Mikhail Bakhtin. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays (1981)

“Laughter has the remarkable power of making an object come up close, of drawing it into a zone of crude contact where one can finger its familiarly on all sides, turn it upside down, inside out, peer at it from above and below, break open its external shell, look into its center, doubt it, take it apart, dismember it, lay it bare and expose it, examine it freely and experiment with it.  Laughter demolishes fear and piety before an object, before a world, making of it an object of familiar contact and thus clearing the ground for an absolutely free investigation of it.  Laughter is a vital factor in laying down that prerequisite for fearlessness without which it would be impossible to approach the world realistically.  As it draws an object to itself and makes it familiar, laughter delivers the object into the fearless hands of investigative experiment – both scientific and artistic – and into the hands of free experimental fantasy. Familiarization of the world through laughter and popular speech is an extremely important and indispensable step in making possible free, scientifically knowable and artistically realistic creativity in European civilization” (p.23).

“This is the zone of maximally familiar and crude contact; laughter means abuse, and abuse could lead to blows.  Basically this is uncrowning, that is, the removal of an object from the distanced plane, the destruction of epic distance, an assault on and destruction of the distanced plane in general” (p.23).

Bakhtin’s words are wise but they were also written long ago.  Our world has changed.  What happens today when laughter commands all that can be said... when media cannot stand without an obligatory happy response... when media demands endless reactions to endless punch lines... when life must always be improved with a laugh-track? 

Well... life begins to look like this:


Laughter   2010  (6:10)