Can Comedy Be High Art?

When you want to see art, that contemporary expression of the human essence, do you find some stand-up comedy in an events bulletin or do you head for a gallery? I am as guilty as most people when it comes to considering comedy as Art’s red headed stepchild. But why? Why aren’t we permitted to laugh when we tour the halls of an art museum? More accurately, why isn’t there anything on the walls to make us laugh? Are things all that bad?

Somewhere along the line, morose contemplation became equivalent with canonical art - but now that the summer blockbuster season has arrived, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the film. But be warned: high octane scenes of destruction and death may be bad for your health. A study conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine in which subjects were shown both dramatic and comedic films suggests that comedy, i.e. laughter, boosts blood flow.


That fine line between comedy and high art, where the more weighty qualities of life can be meditated on, is straddled by one of this summer’s films. “Funny People”, written and directed by Judd Apatow, is about a comedian with cancer. Apatow previously directed “The 40 Year-Old Virgin”, and joins a long line of comedians whose laughter is inspired by the more coarse side of life.

Chaplin didn’t like being thought of as a clown; in “Stardust Memories” Woody Allen laments his comedic reputation; Big Think’s own Ricky Gervais thinks comedy is about more empathy than delivering killer punch lines. So the next time you feel like considering “What it’s all about”, don’t forget that laughter is just as natural a response as crying. And if you choose to laugh a little now and then, you might just live to laugh another day, or cry—whichever you prefer.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less