Eli Reads...

In 1900, Henri Bergson asked why we laugh.

In 1900, Henri Bergson asked why we laugh.

Laughter - Part 7

Season 2, Ep. 7
I really like this section. About halfway through, it really becomes something quite beautiful and profound.On this read-through I'm struck by how many examples from stage and literature Bergson examines. And it ain't just high art - his description of the clowns in this section makes Itchy and Scratchy look like the intelligentsia.“The comic” for Bergson is actually two things: what people laugh at in general, in their day-to-day lives; and the special, stylised, constructed comic of fiction. Bergson glides from the one to the other and back, like a camera operator racking the focus on a shot. Using art to illustrate life and vice versa, with comedy as the refractor, the focal point that bridges both worlds - the constructed and the sloppy mess of everything else. The laugh, the shaking of the body, the curious barking whinnies that come from us - are the same in both of those worlds, and respond to the same stimulus.But of course, when we’re leading our supple, slack, unscripted regular lives, we’re still following scripts, after a fashion. Scripts that have been drilled into us by habit and routine, or scripts we’ve learned recently, like the right tone to take with a new colleague, or a new partner. Revealing these rigidities can be hilarious. Is this the relationship between art and life that Bergson wants to investigate? How constructed-ness can be embedded off the stage, in even the most intimate details of our lives? And it’s laughter that tells us when we’ve gone too far? I think it is, but that’s not Bergson’s whole point.