Henri Bergson Essay On Comedy

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In dealing with persons engaged in normal affairs, the comic dramatists tended to depict the individual in terms of some single but overriding personal trait or habit.

They adopted a method based on the physiological concept of the four humours, or bodily fluids (blood, phlegm, choler, melancholy), and the belief that an equal proportion of these constituted health, while an excess or deficiency of any one of them brought disease.

Jonson’s talent lay in his ability “to make men appear pleasantly ridiculous on the stage,” while Shakespeare and Fletcher excelled in wit, or “the sharpness of conceit,” as seen in their repartee.

The distinction is noted as well in Humour is the describing the ludicrous as it is in itself; wit is the exposing it, by comparing or contrasting it with something else.

Humour is, as it were, the growth of nature and accident; wit is the product of art and fancy.

(1905), said that wit is made, but humour is found.

Laughter, according to Freud, is aroused at actions that appear immoderate and inappropriate, at excessive expenditures of energy: it expresses a pleasurable sense of the superiority felt on such occasions. Laughter, says Baudelaire, is a consequence of the human notion of one’s own superiority.

It is a token both of an infinite misery, in relation to the absolute being of whom humans have an inkling, and of infinite grandeur, in relation to the beasts, and results from the perpetual collision of these two infinities.

In many contexts, like standup or improv, jokes are written from only the “comics” perspective, and performed to what Bergson would define as an “absent-minded audience.” The material presented is often not targeted at the audience specifically, as comedians often rotate out audiences nightly; appealing to a mass crowd.

However, in this clip, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have prepared material for an incredibly specific few people about an incredibly specific few people.


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