Written by Kim Bateman, Ph.D.
Kim Bateman, Ph.D. is the author of Crossing the Owl’s Bridge: A Guide for Grieving People Who Still Love. Her research interests include humor, death, and organizational psychology and she currently serves as the Executive Dean of the Tahoe-Truckee Campus of Sierra College. Kim will be kicking off Wellness Weekend 2017 with her seminar, Tickling Your Funny Bone.
The ancient Greeks, Shakespeare, and other dramatists took comedy very seriously. They realized that comedy was not a “time out” from the real world, rather it provided another perspective on that world. Using rich examples, Dr. Bateman will explore the functions of humor and along the way, tickle your funny bone.
Humor can help develop the capacity for critical thinking. “Do you know why gorillas have big nostrils?” “Because they have big fingers,” encourages five year olds to think abstractly, see different perspectives, and express tension they might feel between their own spontaneity and society’s need for restraint.
As a defense mechanism, humor can help diffuse anxiety and alert us to what is wrong. During the rise of Hitler and the 3rd Reich, humorists were among the first to call attention to the breakdown of civility. In the ghettos Hitler’s “masterpiece” Mein Kampf (my struggle) was referred to as Mein Kramp (my cramp). In Munich, cabaret performer Weiss Ferdl would bring out large photographs of Hitler, Goering, and other Nazi leaders and then think aloud, “Now should I hang them, or line them up against the wall?” The humor was a way of saying, “You may have control of my body, but you cannot possess my soul.” It helped people express the darkness.
Humor also helps us forge ingroups and outgroups. Anyone who drives faster than you is a maniac, anyone who drives slower than you is an idiot, and anyone who drives the same speed as you is really annoying— humor as a means of social comparison. For hundreds of years, people have used jokes to establish superiority/inferiority in ethnic, racial, religious, socioeconomic, intelligence, and gender differences. It can wound, reveal, and conceal social realities.
For this presentation, many aspects of humor will be presented, but there will be a focus on how it serves as a pleasurable way to connect with others and release tension.
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