Dark Humor is one of the oldest subgenres of comedy. And its origin can be traced way back to ancient Greece. But we are not here to talk about the origins, we are here to talk about why is it one of the most talked about the subgenre of comedy. And why it invokes extreme reactions out of people.
Dark humor for those who don’t understand the essence of its meaning is the humor that makes fun of things that are serious, painful or taboo to discuss.
Now let’s take it from the top. The reason why dark humor is so famous is that reacting to something dark or tragic is deeply rooted in our mentality. Reaction need not be of laughter, but we will react. Let’s say a guy trips and fall over a banana peel most of the people will reach out to help that person up but they’d also laugh. Let’s look at something grimmer. A person meets an accident his/her vehicle is totaled. Most people who don’t even have the intention to help that person will stop to take a look and ask how the incident happened.
There is a saying that aptly explains this behavior “Nothing captures human interest more than the human tragedy.”
Even clinical psychologists dictate that laughing at a dark joke shows that the person has a higher IQ. The reason is quiet, simple it takes a certain level of intellect to normalize something tragic using humor and to use that humor to feed a thought into the brain of the reader or listener and make it stick. It’s not easy. Its understanding is a complex information processing task which requires the listener or reader to clearly see the multiple meanings intended in the said or written joke while emotionally distancing from the content. The inability to do that results in rather a hostile reaction than the reaction that was truly intended.
When done right it can break barriers and challenge prejudice. Many comics use racial humor to take power out of the hands of people who use racial slangs to dehumanize an entire community. While there are new age differently abled comics, who make fun of their disability and stereotypes related to it.
“Dark jokes are offered as a tool to give the listener a new perspective” – opines Paul, an essay writer from TFTH
But, if that’s the case why is a certain population appalled by dark humor?
Dark humor covers misery, tragedy or misfortune. The fact that someone makes fun of those things that you have lived (and suffered) takes away the fun part. Albeit it might bring back some of those dreaded memories. Sometimes even If you have not suffered through that tragedy, you will get offended because either you are too sensitive or there are certain words being used that actually triggers you. That trigger floods your mind with an aggressive reaction and clouds your processing of the joke. Stopping you from seeing the humor and what the person is actually trying to say. What they actually mean.
Then there is the presentation of the joke. All of us have seen Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes cartoons where the character suffers the most horrific injuries all the time. But, it’s the way they are presented that makes us laugh plus they rarely used any words which invoke reactions out of people not to mention the constant goofy music kept us at ease and allowed us to enjoy the cartoon the way it was supposed to be.
Sometimes it is the comic’s fault too. Comics sometimes tend to forget that there is a thing called “too soon.” People laugh their guts out at a holocaust joke or 9/11 joke because the emotional effect and impact of the said tragedy have been healed with time. The same people who are laughing their guts out at a holocaust joke will shower the room with boos at a school shooting jokes. Although it’s wrong to compare miseries. It is evident that far more people died in holocaust than all the school shootings combined. It takes times to process a certain tragedy and gain the ability to take a joke on it. Comics get in trouble for making a joke on soldiers not because he is making a joke on the soldier but because those brave souls are martyring due to continuous conflict of interest between either communities or countries to this date.
Mark Twain has rightly said, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.”
On an individual level, we have varied sensitivities irrespective of time. Culture and political environment play a huge part too. Western countries are more receptive to dark humor because of the cultural and political environment. A well-read, well-educated population is less likely to get offended.
“Dark humor is a minefield and one should play in it with all the caution.” – quips Sam from TopAssignmentExperts