How dark can humour be?: Laughter — even laughter about morbid things — is part of what makes us human (Andy Owen, 1 April, 2024, The Critic)

Is there any tragedy, too tragic to joke about? Comedian David Baddiel tells the following Holocaust joke; After the war, a Holocaust survivor dies and goes to Heaven. God asks him to tell a Holocaust joke. The Holocaust survivor does so, and God says it’s not funny. “Well,” the Holocaust survivor says. “I guess you had to be there.” […]

For Bergson, ultimately, humour’s most important function is to remind us that to be human is to be alive and free. The least free societies are usually those most intolerant of those who questioned the certainty of the prevailing view. Totalitarian societies, from the Nazi to the Islamic State, have not been known for their humour. In such societies it’s often humour that most effectively highlights the absurd seriousness of the power structures. In Afghanistan, the often-humorous landays recited at the secret poetry societies by Afghan women gave them a form of freedom whilst living under the repressive Taliban regime. […]

Camus ends Myth of Sisyphus by noting that “one must imagine Sisyphus happy.” I imagine Sisyphus, not necessarily happy, but, like those I served with, laughing regardless. By doing so he takes back some control of his absurd Divinely dictated fate and retains some dignity in doing so. We are invited to laugh with him at the absurdity of our fate the metaphor exposes. When we laugh together, we connect. It’s the same commonality I felt on operations with those whose different backgrounds were quickly bridged by a shared joke about our shared circumstances. For me the best comedy targets, not other groups, whether punching up or down, but makes us laugh at what we all share: not just the temporary circumstances we find ourselves in, but the fragile, irrational, sometimes tragic, but often comedic human condition. No matter how painful or ugly the situation, we should never lose the ability to laugh at ourselves and our circumstances; it’s part of what makes us human.