On Laughter, 6 February 2014


{walking to school}

“Ateneo?” I asked the tricycle driver.
“No,” he said, then drove away.
“Ateneo! For God and You!” I heard the street lunatic singing as he looked at me with his morning optimism. He was standing across the street, with a finger pointing toward the sky.

I began to laugh.

Now I haven’t really done any research about this but suddenly I got curious on the dynamics of laughter. I assume we laugh as a response to amusement, but what causes amusement? And why do we laugh (or smile) as a reaction? Is it the absurdity of it all? The non-sequitur? The subtle subversion to life’s established (or forced) norms?

I think laughter is inherently valuable. As people would sometimes kill to laugh or, worse, laugh and be killed. Comedians prepare themselves for weeks, formulating, collecting, apologizing, suffering — just to solicit a minute of laughter from the audience. Laughter is a valuable commodity then. You pay the cinemas to laugh at Ai ai or Eugene or Jim or Aziz. You give the clown (or magician) his cheque because he or she has gifted a chuckle on the mouth of your child. You shed a little bit of cash to pay for cable and watch a cussterfucked series only screened every Friday night.


I admire stand-up comedians for their confidence and wit. They have this incredible ability to weave the beat, the tempo of the punchline. They create anticipation among the audience, citing ‘wait-for-it’ between the words of their narrative, as the set-up rolls into this big ball of expectation — and the risk, such risk of not being able to meet the anticipation. They gamble with their hearts, and earn their trust via the process of storytelling.


A person of authority once blurted a joke. It wasn’t funny, rude even. But I still laughed, aiming to find favor and avoid any air of awkwardness. Laughter is political.


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