't know what to do about it. You know. How would you expect them to respond emotionally. When they try to turn it up and be brave by making a mockery of
death. I don't think so. I would think that this was a sign of the generation but a sign of strong arts. Not. What you think you don't know. I was who would do this. We. Were trying to go ahead with our work. One point of view was that it was very serious because this kind of humor was not making. Fun of oneself it was making fun almost systematically of all positive values. Such as feel sorry for the sick have some type of morality. I notice. I think it's worth more college just came out with a magazine called nothing. The generation the younger generation it was. Almost systematically destroying all positive values which leaves them at the point of. Being excellent fodder for fascism if you wish. Or at least for.
A kind of calculated cruelty which people just automatically accept that there is a great danger here that trying to get the thing I can and the Rand book of Apne shrugged in which there is no humor at all and. A kind of wheeled in destruction. Do you think this is serious. I don't but that's something I worry about. I'm not a psychologist. I'm not one that thinks however. That the current generation. Is not an improvement over those who come before it. At the time of the American Revolution or shortly thereafter. The young bloods in Virginia. Were wild. Reckless. And their father sent most of them out to Kentucky. To grow up. And to get rid of a lot of money too.
I think that in all times young people have a hard time. Growing up in the world. But it doesn't mean that there's bad material which nothing good can come. I think that sometimes we tend to abandon our own responsibilities a little bit. And suggest that this is where in history that the younger generation is obviously going to the dogs and we may be growing with. It. I don't. Know. That they are. Turning down all the all positive bad news. I think we should have compassion for the sick. And be helpful. This is. Certainly in the. Western tradition. I wouldn't be quite so upset about these jokes I mean really don't I say I can remember once and I can remember sadistic jokes to Grimm Brothers fairy tales. You know. Rockabye Baby. I mean we have all.
The. Human. Subconscious probably involved with this. I am concerned and I worry so I have some misgivings but not big deep ones. The minister of the Presbyterian Church. Dr. Robert McAfee Brown. Maybe it will work you. Dr. Brown. General editor of the layman theological library and a professor of the medical reality I'm going to be overly logical coming up. I suppose I would squirm a bit at jokes which have the theologian as the bought of them and yet I've got it seems to me to be able to accept these in good grace and to recognize that my shortcomings are shown up. In them. The point of the joke in these instances it seems to me is to remind us that none of these things are beyond
criticism beyond possibility of improvement and that at this point can be made with laughter rather than simply with a grimace. Then the joke is a very important tool in the smooth running of the democratic society and all the rest of it. In terms of what you just said here. Are you implying that humor actually can become sort of a measurement of the health of an individual and the society and thinking in for example that perhaps stormtrooper. Not seen I think it funny till I make some jokes about Jews pull out a rabbi's beard or something like that but if you made jokes about Hitler or the stormtroopers at that time your life literally was in danger at one of the things that and obviously I'm helping individual in society one not allow. Him to have any fun he made on him. And score of the things which he holds particularly sacred. And I think this is this is at the very heart of the matter that our problem is that we
hold things sacred. Which only and finally cannot be held and sacred as we want to hold them. That is. That which is beyond possibility of criticism of a friendly jibe and so forth has become a kind of almost terrible absolute it becomes in a sense something which for us replaces God. The Nazi stormtrooper is a good example here of course you couldn't joke with him about Hitler because for him Hitler was someone who was invulnerable who was beyond the possibility of being in error or being ridiculous or anything of the sort. So I wouldn't want to make humor into the soul index of the health of a society. I would say it was certainly a very important. And that segment of society which is unable sometimes to laugh at itself or to join in laughter directed toward it has lost in a rather
devastating way that sense of proportion which is necessary because it is making pretension and about its own adequacy and which are clearly beyond the bounds that we're entitled to make. Dr. Paul Farrow oil after a holy going to be carried in New York that he bought 25 year. Round pepper of homiletic at the Union Theological Seminary. Fundamentally I had to pull back to be regarded as a disturbance of some kind of psychological equilibrium whether by an unexpected twists and in congruity maybe even a misadventure when the issue of the misadventure is not tragic. Now I want to lay some stress that it's that cried huge issue of the misadventure implicit or explicit which often makes a joke about
a lack of human capital. For example read poems quip about his experience in the hospital invites us into an appreciative sharing of his whimsicality the one about leukemia doesn't. Human need not me as the psychiatrist put it that someone else has to be humiliated not at all to live. Maybe at one's own expense. It's the gentleness of the humor as it pricks the bubble of pretension that what keep good in good health. The image of relief we could provide from some burdensome solemnity in question come to my mind. God I think when when your definition where. Of humor humor becomes something almost invariably critical and one way or
another. First of all I'm asking is that who are you saying that there's this element of criticism or at least evaluation in most humor. And if that is so all the others have a place in religion. There is an element of evaluation that seems to me in humor. What makes good humor is upcycling which that evaluation brings about the upsetting of some commonly accepted idea on some pretend him to work where work doesn't exist. And the horde does have a place it seems to me and a very real place in religion and I can be absent I would think reading should be held sacred by Given that religion is fundamentally uplifting and that the point of it and that is why are these the medium or the place.
Because the function of all true religion is to break out the cross accepted into the creative originality. Which is possible for the individual life. Now her commentary on today's program here is the Roosevelt professor of systematic theology and president of Union Theological Seminary Dr. Henry Pitney even to most of us tend to think of humor as a sort of at the end of an excrescence a look but not of the essence of life. We need to begin by recognizing the valuable indispensable humor crude humor in life. For one thing humor is a valuable function in releasing us from undue solemnity in reclaiming perspective down and thereby it is refreshing and restorative. But more than that. Humor is one of the
neglected despised avenue to truth. There is some nonsense which is so absurd. That it can be exposed for what it is only by the barb of well-directed where Take the theory of absolute determinism Breckon Russell as part of that theory and draws the deduction that no one should ever be held accountable for what he does. Sense like an ethically determined he could not do otherwise. Professor Hawking remarked that he is relieved to know the breakroom Russell is deficient inconsistent with his own theory to be annoyed with those who disagree with him. There are some crude so subtle so sensitive that they can be laid hold of only by delicate humor. Thank God for equality in the divine himself came to a sense of humor. How else could he endure humans. From many years of
experience in the theological seminary I have learned that the one most sensitive barometer of the health of the community its spiritual help is the quality of the humor rippling like a running brook or to cure the Ramseys. There like so much contemporary pseudo humor it's just because humor is not something added on to life a luxury with which we can dispense. But an essential for life that present day progressions of humor are a serious matter an important problem. They are robbing us of one of our indispensable instruments for sanity and health and for the discovery of ultimate truth. That was Dr. Henry Pitney even doos when the president of the Union Theological Seminary and the commentator for this series of people who are public.
Next week at the same time people or puppets will bring you in the boilerplate of analysis undramatic we've been patient on and the what's in it for me. The guest authorities discussing this topic will be psychoanalysts early lumens your. Critic Martin Rock and novelist Jeffrey Waggoner. Television executive Edward's family the Logan Robert McAfee Brown and Doc are the news people or problem is with unmoderated and directed by Philip Gelb or the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Executive producer for the seminary professor John W. Bachmann good bye euro down the line on this series is made possible by a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center for distribution by the National Association of educational broadcasters going out again next week for an exciting analysis of health and society.
What's in it for me. Our problem. This is the Emmy Radio Network.
People or puppets?
So what's so funny?
Producing Organization
Union Theological Seminary (New York, N.Y.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
So what's so funny? The sick joke and the functions of humor.
Series Description
Discussions of values and ethics, modern versus traditional. Faculty from Union Theological Seminary, authors Kenneth Burke and Geoffrey Wagner, critics Edmund Fuller and Martin Dworkin, Dr. Solon Kimball and broadcaster Edward Stanley are featured.
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Composer: Brooks, Alfred
Guest: Burke, Kenneth, 1897-1993
Guest: Brown, Robert McAfee, 1920-2001
Guest: Dworkin, Martin S., 1921-1996
Guest: Stanley, Edward
Host: Van Dusen, Henry P. (Henry Pitney), 1897-1975
Producing Organization: Union Theological Seminary (New York, N.Y.)
Writer: Gelb, Philip
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-7-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:25
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