Thursday, March 11, 2010

512. Jokesteriology: Strategies Toward Generating Humor, Laughter (And How Scientists and Other Brainiacs Can Survive the Colbert Show Hot Seat)

My friend Maria recommended me to watch the Malcolm Gladwell TED Talk, in which I just did... and now that I have watched two Malcolm Gladwell talks in two days, I am already starting to see emerging strategies of his narrative. And I must say, Malcolm Gladwell is one of the very FEW people in the world who is able to get away with just being on stage and telling a story without needing any powerpoint or visual aid. His fro, lean physique, combined with his humorously absurd narratives in varying tones of voices can render him not exactly a "comedian" but a "humorous lecturer, humorous enough to compliment entertainment with education... a skill beyond the drabby university lecturer, but not Saturday Night Live, though... I bet Malcolm COULD function in Saturday night live."

Actually, I take that back. He BARELY survived nearly every iteration of the Colbert Show, except for one round I could say he left without bad taste. Malcolm is more methodical, logical, and his arguments are more complex to be rapid-paced, quick-witted humor. His answers are more long-winded and he seems annoyed every time he is interrupted.... It's natural but I think he need to learn how to adapt to the Climate of Colbert. Speaking of last night's talk "failure of experts... failing to adapt to the environment you are in." But then again, Gladwell's pop theories and stories are more complex narratives, layered phenomena behind the surface of things... so I'm not sure if quick-witted humor of the Colbert Show can match his efforts. I sympathize, though I think if Steven Pinker can gracefully survive the Colbert hot seat, then so can Malcolm Gladwell, if he changes his strategies.

And then I started to think about the General Theories of Humor and decided that I have reached a tipping point in my knowledge, that I will presently attempt to classify the Theories and/or Strategies of Jokesteriology, from very elemental to complex. (P.S. I have been doing such an immense amount of literature review the last three weeks, though it was on marine environmental history, and NOT on Theories of Saturday Night Live, I bet there are a few thousand books on Joksteriology, and I decided not to look them up. I reconciled to figure out how my mind is synthesizing various disparate experiences in my own life, before I am forced by the academic intellectual firing squad to find other people's work and cite them because their ideas are compatible with my own personal logic structures... such is the cycle... independent synthesis... find references retroactively as a necessary academic pill...).

First of all, laughter or humor or amusement is generated when one element is unexpectedly associated with another element, or suites of elements, and that this unexpected association does not directly harm you (hence you be the butt of a joke, or experiencing a very devastating, ironic event). Most humor strategies end up being very "light" (benign) whereas some other humor strategies are much more intense, because emergent humor comes from telling the truth, rather than distorting the truth.
Humor comes from a certain degree of "lying" or distortion from reality, or reality unexpectingly associating to construct a realistic distortion of unexpectedness.

0. Visual humor: contorted bodies, contorted and silly faces. Extremely gestureful. Unusual imagery-backdrop-props. (Jimmy Carrey and Colbert Show as classic examples)

1. Linguistic humor: simple play on words. Words with double meaning. Words said in the same way but different spelling or different meanings. Words used out of context. Inventing new words that you can understand the meaning based on context. (Jules sometimes)

2. The Usual Hollywood Tee-Hee 15-year-old-boy Jokes: Sexual body parts. Burping, farting, peeing, pooping. Anything otherwise is standard socially embarrassing in American culture, at least. (A good chunk of standup comedy, Ali G)

3. The Usual Hollywood Like-Whatever 15-year-old-girl Gossil Jokes, Which Can End Up Being Distortion of Knowledge Through the Telephone Game Mixup: He said, she said. He looks like that. She looks like this. He did that. She did this. (Chick Flick Movies) (Jay Leno and other your-nightly-news-in-humor-show embody rules 2 and 3).

4. Street-Smart Wise-Guy Asking Idiotic Questions to "Intelligent" Yet Highly Specialized, Well-Paid Experts, Demonstrating How Idiotic and Unwise Many Experts Actually Are. (Most prominent in the Ali G show).

5. Fast-paced Interruptive, Out-of-Place and Often-times Counterintuitive Insanity aka The HOT SEAT. Rapid-firing ADHD countering and/or complimenting interrupting everything that you say, attempting to put the person out of place of their comfort zones or arguments, unexpected persepectives. Placing interviewees in the "hot seat." Sell yourself in 10 second or less or then I will interrupt you with an off-the-wall (1) complimenting re-interation of what the interviewer just said (2) self-referential complimenting, or associating with a current news affair (3) fast-paced countering-disagreeing. Colbert will inevitably interrupt you after 10 seconds of straight talking just to maintain conversation and not a monologue. It keeps the show and footage and facial expressions very lively and interesting and very fast paced, but makes the interviewee oftentimes uncomfortable and awkward... except Steven Pinker! Ira Flatow (NPR's Science Friday) in humor is a D and Colbert in humor is an A+ though they do have common guests on their shows. Ira Flatow's hosting is more comprehensible on first shot, but not necessarily memorable... but Colbert is more memorable, though incomprehensible, which may increase comprehensibility in the longer term. Science has a lot to learn from Colbert. Colbert is a genius, not only he is a Faux Republican, he is a Faux Religious Case and Counter-any-Science-Scholar-Argument just for kicks and giggles!

6. Telling the Truth in Vast Space and Time, Revealing Irony, Unexpectedness, Counter-intuitiveness in reality, simply because in cross-generational phenomenon and people forget... and don't connect the dots. And such is the case for human history and environmental history... and Biologically Incorrect. It's humor you have to dig out from the tortures of academia. Invention of true, novel humor. There should be a Joksteriology Department, I do say. Example or irony and contraction that may be told humorously... I just spoke with Peter. You invent laws for predator control. Then too many predators are killed to a point of endangered species. Then you let the predators proliferate, and then the predators become out of control, then predators attack other endangered species. Predator control programs in contradiction with the endangered species act. Contradictory laws. Though science and governance somewhat co-evolve, they seem to be often times out of step with each other. Environmental history = emergent humor in human behavior. I see humor in human behavior all the time since I learned about myself through the eyes of non-human organisms. My knowledge is biologically rooted, projecting into human behavior. This humor is very slow to accumulate, sadly. Complex stories are not quick fixes to acquire and craft.

Just watched a Colbert Report series with Malcolm Gladwell over time. His style of writing is exploratory, an adventure in ideas, emerging trends in anecdotal, sometimes quirky stories (TED X Prize, the story of the dude who diversified mass-produced spaghetti sauce in Prego and Ragu). Malcolm's goal is similar to my own: extracting esoteric ideas from the university and translating them into fun adventures for everyone to engage. Encouraging people to examine their worlds, and the world beyond their own immediate worlds. He's not interested in converting people, more so interested in my similar pursuits "if to laugh, then to think." Dude, he is so flipping left handed. His major pop theories are (1) the tipping point, thresholds in nonlinear systems, whether social or natural (2) blink, thinking without thinking, or the notion of thinking with various different layers, whether your guts, your gonads, your heart and your head, but some layers are conscious to certain people and unconscious to others, some people are not in tune with their emotional, visceral, or sexual brains (for example, Colbert lays everything out on the table, what you see is what you get "I don't even dream!"), education and experience versus making decisions with gut instincts (e.g. with how food industries wanted to seek universals on the bell curve rather than diversity of taste preferences of Prego, hybridizing synthesis and diversity, it's disgusting because economic efficiency demands you produce the same product, imagine you went to a buffet that had all the same food in every section of the buffet, what's the point? corporate SOBs to even think that way! e.g. open niche spaces that are visceral, not rational) (3) outliers, how people are anomalies, and how they got to be anomalies were highly circumstantial e.g. Bill Gates in 1969 had access to a computer portal in middle school, very lucky to have access at such an early age, e.g. Albert Einstein born in an African tribe probably would have not discovered the theories of relativity (4) an article coming out on how the IQ test does not measure intelligence but measures how well you take the test. Well, ALL tests are like that. People used to classify items based on utility (potato with knife) when now people classify based on similarity in shape, size, structure, phylogenetic tree characteristics, origins rather than utility). That demonstrates a different value system regime, not right or wrong, intelligence from idiot.

Just watched Richard Dawkins and Colbert, Steven Pinker and Colbert. Steven Pinker was SLICK. He did the best out of all the people I watched, outperformed Gladwell and Dawkins. He's more adaptive and knows how to boil things down to simple ideas in short phrases. Example. "Explain the brain in five or less words." "Neurons fire in patterns." Patterned firing --> ideas --> thoughts --> actions, etcetera. I'm impressed. Colbert made an insult "pompous Harvard professor" at the beginning, but Pinker rolled that off. Colbert at one point had a 1.5 second pause that left him in this stump that I had never seen him in. Pinker won.... Colbert does the best when it's easy to COUNTER the guest speaker. For Dawkins, it's God. Dawkins failed miserably stating that "natural selection" was a purpose. Even the process of natural selection as a SIEVE is an ACCIDENT that happens to construct order... RETROSPECTIVELY. Overall, Dawkins is trying to convert people by insulting the people he's trying to convert: religious folk. For Malcolm Gladwell, Colbert was a bit more interruptive to Gladwell's methodical thinking. With Pinker, Colbert was more HUMOROUSLY COMPLIMENTARY. Cool experiments performing magic tricks with kids... including Colbert himself. If Colbert knew a little more about evolutionary psychology, assuming that the human mind is more hardwired than softwired, I bet Colbert would have been a better Steven Pinker counter-puncher.

No comments: