« WTF with Marc Maron Podcast

Episode 521 - Peter McGraw and Joel Warner

2014-08-05 | 🔗
Authors of The Humor Code, psychologist Peter McGraw and journalist Joel Warner, traveled around the world to find out what makes things are funny. They stop by the garage to share their findings and conclusions with Marc, including a scientific theory of humor. Plus, Eddie Pepitone drops in to get Marc up to speed on his life and his latest projects.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Paul. I went through this. How are you what the voters, what the fuck bodies, what the buccaneers, what the bottlenecks with bugbears, what the possibilities, what the bottle bury thins? kay, how're you. This is me marin. This is my show wmd up. Why talking like this. How is it one nice to talk to you today on the show appearance braun Joe warner our here they wrote a book called the humor code. You can get that at humor dot com or wherever books are sold. This was contentious interview for me, but I was a will because I always wondered what the motives are for trying disassemble and categorizing make graphs of things like comedy
Why? Why do it? Why explain it? I can quite get past the first written in relation to the unconscious. I think there are some good stuff there has something to do with. I think fear and disk britain feeling better farming, the pain, I'm not even paraphrasing, I'm making it up I've, no, idea. What is primary argument argument in that book or what his observations were. Let's peter mcgraw enjoy warner, explain it in a few minutes, eddie Avatar will be stopping, but I can't tell you, eddie, pepper town's, going to stop. I interrupted my own sentence. How is that even possible that I interrupted myself woof Well, look. I also want to talk a little bit about the the tv show, we're waiting third season I pick up- I think it's gonna go how to go. I think I have like a season in me. That's gonna be deeper and more
creative than the seasons before it. I feel it within me. I was it was when I look back. Process of making two seasons of the show marin. I'm amazed that the that it happened in that you know the amount of learning and the amount of experiencing. I think I involved as an actor as a writer as a producer, I directed one and I'm really starting to look ahead. You into the civilities of of you know using my imagination in different way, some filling up my. rain and thunder my brain watching movies. I'm writing things down? I'm not necessarily writing things. Comedic, I'm trying to think in pictures. I'm trying to figure out stories I can tell that are not directly based my small world. It seems to me that, out of the episodes that really resonated with people were things that were departures rate cowboy got a lot of feedback and that you're, quite honestly, when we made radio cowboy the only Why should I had for that role was phil hendry. The character was based on feel Henry was date based on my limited now of doing radio, but also based on my knowledge
relationship with radio people, and I think that episode in dealing with this of diminishment of relevance of two. she'll radio and in the sort of evolution of podcasting an end things that are more available in that way really had a human hard to it, and I think that that abroad what information to people that they didn't they really put into perspire liver or wouldn't have generally just being yoke. Consumers of this stuff- and I think that the sort of dynamics of of those two worlds and the evolution it showed in the human pain around that you have added at a real dont people? I was thrilled. The people responded to that, as did the mouth cancer bid, I think, getting out into the world and working without other comics, enjoying the wife of a comical little bit in a slightly amplified way, was compelling to people that sort of a surreal vibe to it, but but held it reality pretty well. People seem to have that episode
people like me and Dave Anthony in there be more of that. If we get another season, procure me and Andy can work and, in the final episode, moved people Why do people didn't know where to wear this was coming from emotionally all the time, and sometimes it was a little heavy emotionally, but I I think that that's ok and yo, sadly the idea of death of an unknown comic in an unknown to two people and in the broader sense but known to us. Is it's scary and sad, and you know you You have moments where you realize how grateful you are when, when some one passes that, especially if they pass to young, like just the other day, got information that did a great comic from Boston name, which sites where we have known for years
as the way of a of a avert, a sort of rare and and bizarre element in the dominican republic, some type of auto immune deficiency, where the where, where your immune system sort of turns on your nervous system- and it looked like he was gonna- be ok, but then he is. He had done his lungs, our work, ingrain he got infection and any passed away just started within days, and this guy was a great guy. I, several times to get among on. If I wanted him to do both of the live in Boston episodes where he was, a guy who worked boats using a cruise ship guy, he's a grey com I ve been doing it for years. He was won. The first comics actually saw work live in the sunset he when I was due, the team comedy the first time really got on stage in boston with Steve brill, who you got to know five hundred episode at the connection boston, rich size. Where was the host, and he was one of the guys that I saw a lot when I was open, MIKE's
and I ve been in touch with on an offer over the years, always great to see him here, just a horrible, horrible, tragic thing at, where and he's gonna be missed. He was a great guy and my heart goes out. who is his fiance Catherine, who was air through the whole thing. In the end, the marcos out to his family, it's it's it's jarring. How fragile life can be, and it's very that thing he was a good guy in a good comic and I'm sorry, we didn't get it to talk on the show. If you go, look I'm up on facebook, I do believe they're. There might be some help needed bridge size where our I c h, c e. I s. L e r, but you know it's it's as a guy who's. Fifty- and you know
about your what you're, obviously I'm living a good life and am grateful for that. But you How much time am I gonna spend here no repeating myself repeating myself. Easy was easy. I guess the messages try do. you try to live. Your life is Don't drive yourself crazy, eddie, pepper tone is stopping by here. Let's do that, eddie, pepper town I stopping by throwing visit, drop in prices drop, and I do not often for friends, you have things going on and were also thankful. You finally have something tangible going on the special which is great, but I'm going to edinburgh and that scares the fucker.
talk about the special. What's a special called, it's called in ruins, eddie pepper tone in ruins, directed by stephen finer, stooge, amateur motor. He hurried very blount in about a yes. They want italian guy. I love this guy. Easy is sweeter to me. I noted urinary manta combat and we do not I do not know, I think I said something that he took the wrong way. Maybe he proved that I he took it the right way. Maybe I was a little condescending because it's hard for me. Sometimes I look at these guys. It's like that kid. You know, but he very talented guy. He seems to like you and you need someone like that, and I remember one of the funniest lines of that interview was like hey where's, my jew, to follow me with the camera. You said something like that, but yes, so in ruins is coming out on netflix about august seventh. Now this is an hour it's an hour, and I taped it at the bell house, which was a wonderful experience, because that's my home, that's my home.
field advantage yeah, I had friends from just I differ, parts of my life show up to this, which was really kind of ginger eyes. I waited tables well yeah, which was very cool. You kill I killed and that was another and it's similar to me now going away to scotland, but that was another thing I was reading like before, and I was like. I don't. I don't know if I could really beyond for an hour, If I did run Glen, I don't feel good like immediately. I'm like, I don't feel great yeah, I'm the same way what's wrong with us, If I look like you inside we are now all did I think that was a flag. Exactly was going. Are you for me for recognising the self involved that you are, but I you happy with I am very happy without I am very happy with it and dumb ilo us
we came out really great you're straight up eating. Do any weird shit like in the middle you walking some higher. Did I hear sums? and up and unwelcome doing the same bit on the street. Nothing mad know we had a little bumper at the beginning, where I was walking the streets of brooklyn sure, but you now engaged just to set up a correct for the open right and then straight up your on stage by limiting or an hour and at the end you do a little dressing room stuff. I've known him to do that enough. No, I know a poster, I don't know, I'm not sure I wasn't enough toast game. I was talking to steve about hey, maybe maybe we'll go back to the brooklyn walk like, but I dunno. If we did that or not, but I know it's a little brooklyn walk at top. So that's on netflix around august seven a in ruins in rome eddie peppercorns. First, our special praise you deserve it. Thank you yourself produced Give me some money. What happened guy yeah new wave? right yeah. I knew I liked to give us money for things right there. In that field,
take their money ass. I love that I love taking money period so now I, let's. About this ember I don't know how to say it's only just dread mara. I was finally told how to say: ember edinburgh, yeah, that's good, and brought some entailing raw picture. Is e g, I n b r? U h, edinburgh, o Andorra, so you're going back I'm not crazy, fuck yeah! Well, why? It's crazy is because its twenty five shows in twenty six nights, that for me, you have our condition they told me I feel like gets better. I feel like gets better guy. We're conditioned by the way I like oh shit. I should get a physical before I go because you know I'm like Jesus. This is so demand I haven't had a physical seriously No, if I ever had a full physical right like this and I and I've been vague. Mrs White kills me then
What region? That's just what you pray! Are you how many million animal products but light of a second idiot I been, in too many carbs, and- and I just haven't been exercising- you know I just haven't been because I got me into this. I had gotten into this thing where I just would like a meaning begun. I'm cool! I'm not crazy! You re only homage gardener died if you're not care for yes, dna data. they say now it's inflammation that gets you not the, not the fat. It's all the sugar is that right near that's my that's! My next thing man is I'm caught now. sugar and I've done it once before my smash, always if, if was caught it completely like I caught completely lost, I lost think it was forty power. Yeah no you better than while I'm in exercising for cover two weeks, your profile when I but the good thing about edinburgh is it's all hills,
As regards the main ways you gonna walk you up the hill true every day. Yours, your weapon, fight, fucking hell by the cast right. I want to do a couple of miles. I I've been jogging and also when I what I really want to get into the good jobs in edinburgh, there are yeah yeah, beautiful you die yeah. I didn't it's I was enough for me yeah. You do the horrible yeah, it's it's rough on a good place jet engine. Mergers, my wife, had just left me in well. That's all! That's always well that always the situation one morning in love in one form or another above the vehement bad enough, someone's I've had enough you, enough. So what's that, what's that show rest? in peace now read out. Is that really wrote his shoulder and brought or you just you said now I got a bunch of stand up, seems that if a theme, tend to enjoy americans shitting on their own country. That's my angle, I don't want to do that. I don't want to pander to them. You know,
sorting pander to somebody. It's I hear if you're not gonna pander here I mean you might as well go over. There enjoy the fact that your whole agenda here in the states is to make people go. Oh, my god, he's really against every day and you just have to be going to a place as the same views as you just nationality wise. I feel safer doing this material there, you know I mean, because I feel like doing you know anti. U s stuff here here is like I said I could get some yahoos through or like hey. What has I'd ever have now. It has that's because your dear very diplomatic, you pick your targets, you're But you know you're you're, you're, smart. You insert yourself into the center of it and always tell the difference between whether or not right, you're just aggravated or traffic through a corporation that folds into the same thing. That's right. I didn't like my breakfast, where all the time, why don't you
Actually, I think I said in the description I talk about the crumbling of mine. Health and america, like my inner crumbling, relates to the outer. Actually, it now I'll see you I look at it if not completely self centered lies and you got to right, yeah, and so that takes the sting out of me just pointing the finger now you're, not self righteous, because you can't stand your. Now, if I was, you know a great looking arrogant in high status? Fellow? I think it might be different more! Thank god. None of that is going to ha. Don't you kid yourself, oh god, media. Sometimes it's alright. I didn't want you what the other by the other day, they sit me now now this goes back and forth, but the other day I kinda looked myself. We are- and this has been going on lately and I was like you know what I don't really care that much like? I am not is like obsessed with leaving the house gone man look good today,
yeah yeah happens with age. Hasn't quite happened to me. It is my fear of until I come carrying a couple, a pound, I might well just you're pretty crazy about your weight. Ha, you see you What use is you that isn't good either because they say the biggest thing, a fur heart condition is stress off your stressing. You know about stuff, high cholesterol, that's bad yeah, you it's a little high, not that I see that is wanting the vegan diet helps with what do you eat meat? You eat a lot of meat and why was the I for awake when I found out a straw with you? What do you eat one at that time. I was eating a lot to me because I thought it was ok. So what I did when I found out high cholesterol- I just started exercising dating red meat almost entirely right and I dropped eighty off of it. Wow I t man, we with few feeling the dreaded anxiety here you want. reach for the comforts stuff near. You know
main alike I condemned by comfort. You mean cock, my cock. Yes, I feel dread and anxiety. I want to reach for my wallet too yeah that too. and ice cream need. I gotta go now woman over there, whoever they may be or whoever they re one, I want that outlines thousands fun. I think she looked at me. I think so too wonder she saw my shall. Ah, yes, I thought what said this It was called what it's called. in edinburgh. It's called rest in peace, USA, it's been fun and it's about the fact that it seems the economy just gets worse and, worse and worse, and that you're gonna be playing. Let's see at the all way the pleasant above theatre, the pleasant above theatre for the entire month of august, if you'd out about till the two august, twenty sixth,
Maybe this is your year there, maybe when this civil war now to give alive assault applies. I can't do it. I got it perrier we re sort of plays, though you go sure. I did london last last summer that we're going very winded yet really granted the soho theater. I did so her you did as well. I found the audience is to be a little weird, yeah yeah I just like they were at There will be a couple that no more than a couple, a night's where the laughter, be rolling up. That's because you just animal. the problems already you're gonna, they weren't they. Design the same way they are. Look at. It shows a show their own assume that you are these deep emotional needs that need to be met. You know it return, the yeah yeah so like there sort of like. Why is he keep pushing rising he pushing? Why,
and you just do, as you say, something that bit insightful exactly the conditions, no boundaries, this guy and you ever see Stuart lee over there. Yeah he's a good guy he's good he's. A great comic, great comic, yup, yeah, intimidating, very intimidating because he's very decisive and he's very hot he's got a very specific, style? That is his own and he has no fear of not getting laugh. One. It's true right guy. Great in all. We were you in a few days ago. I didn't know the heroin only showed great one. Holy shit, I'm going back on the archives to a lot of news in that a lot of good advice, and that was at a phone or how did you do it? We use air. myself. I interviewed him. I saw him out because I knew it- was a respected guy and I'd watched a little bit, but you know it was great to talk to him cause he quit for awhile. I now yep wrote a book about it. I mean I got the book too gotta go and yeah and I'm haven't really ivory. Thank you buddy. I can be that way for you. Thank you
I'm going to stay alive, you're, going to be one of the people that I'm gonna stay alive I'm staying alive. You I'm staying alive, from my dog, I'm staying alive for the wife I gotta of ours, hoping you'd, get that in this crisis dog. First, you want to try. It again will cut that out of staying alive for my wife, I'm staying alive for the dog yeah and I'm staying alive. I want to get really big, I say serious. I want to get really rich really big as a cot like bigger than anybody else and then just go to a couple of people and say you see that I wanted I want that. I want to win it a minute, I'm a little. When I hear you buddy, I hear ya so rest in peace. Rest, the special on netflix now The special is called eddie pepper tone in ruins. Eddie put down in ruins the special
I tell brandon to leave all of those corrections in I'm gonna tell them right now, every time we were. We assume there's gonna, be an at it, there's no at it. So even this brand wave the dog thing in europe I can get in trouble right I'll. Take that out that we're going to okay, what we're gonna do this right, take it out! Take out! You know what to do the the special in ruins, ideot avatar networks around august seventh, yes, instead directed by steam, finer, yes, the very brilliant guy, yeah great director, great director, I'm glad he's coming along As you are given I take away, he gave the egg and then resting peace, usa, it's been fun, it's been for a long time, so you know you. Everybody tells me that ok, so it's at the pleasant above theatre number, maybe I'll be so popular that dead. They just go gc rest in peace the fact that the name of it.
like everybody else. I know what it is. You good luck with that scott in review or whatever the fuck? It is our likes me. She does kate case there's only one person, I I well she's the big one hour. I will again congratulations. Thanks mark die. I want. I want to win. Ok, I were very fabric down. I love eddie capital, Can I say that again, he was so great that it always great to talk daddy. He makes my huh sore mock mark That's my I. I was just possessed by the spirit of eddie, pepper down, saying my name all right. So let's get the it is humor code, business, I wanted to hear them crunch thea angle. Presented to me as science. I wanted to quest in the science, and here we go. Let's try. I understand why. Why humor? How does it work
What does it mean? What are the lines, what the graphs crunch the numbers show me. The rest which Peter mcgraw and warner? Let's talk to them now I for it is curious. Why are you decide to reach out to us? I don't you wrote the book a pretty big undertaking, the humor code, a global search for what makes things funny have we. Why would I be interested? That's great, I mean I don't usually we're I dont use we do interviews like this you're right. I am sceptical good bye. You guys seem to have done some kind of research a little bit I mean. I know, freud tried dead to nail this thing with a would it within its relationship to the unconscious correct, yes and you did. You guys check that out. That's that's not working, if not more.
What was really wouldn't? We wouldn't have written a book. We just make see freud what now, but no one can handle. No one can read freud what what what he saw K was: ok, so that what was the others, what were the seminal texts, that you decided were not credible, wildcat somewhat. It has rights here is that that humor comes from potentially dark places. It comes from at least partially from kind of sexual aggressive kinds, behavior and often things that are taboo re express- and I saw this discomfort. Yes, there's some so caught. You know a lot Good comedy comes from that kind of play eyes and and good comics or good about making those unpleasant things safe enough for an audience to delight in freud was sort of wrong about the process, and freud was wrong about. He was much too limited in them in terms of the vast array of things. gus laugh right only those little taboo things that are sexual regressive, we're here,
de fitted into his theory of first round. In else everything else yeah yeah had allowed. On his mind. It's actually a noble for someone who who didn't have the kind of scientific techniques that we have today it's a year, your jaw yet warner. Pierre ga, the authors of the humor code, a global search for what makes things funny at what was it. Engineer, you guys think you're funny. Now I don't think I'm very funny, but by me I'll have to me I to write about what's your languages, I'm a writer from you are based and journalist yeah journalist. I was working for the alt weekly westward in denver haha three years ago, and I heard about this professor, who had a humor research lab at the university of colorado, boulder yeah. That's on the greeley fantastical weekly story, head of hurl hurl, hurl short for he, research lab. Okay, that he must get a kick. he loves you so guys, I'm in the room and I ran out and in what department I'm a psychologist by training and I have appointments and marketing year the professor I am you're the guy.
Talking about yeah, I did make economic you're, the guy I'm. Professor I've, I've lab called hurl okay. So what what department you in marketing in psychology So let me read: behavioral economists type rights in your intention. I understand that the way laughter works and people was you to deliver the message to china. crack the humor code to try to understand what are the underlying processes, so he can so Joe comes along. He writes article on you and he, while he did more than that, he he's sort of challenge me to to leave the laboratory and go out. the world will yeah like. As a writer, I mean pete's kind of going through his research and his theories, and this is just like a five thousand word story for westward. I was there resolve. I need to get this guy out the lab right. So why hysteria? So I said how I take you to a stand of night: denver, and you use your theory to critique the committee. So you go to comedy works. Well, actually is that of that pete says how about I get up on stage and try stand up now. Did you want to do stand?
I know I never had really thought about it. I think I was just having a good day and I thought, oh, I can so see you asking my funny, and the answer is depends on who you compare me to so you compare me to other professors, yeah, I'm pretty fun, yeah you're, the guy you're, the cool profess, exactly and so at least most of the time and and Oh I decide. I was gonna, get its open, my guess at the squire lounge. Ok, the easter small he didn t use ura your paul to get a spot at the car it works by saying we're writing an article. Can you help me out? I'm a professor. I just need five minutes. You went to an open mic night like a guy who doesn't know what he's doing well actually went to My comedian friends in denver, rio and I said Adam Cayton, holland- know a good guy yeah and I said because the ex used to work at westward- and he said, take them to the squire lounge, because it's known as the toughest open mic night in denver, just like dirty hipster bar yet Adam said. If you've failed, a squire, you will be cruelly cruelly mocked and what happened I failed
wire me happy that I was a little bit of a wake up call you I mean, I know now well in terms of the complexity of of for what were you thinking going? Well, that's the thing. I think that that now, in the benefit of hindsight, is ludicrous that I thought I could succeed with twenty four hours, preparation and running some of these ideas, is passed. Some of my by indians I did it anyway, but you didn't think you could succeed. Oh yeah, I mean I thought the jokes that I wrote were funny, so you thought it was easy. I thought that stand up would be easy. For me. And these easy enough to get up on an open mike and tell jokes for three at least as I get some, what do you want? Those people now no. I won't like you. I was angry plenty like you that think, like what I've done. Look too hard. That's that's right out sort of playing nice. You jewels, Jos, goodbye and he's like you know wanting to create some some,
I've been around this, I won't be around the story. I want people talking about what makes things funny, and so, if I have to subject myself to a little humiliation to do that I'll do it. But the funny thing is to me: you didn't expect that you will. Why was nervous, I mean I I was worried at the time I was like, I think, my jokes, or a little too benign, was worried at first. It was funny so we walked in. I think I was more nervous yet, and I just I was just I was real: I was gonna do did you were you introduced, but we did the way you did they qualify. It read it now and then all of a sudden the first green that might already have going on, and they were telling jokes about smoking, crack, cocaine and, and then pete looks at me and says: I'm worried my jokes. Maybe it just said it would be a boring, boring set of jokes right, but jokes are jokes: they should work right in she find that out in your research. good joke, should work no. Well it s. The best yoke should work universally, that that's very difficult to do that. I tough code to crack. Indeed, so you get off this stage after bombing. Yes,
and I m what what's the conversation you thought about for a night I did and you sent me an email next day here and one thing you said that you know to succeed up. Eighty per squire he'd have to make was jokes, much more violations which one because at that point I think our dna. That was a day. We can already submitted his tenure, the application for the next day, so they said I mean, if you know, if he tried to meet cannon mammals cry verena, ross and and the kinds of things that these other far right doing how you might get in trouble, I'm actually really envy comedians in one sense, because they will not only allow to say nearly anything they want, but they're they're unrewarded for it and the the more outrageous, the better as a professor you have to sometimes you know the lie exactly, there's a there's, a there's rule. The advantage I have, though, is I get a steady paycheck right. That's the that's finally, I would add that israel off, but but you create
cavity is limited and in personal freedom may be limited. Yeah I mean that's a you know: people make those sacrifices in order to er to get to security yeah. No! No. I think I that's that's one of the big problems with with being a professor of yeah. I think that is off. I refer to it as government work right, so it it often attracts a what we call prevention focus, someone who's who's, more interested in not failing than in succeeding and having that security, and so it takes. It takes a real effort to break out of that mold and to do things that might be unpopular as an academic like team up with a with a journalist and travel around the world. Writer, popular press, but right you ve gotta, be ten years to do that. The I think that's a good idea carried out, so you bomb. So I write your westward and they left revolving around his lab and and this one application yet testing,
so the story came out yeah and then soon after we actually are other literary agent reached out to us, and he had. Could there be a book in this and we started thinking about it and write off the power thing? Okay, we we need to once again kind of expand beyond just pete doing research. I labs, though, so how can we kind of inspire this kind of what kind of were you doing before the journey around the world? I mean what what were? What were your experiment? Oh, so I'm still doing those things. So the first paper I published on this topic was how why people laugh at moral violations to most times when people are exposed to something that they think of as immoral. They get angry. They get disgusted, but sometimes they laugh. Sometimes they necessarily comfortable way. Then that was one of the Findings that we had is that that funny moral violations often are a mixed emotional experience, so people are experiencing enjoyment, but also some displeasure with there
experiencing the enjoyment of of knowing that what their hearing is not what they're supposed to be hearing that that right, dead there moment where you're like with that's wrong, and I heard. Anyone say that before and that's funny in and of itself and then there's the discomfort of it out being out in the world of oh, it is
it's slightly more complicated than that goods. What we find is that that that have that a similar situation that you just described in some cases just get people upset and sometimes makes them laugh. So we were using were using these stories, but we're basically using stories about beastie reality, yeah and making them more or less funny. Have that's one of the things that it's nice to do in a laboratory? You change a set of words in the description of an event, and then you measure whether people find it more or less funny. So one of the stories involves a young man who is sitting down and filth already laughing at this he sitting down and he has a kitten, yeah, who's, ah sorta, playing on his lap and he's in boxers and he becomes
aroused by others, and he decides that he that he was going to wear. How exactly was the word. He says that he he basically uses the kitten as a sex toy yeah in the in the scenario, and at this point people don't think this is typically very funny the either the kitten and you add, but if you add a qualifier to it, that the kitten purrs and seems to enjoy the contact. Yet he all of a sudden. This gets transformed into something that people Just a victim is part of it. So now the kitten now both parties are enjoying themselves helps make that that's wrong in some ok, ok, but if you, but if you instead have the kitten wines and does not seem to enjoy the contact. Ok, people don't laugh at that, and so this is, I mean this is something that I now realize about comedy- is how sometimes just I need changes within
Generally a word a word: an intimation can can help facilitate this benign appraised, well, that we write off. Ok, so that this is just the kind of white gum assessing you know what people laugh and why they laugh at it. But did you were? Were you curious about the sort of neurological or mental or psychological necessity for laughter Is that an out of the out of the the range I do yup. Obviously, people need to laugh or provide something yeah. So why is that they pursue this experience, yeah so er? Why happen? Even I mean that's one example: the moral sort of that's right: I'm immigration! Exactly are we done work on and we talk about it and in the humor code about when is a joke to soon raw? How do you transform tragedy into comedy right and die?
well. What we ve been doing lately is not only looking at when somebody's too soon, but also when it's too late. So how there's this sort of sweet spot to carmody right and dumb and related to that idea, this notion of coping. So how humor is this emotion, regulations system that people have so it's one way that they deal? the stresses and strains of right, and yet you get whatever degree. That's where you get gallows humor! That's where you get enough you're funny stories and concentration camps or in the face of tragedy. These darker stories can can help people find a little relief and in it in the grief? That's right and also how you can speak truth to power right. So, if you're oppressed that you can use comedy to point out what's wrong with your oppressor saves on his feet as the oppressed. Yes, that's right, so we can get away with more because the hay was just a joke, say almost humans get more leeway, Roy,
but also the voice of the oppressors. There's a there's, a point where it does become threatening to power. I you know, if the voice of the oppressed is rallying yes, then powers as like? Well, that's very funny. You're gonna be shut in this room for there's a long history of this and in nazi germany and russia during the Stalin era and into we actually went to palestine to the long history of what of you can get so far and then eventually the government says in one hand, more generally, what happened in palestine? So we went to palestine to look at this very concept like. Why would you find common in these places of trouble in turmoil house I get through it yeah and so wow. So why were there we we met with this? Show called water and all the water which was Palestine's first political satire show, and it actually It was on a palestinian state. Television needs guy. In front of everybody: osama bin laden, prison obama, the israelis, possibly government officials.
So these guys were doing great and actually went during ramadan now that turned out raw madonna's, like sweeps, because I'm one goes home at night, it's a big meal and they sent from the tv right so they're having a show lake literally a single night during rama, Big deal right halfway through our stay there, It was therefore a week this was not for three years the gum and shouted down in that two days before they want to scare making fun of the opposing attorney general we're, saying that he keeps getting complains about walk now the water and then they make fun of him in their skit two days later, the attorney general shuts down oh really, because he had that power yeah and he didn't couldn't take a joke. Yeah, we couldn't take a joke, and that was at. I think, what was. Was there any backlash? Yes, yeah they're within our meda, so why we're hang out with them Is the r came by and did I did a segment on this and the people you know, and there were there were polls saying the vast majority of palestinians were completely against this.
and, as you can imagine these guys up. Ok, because you know this is the sort of controversy just just me more popular. So I think now that the bump in the ratings are on some other show. I mean now they're on some of the channel and they're talented right I mean that's. One of the things, too, is that gay guy have a certain skill, that's right. So that was your extreme, in palestine. So, like your ultimate search during this book, the humor cut. What were you looking for exactly? What's the secret? What's this when I looking for some sort of universal thing, this okay? So now, where did it where? Where we must surprised, I that palestine thing that sounds like it's pretty traditional political committee, situ asian? Where else did you go where you were like holy shit? For me, one of the more surprising ways we went. We went to denmark and sweden right, you think those forgot their shit together. Well, we went to look at the mohammed cartoon controversy where
these. Doesn't political cartoons published a danish newspaper, two thousand five unleashed a global controversy yeah they were. They wanted there. their net yeah. So we went in these cartoonists who now live under twenty four seven security. Was it worth it to them? They said was most of them. What is vital? I have to say that now right I mean how do they not say was worth it because it I mean it's, it was done, is done now. what are the cartoonist we met with very after was actually really was actually pissed off, because he actually you saw, he was one, these twelve car, twelve cartoonists, but the to any drew, wasn't no mohammed. It was actually just as little we called mohammed making fun of this far right newspaper for doing this. Stupid drop it
what have we got caught up in the controversy now he's yeah it'll be under security depot he's not happy yeah, because I mean in some ways he's cartoons were met for a local kind of far right, danish audience all of a sudden two thousand and five, the internet global news. It goes global all the context of like what these cartoons were yeah. This could be your last. He has a problem with context on the internet. Yes, yep, just a bit so. So what did you find out in terms of your mission there about humor and a big part of this is just to understand how humor can hurt right, so even well intentioned attempts at at comedy. Can I can
said. People aside, right can make people feel unwelcome, unwanted can bully people in many ways, and so I think, present day we tend to think of humor as this largely positive thing, but through history it actually has many more negative connotations. So we were talking about humor theories earlier. So one of the popular humor theories through time is this idea of superiority. Theory that we laugh when bad things happen to other people, especially other people. We don't like schadenfreude. Yes, this idea of so hobbs called it's laughter rise from sudden glory, so vic being victorious over enemies right and so in that get that, as as a short jumped to bully? Yes right, in Scandinavia. We wanted to look at at that specific issue and we use the the Mohammed cartoons is the kind of backdrop really because that would seem to me an idea logical issue they like. No, I guess it hurt people, but
Ultimately, I would imagine that there's got to be some muslims. That said like that, come on, take it easy fellows. I mean it. This was a leadership reaction. Wasn't it Well, so it it ended up turning into a political tool right so in the Middle EAST. So and there's a small muslim population in denmark and they're largely segregated and there's a there's, actually a good deal of discrimination there, and this certainly was used as a tool to sort of set these people apart, and they reacted actually quite well. They protested this, but in a way that was a peaceful bright. It was it wasn't until this was started to be used by tool in syria and like five or six months, and it was helpful that that it was country like denmark, which is as one of the danish reporters that to us is kind of like picking on the smallest kid in the playground, and you know it's easy to protest. Denmark. You know of your syria
up there, but I mean no one ends up looking good in this situation right, so you know many of the cartoonist seem to act without unconscious we're gonna? Tell you guys. Are you that just want to push back? The other newspaper wanted a provocative editorial. You know so so what it felt like this sort of three the array we're trying to find out who's responsible for this who's, the good guy who's, the bad guy and in many ways most people appear to be the bad guy and in ways that it would never would never have happened years ago, in the sense that this would have only gone so far. It would have been as a short protests and then would have had the next day newspaper who have been off the stands net next issue I mean but
I think that, thanks to the internet, this the statistics around and spread wherever you want me just as a comic myself and just as somebody who is grown up using humour as as a weapon, a tool, a career me known all different ways in me. I know that that that, if you are defensive, you can be preemptively disarming with comedy you can also sort of cross, boundaries, with comedy through diplomacy in and sort of get acceptance from, people that you made may or may not have been able to be get acceptance. I mean you can also hurt people, ass a relief pain. I mean yet there is theirs of the things that happen in, and I guess I guess, in something like this, when you start separating, you know what that the negative and positive elements of humor I mean? Does it all end up I mean it seems to me that was is a justified exercise in comedy day when you look at it that way
I mean who is you know? Who am I to say right? I think that that what we want to do is take these case studies and use them as a platform to understand these broader issues. So we could have picked some of the controversies seems like that and other play right, palestine and ass guys navy over similar? Well I mean in some ways, so so women planned out the book. We said: ok there, there are certain kind of big questions or want to ask about humor, you know and how can humor fail, which is how howard, We chose denmark. We want to look at you, but you're not talking about stand of necessary because you, human failure zones yoga what is on offer citizens, we didn't want the book just to be on stand up. Why only later, there's so much out of errors already, but did it fail in the sense of did it did not show the world how a type of a violent and also your quite frightening reaction on behalf of a political structure and a religious structure to actually through
the wives of someone isn't it nice to know that that exists. There is this type of entire since then, what do you do it? That's why I mean can be seen as a total failure, just because reaction mean that reaction also shows a lot about the oppressor. Doesn't it indeed, while the ideas set at at its heart and as someone who does comedy your first question is: am I funny or not how I made people for not- and in that way the cartoons did seem to fail and that they weren't particularly funny to anyone, but satire sometimes, is not, act I bought. Would you I would argue that the best satire not only speaks truth to power, but also amuses and entertains people along the way. Sometimes there's some pretty crass satire yeah, I mean, if you look at you know, when krasner he wrote that piece about a you know: l b, J. You know in the back of the plane that was carrying a Jf
his body. You know having sex with the neck wound is at hilarious. I mean yeah that that that is your above and beyond your fucking, a kitten I am, but it did certainly face the thing about the personality of lbj and about the possibility of of of of how dark and horrible politics can get. But I I would, I would argue that it was not a a laugh out loud bit of business yeah and that and but I would say that all things being equal, the best satire is funny in addition, to pointing out in a way of of not necessarily laughing, but definitely being cutting being entertaining creating some insight, and- and this is this- is one of the challenges of trying to understand. What humorous is this? The difference between the haha response and the aha response? The best comedy combines those too yeah a kind of mine blowing and funny. Changes the way you see the world the way you re about things andrew being entertained in the process. Right now,
my question to you as a comic. If you had to choose between those two which do you choose and do you think that your peers would would agree with her, voice. I think our has always a little more rewarding, because I think that that that more so than then haha, your ha ha, can be in a very surface but now get blocked in the clubs and you go battles and why my eyes are the kinds of things that I think that now I think that you can obviously do them both, but to actually look at something differently and change the way people think about something is in that can happen with both, but obviously those both component should be working and a lot of times. It's you know comedy is not about that at all. It's about revealing yourself for me, anyways, it's about it's about being yet revealing. So you have the sort of just
Comfort of of genuine interaction for me is a place I like to go with my comedy that you know of you: can you know, share parts of yourself or you as a sort of means to to sort of maybe make other people more comfortable? I I think that is an aha thing, but I yeah. Certainly I have a tremendous amount of respect for a good role right, but I mean, but to have somebody walk out of a show and thinking. I never thought about that way before more rewarding than that guy's hilarious. You want both but yeah to blow minds is, is the the way to go, and so you you take this approach where you you aim it at yourself, sometimes yeah a lot now yeah, and in that way that's- and I don't say this in a pejorative way, but that sort of safe in the
sense that you you let people in verses by pointing out what's wrong with you vs pointing out what's wrong with them? I dunno, if I would call it safe, because the thing is, is that leno? When I look at this schematic or the the venn diagram you guys have for what is it called the benign violation Rising to nine violation is that sometimes the nine violation, yelling the centre. This die and between benign and violation is the actual individual and what that person risks. Okay, the you know what I'm saying so, like you know, is it for two pointed at me now, because you are putting my heart on the line so as a performer yeah outside of the humor itself in I'm taking emotional risks, throw your did is at safe for me now, but that's what I do so that that world it is not inherently safe, because you and I we be received if he really show yourself so for me and I don't do it like. Everybody else necessarily should have some distance, but I've got up there with no distance whatsoever from the pay
Im dealing with that I'm trying to to make into funny I mean that the title of my city was this has to be funny, and that was actually a punch line to something that was fairly your dark. and so I think that the one thing that I resonate with him looking at this diagram was that the risk is in stand up. You can come down to the personality itself so now I think that you know what you risk is by taking the brunt you you know, is that you know you're gonna, you're, gonna marty yourself for this joke right. So on the visual level, I think, is very high risk. No anyone can say something shocking anyway. Was there that it doesn't get a laugh. But if, if somebody doesn't you know, you are when I open self up. If they don't want in road and the risk is, you know, being shut out and being isolated? Yes right in that, and that was one of the few. Kept coming up over and over again, our travels is the two ways that a humor attempt can fail
You have not enough of a violation, and you bore people like I did at the squire or you crazy choice situation. This not benign at all. It's just a violation ran you upset peter. I bought those things yeah and I every day yeah since we started this podcast sure. Why mean it's pretty subjective? You know that I mean that's the other thing you're up against. I mean you're trying to find some objective truth in in something that is incredibly subjective, both yo on an individual level and a cultural level area, which is why we went to Japan what happened there? So we decided to look at the question of. Why do you find humor so subjected we decide to go to the place that we found a humour to be the most and from what we use do so women to genetic china? Do ethical talk about the issues is that you don't have those cultural references. So if u s address american, what's what's comedy, Can china they'll say I don't know, but you have kept coming up to us away
I first heard about us going down the bogus area. Can you please explain: japanese kommeni to us an end their people that had seen japanese comedy or they are sounding the youtube we overview. who can adapt japanese game shows what right it. Can you expect. We are very very I right. It is so we went to Japan and we met. We have done, is a social which is the giant japanese comedy company. that runs all of japanese kommeni its. Comedy of realities, carry out his eyes literally on estate office. It is no it's a giant corporation basic graphic, like eighty percent of japanese comedians are managed by sure moto ha, almost all the common theme, a run by Yoshi moto, most of the. shows where all the contestants actually are these comedians, because the producers think that the average person show enough turmoil in their face in their gestures, for these shows all mostly shows bruce by Yoshi moto sounds like professional wrestling. Yes, it's again
yeah I know it and how it was familiar to rustling. If you want to be a comedian, Japan, you have to go and wanted your tomorrow's training schools right, where you we have to go through and learn these very specific gestures, very specific joke structures and now what What was your experience with that I mean: did you find that to be sort of a monopoly? almost on the level of community totalitarianism that was, it was, was a japanese comedy existing outside of this system? We we met a few folks who are outside of it and they devil described it like those kind of totalitarian system where, like they were fighting to create more variety, There are very few women, and you can imagine this system, and so this system has been around since nineteen twenties and its based of vaudeville. Basically, american law, tat, easy the american vaudeville lifted the the two men comedy structure. straight man than the bumbling sidekick and they borrow that and they ve stuck with that ever since then
there's not a real all comedy seen in Japan, now gathering guess and into one of the things as well. striking about japan for us, I thought was they have this? The it's very popular comedy, seen people with big part of their energy meant television, tighter and so on, but the average japanese person doesn't appear very funny right. That is that, there's you don't find people laughing on the subway. There is very little humour within the classroom or in businesses, and so Oh you get this perspective at first, when you land and in tokyo or osaka, that the japanese aren't funny at all. But it's just that there are these there's a layer of cultural rules that we don't have to abide by his americans, which is you're supposed to hide your emotions, even positive emotions. That's a cultural, that's a cultural thing, but if you go out to a karaoke bar with a group of job
these folks who have a few saki bombs. It's okay, you have it. You can have a great time and they're really funny people and they really value that. Why would think that you know having that type of cultural expectation would would that the relief would have to be pretty large. They go out big yeah, yeah, really big. At the same time I mean we have our own limitations round comedy here: zero. There are certain topics that we just don't joke about. Most people, don't joke about like say like they could be geology stuff is, as you know, is not about that, common well in japan, the limitations or geographical. You know you don't joke at school, huge! You don't jerk me office by the places that you do Joe leg out. These comedy theatres, basically anything goes right, but anything in in in what way I would imagine that their there has to be a context mean. What you're describing to me is that this is a sort of vaudevillian slapstick sis
that is designed to relieve neo. Intentional cultural limitations our are based on on etiquette politeness in and the need to to to ted to behave. Certainly culturally, but I mean you had there not guarded being rape, jokes and nor are they doing you know I mean: are they pushing any buttons other than gluck word designate bosoms theme off from what we saw, I mean some of some of the jokes- can get really topical. I mean they. They also have routines, and they you know they kind of make fun of kind of cultural taboos and stuff. The one thing that we're told that you don't see much of in japanese comedy is, gadzooks political humour in one. It's because of the emperor stocks are very sacred and all
there's is not much diversity in japanese politics to really kind of create the friction that we see in terms of humor here. So what did you? What did you come away with from japan while this idea? I think that, although comedy is really different, so it still feels kind of foreign to us to watch these shows and so on. Even though we understand that there are comedians in and they have this sort of place in society as an entertainment form. Is that the south, the people joke about behind the scenes we actually have alot? more in common than we we had thought we actually spent some time in the green room with all these comedians were either watching, like one of these japanese game shows taped about three or four hours. We had no idea what was going on. They were dipping their faces in this hot boiling soup yeah and we didn't get it and then we went backstage hanging. hung on the green room
transit like wandered off right. So we can pick the same language and what was in like two or three minutes. We are making penis jokes of each other right, so so so that's a universal and at least among them the dick joke, yet of course so bad. But that seems primitive. I mean how far back did you go with you Is it primitive cultures also that so the research on on on this actually You got your skull even farther back in the sense that if you want to try to understand humor, you have to look for it in other mammals, so a non human primates in chimps, monkeys, bonobos, etc. So the farthest back. We went in a sense, at least from an evolutionary standpoint. Is we looked at rat laughter, KEN rats?
f and under what conditions that lets non primates so that, as you very soon, I m all right, that's right, but but if you can find- and this is a critical element, if you can find the same conditions that makes a rat feel positive emotion and quote- unquote, laugh as the same set of conditions that exist in an ape and exist in humans. Now you ve taken a big step to crack humor code? Ok, so what you find out what the rats? So we went to decide this lab at northwestern university who ve been looking at this. This is for a long time, cause they're trying to identify positive emotion in rats because they want to actually use these rats to create basically happiness pills. So, and so it's like the first step in a a long. Yet answer is yes
I hear how they're going to crack this soma capital we're heading for actually exactly, and so the idea is that they, they tickle these rats. So they sort of rough house with these. With these rats in- and although you can't hear it with your ears, you can pick up pick it up with this equipment. These ultrasonic chirps that when you're sort of roughhousing and tickling these rats, they they make this chirping sound and and as we like to say, as these are situations that are wrong yet, okay, these are benign violations to rats and its physical and the most primitive form of comedy its physical think about slapstick. It's not unlike that fraid, so you're threatening some one, you're hurting someone but you're, not really hurting ryan in rhyme way that tickling like playing with it puppy exactly right. So what
what he learned there that the that rats do laugh that well so so they're reluctant to call it laughter. But it's it's a it's a signal that laughter is a signal. If you think about it and it it tells. What I believe is it tells you if I'm laughing it, tells you that? What seems to be wrong is ok but you're, saying that all humor is a violation that is ok. nine a benign violation, all humor. I do believe that art. So where else did you go? So, let's look at this concept of laughter, because we because we recognise that you it wasn't the same thing: as the we went to tanzania, because we had read accounts of this nineteen sixty two laughter epidemic, where more than a thousand folks started laughing uncontrollably right and it spread from person to person and village to village at last for months, and we know that to us seem just to just a good context
then look at what is laughter. Okay, what you find out, we found out as most of them would expect. I mean it wasn't like there were some really funny joke going on in tanzania in nineteen sixty two, yet now this really did happen. They they actually have accounts. We actually met with some people, know ordered us, yet the YAP and what as people believe happened was it was necessary. of mass motor hysteria? Things are happening at the time. These people reacted with mostly young school girls, which we did actually where we see most of this mass hysteria. A lot of these girls, had left their villages and were in the strict catholic boarding schools and all of a sudden, they kind of felt the need to release this stuff. To kind of, to kind of express selves and laughter was one of the are the effects that that saw and its own people said. Well, then you know: why is this part of the humor go? Get
wasn't about humor, but now, whenever you think about what we're laughter just use it as the most basic concept, it's as it's is a social I know right. It is really a way yeah it's well, it's a basic way, though that weakens, and you can kind of signal. Something is ok right or at all. Or or something is at least a shared experience. You I mean when the problems with laughter as you have some control over it, so I polite and laugh at your jokes, even though I'm not amused by them. Yet I might laugh at your joke from a contagion standpoint, because Joel's laughing right and in some of it is that because laughter help smooth social interactions, it's been co opted by language, more generally sure, where people wolf, punctuate a sentence with a laugh right outside of their awareness and and seemingly in a way. This not expressing true amusement nervous, laugh
or does it be that or it could just be that the morning radio after is just a it's just that it's a way to kind of helps, Does this help? You accept what I do I'll give you an example of morning radio after you just told me that yeah exactly that's right, yeah, so that's it so and, and worse people in the morning, radio, watch, it now watch it. Oh yeah, yeah, okay or canned laughter or having a studio audience. I mean what one of the things that we want to do with this. This book was to to basically use these places as a way to make the science go down a little easier right so to explore these sort of perplexing phenomenon entered to pick evocative things and also who doesn't want to go to tanzania and, as I see it too
see this part of the world. Yet you know I mean I'm a many ways. That's a part of the world where, where she manatee originated, where you could you you'd argue that our ancestors created com be sure. Now what about the idea that that that laughter is healthy, yes, oh so that was one of our big questions was, you know, is laughter really the best medicine, and so for that we decided to go to the amazon with patch Adams. At one hundred well clowns really younger than I once again him the smoking fantastic scenes. So we actually flew in a provision. The amazon is where a lot of interesting chemical things come from two as well. I mean like a plant, trusting, interesting drugs and so on, yeah we actually flew to the city called iquitos it, which is actually was part of like the rubber boots, so is actually this is. It is massive city in there
a roads to it because it it's literally the middle of the jungle. We actually have flu and a proven air force. Cargo plane looks like strapped into the cargo plane surrounded by one hundred clouds, and it was a trip. Actually both of us rectory dreading with one last traps. Are we just going to get a man's vague ordeal yards get me, and I literally we're gonna, be the jungle with clouds were two weeks. Yes, to be anywhere with a club for half hour by hour. That's actually not true, and I so I had that. I was like. Oh my god. This is gonna, be terrible here, but It was ended being one of our most enjoyable trips, because these are not the stereotypical clowns. People are scared of vines. Fine horrifying but these? These are young, energetic people a lot of work in hospitals and they were just fun and funny and generous in ways that
People are not, and even though we were in this hot sweaty place and we were being fate, we are faced with extreme poverty that, like the saddest of situations in the slum that we were working in, we found herself having a really good time. and in many ways supporting the idea that that laughter is the best medicine. But laughter is medicine. The science behind laughter is a good medicine. Just isn't there yet I mean the folks who done the studies that said you know, can it can laughter humor, do all these things that norman cousins promised and what not the science just. Has it really back that up? Yet, though one reason to believe it is just, it hasn't been studied, deed area enough, you'd have to go one step further with the rats. I guess you're the one, but the one place the research does seem to back. This up is a humorous coping. You talked about. humor really does seem to have both physical and psychological coping mechanisms, and no, it fit really well with without being in this horrible place and having to court and could cope with it. But the fact of her
by clowns alla time. These really positive kind of income in quantity. We actually had declared ourselves. That's what they said. You guys you could. You guys can come with patch Adams, but but you have to clown yourselves and I think that really helped us here. So if you think about it from a theoretical standpoint, you get these benefits of one. His humor is his positive emotional experience and there's a good deal of evidence that positive emotions help buffer us from stresses and strains in life. Another thing is that if you have a good sense humor. It helps rally support so when you're in times of trouble, people won't abandon you if you're funny, in the sense that they they to be around you right. about your add a downer, you not bombing them outright time and then ass one which I think is the most important one? I think it's related to what you were saying earlier. Is that the act of creating comedy from pain?
can fundamentally change the way you think about your pain right, and so it can rob stress of its teeth so in ottawa changes you emotionally, but it changes you cognitive lee and so satire can do that. It can make an oppressor, seamless, scary and it can make your problem seem more trivial riots done. Well then, success it can also reveal certain truths just by by almost subtracting the bull shit like the idea like you, I guess satire, would be the the example of that that the home movement of modern satire was too to sort of such out hypocrisy and and reveal know. What's at the core of it, I mean, I think you know if you look at you know, Lenny bruce or george Carlin, and even even bob Dylan in some ways that to sort of humanize the entire you know undertaking of maintaining power. You know, sorta take some teeth away.
That way, I get like I'm sort of hung up on the idea that all comedy is a. I know you I want you to be all humor is a benign violation. Yes, I mean I understand that because can be physical boundaries. National boundaries, linguistic language, violation rights, not analyze boundaries, government boundary. As I wrote that it's it's it's it's twice comedies everywhere things that are wrong with everything that we do cause we're human right, but I mean, but it's like when you say that it's a it's a violation. You have to be violating something in that can be as simple as as as finding a door in that you know that you're either you're gonna kick the door down. You're gonna unlock something back you know. I don't know why it all has to be a a violation. So so my best argument for this is that if you, if you treat this as a psychological experience akin to other provocative emotional ones, things like embarrassment, anger regret pride.
And so on each one of those you can boil down to a small set of conditions and they and they all fit within an evolutionary framework and they all fit within a psychological. But the interesting thing is: is that humor can appropriate all of those things you just said. Yes, that's right, and I think that's that's okay, because What I'm just looking for this small set of conditions- and I dont in many ways- I I am intentionally provocative when I say can a benign violation account and enjoy quickly agree with this. Can it explain one hundred percent it instances of of amusement no but it it'll do better than the next best theory, nea and it'll come
a new predictions that other theories can. So we talked about this idea of tragedy that some jokes or too soon, but a princess of an benign violation of can explain when a jokes too soon and when it's not, you can explain this sort of sweet spot and comedy between being boring and being offensive, and it can also explain why jokes are sort of too late because, with the passage of time, those violations. Just become not threatening at all yet old reference exactly, and so in that way, it's the best of what we got so now now that you've written this book and now that you've done all this research, I mean what was your: what was your ultimate ai agenda? As a scientist I was also a big part of this- is just to make this part of the the public discourse
So humor is such an important part of our lives in academia. It's sort of been pushed aside. It's sort of the red headed stepchild, I mean I've. Had people described to me that my research program is a career killer, because I'm I'm sort of studying something this that is sort of seen as trivial well within the science community at times. So for me, I, what I want to do is do very good. Science, but then also you know like working with joel, helped get this message out in ways that are that ends up. You can have these kinds of conversations that we are having today. What is your back? What what exactly is your background? As a scientist, I am a research psychologist. Ok, so I'm experimentalists they ok, I dive do research on emotion and decision making. What what are you hopes for this idea? The next step is to go back to the laboratory and see. Not only can we take, this idea,
How can we take it? So the next big thing is going to be. Can you use a benign violation account? Can you use science to make people funnier right? That's worth that's where we're headed in the same way that the positive psychology folks are trying to understand curiosity or gratitude, and then, once you have those insights, can you prescribe those two make people's life? That did you? Try we're not there yet. Oh, I tried to be funny book. Yes, yes, I so at the end of the book, so the first chapter, the bug describing his The squire lounge in embalming is the first time stand up via the last chapter is a second time doing stand up, which has other just for laughs, coming festival I saw you do so when you saw us. I think we were kind of collecting notes. Trinity was like, whereas you know it's quite the scene now a year later, after we did out are the travel. He tried to get an have becker you about in the squire withdrawing much boys. It be applied
science or was it just a you know you you are more about stand little bit of art and a little bit of science, so so what part of it was just that we had all these great stories to mine the eye. So one of the best ways to me to be a good comedian is too to have a perspective that the audience doesn't have to talk about things that the audience will find new novel, and so we are lots of you know: yeah calamities along the way that you could talk about and some of his I just had understood. We understood a lot more about what goes into being funny on a stage with a microphone where'd. You are that Are you not with guys, like you, hang around the green room in the back, a comedy clubs, spending time with quality difference between? What did you want to new york went to new york? We looked at the actually the new yorker cartoon than burgers cartoon, the other young, our that mount off, which always in Heaven yeah.
is means that the new yorker, which, for me as a writer, is like them. You are holler rice. I locked in there really really really nervous yeah I'm going in there, what we get where we try to find out their bob's, actually actually a student of of humor. He actually started a phd in published papers, papers and so on, and so he really challenged us on these different ideas, and he pointed out rightfully that the funniest cartoons don't make it into the new yorker that he's often looking for the kind of kind of cartoon, and so, for instance, the benign violation do doesn't do a good job with aha, it does a much better job ha haha, and so the idea
I think, is that the insight that we gain pleasure from insights this sort of moment of inspiration, of putting two things together, that we didn't expect and that may accompany a laugh that may be part of comedy, but it doesn't need to be to solving a puzzle, can give you that moment of insight and the pleasure associated with solving that that puzzle and in some ways what you find is this. This difference that need good new yorker cartoons have both but most new yorker cartoons is more interested in that pleasant insights, where someone learn something a recognised, something that that the cartoonist brought them to in a way that was so a milder surprising. I dont know why can't you like? It seems it there the idea of violation here would encompass surprising.
Of course, many many innocent or benign violations are surprising that even solving the puzzle you you violated. The puzzle is not really. If you're, not in a threatening situation, also has an inaccurate and there's some something amiss or something through Agassi solve the puzzle you'd blow up. Well, if the, if like, for instance, this the solution to the puzzle, something taboo, perhaps that you could create where I could create some laughter, we talked with louis ck in denver. He he wasn't fond of the benign violation theory in areas evaluating our deprives you'll be I just because I think that the word violation is a problem here. I mean we're very careful to do what I say so basically, this is that the paramount theatre in denver, I assume louis have on the road? But this point for three weeks was a sunday night eating a ham sandwich by himself
yeah getting ready for the show and in walks this guy pete is wearing the same. Sweater vest he's wearing now, yeah and he starts going into his theory starts going on and maybe like a minute in Louise says. Well, I just don't think it's that simple yeah and as soon as you said, like that, any kind of cuts off the conversation so then What are you trying to explain yourself? Any violated louis face yeah we actually continue to violate the louis space, because actually, this the point. When I realized, I could probably write a book about this guy, because what he did next show that you know it wasn't. Just him and kind of spouting about science before we met, backstage louie, ruby hanging out in the lobby of her mouth and pete started. Start time. People look out lagoon or any go back stage to meet Lucy k. I like. What should we ask him and this one drunk woman, says? Well, you shot him his penis eyes so fast forward. Backstage pizza, pete theories been shot down. I was on pete goes so
for this I was talking to people by where should ask you and I'm thinking in my head he's not going to say. Are these going to say and then he says one woman wants to know your penis size, yeah and louis kindest smiles not really here is as one that can answer that, and then why wouldn't answered either? But if you want it means that small and I and glad that didn't get a positive response he's a tough guy, and I think you know what I really his once we went away. I realized what bad taste that Kind of behavior is with regard to comics, because a comedian, I think people are always trying to prove themselves as funny around you and that sort of fits that stereotype stuff to violate million? Well, I mean it should be, it should be hard to. It should be hard to offend comedians and but but too often they try to converse with the comedian that using using jokes one of the things that was really fascinating about studying
this topic, and especially hanging out with comedians here in l, a is we sort of we started to be transformed in a sense. So we were, we would sit in the back of the club with these comedians and some would be up on stage killing and the audience will be roaring with laughter and we had this sort of detached perspective. where we work. Oh that's very funny, and thus I think it's a little bit of a curse of of this profession is a vet. You can recognize is that that is humorous, cognitive, let you know it's the case, but because you are not caught up in the moment, you dont end up having bad. Emotional, realising galvez have different tastes. I think that the weird thing about stand up is that you use the the benign violation is that you have that. That is ensure whether or not that the theory holds up here in the minutiae of of how humor works,
a benign violation that that is extended over the course of of an hour is really you know the relationship you have with an audience in a way that you know the you? U have to warm them up, you have to sort of lube them have somehow you have to go trust in him and they know that they're gonna be shocked and know that they're gonna be surprised. They know they they have to add to sort of, let you win. So I think that dynamic of being led in by not and knowing that you know there's a safety to it because of the context by eat. You know your kind of is a guy or dirty guy or whatever the hell you're guy is. I do think that Benign violation is a sort of an apt metaphor for a relationship with an odd but you know that I've seen that violation get pretty gnarly I mean. The weird thing is: is that you're? Just as a metaphor, your functioning first annesley in japan an audience. I mean I've seen that go horribly wrong where, where nine violation. The price
with using the word violation is that it does not necessarily connote pleasure that that young, idea that you're gonna volunteer for bananas, violation, it's just that it's it's a tricky were I understood. but I dont have a better word at this point. For it we kicked around benign threats. We kicked around a lot of different ideas here, but it's actually not as its actually not as much of a problem, as you think is it. start to look at human behavior. More generally, you can start to find a whole class of behaviors in which people pursue unpleasantness, and so, if you think about like eating spicy foods or if you think about things like people who are into bondage or extreme sports extreme sports might be paid by the they're they're, putting put in an unpleasant situations that that in some way they find a way to transform into a pleasurable. Maybe when the challenge, yes initially and anyhow in terms of sexuality I in the new year, I mean you beat you,
being awfully general. In that you know, and as a you know, a research psychologist, you know, you'd have to go deeper to find the roots of that, but yeah. I can see how you you court, that I think the idea this is that that people's comfort suit of comedy and its risks start to make a lot more sense. When you, when you look at how they pursue pleasure in and in negatives, equations they go and watch horror movies, for instance, there's something about sad mood like getting out of your comfort zone or or or or sort of you know putting yourself in the position where you will be challenged at some level to overcome. Yes, you know, I think is, is part of the human gene I've is I, like you. I know that, like you, just getting on stage is going to be risky, and that, like you know, I I don't always know what's going to happen, but I I know that if I I get through it and something surprising happens and you know, then I grew somehow right right, yeah, that's not part of
oh yeah, that's part, I mean. Certainly that's the and you see this within art. I mean, as that to me is the is the part of comedy. That's more, like the process of creating art to making a song. Creating a painting or composing and in classical music is, is a process y by which you, you entertain people, but the person who's who's made. This thing is transformed by Joel, and I are have been transformed by this. It's funny I mean at the beginning of the book in some ways, we read the cover some kind of conceit for me, like you know what who why am I going on this journey other than the fact that heck I got a book deal, I could go travel around the world right, and so beginning because he was oh, you know I d get from beyond my reporters no park, which is some kind of a bland conceit, but the nice thing was literally. Do we did kind of fine that, as pete said our last trips in the amazon. For me, especially those really just powerful experience in some ways
I, the strap on a clown knows in kind of put down the no book can get out there We are in many ways more than I had the rest of these trips you know, and you know, I'm a dad so I'll my little, my my dad training out there and then in the final chapter right after, for laughs or friend of mine said to me. You know, I think you ve gotten funnier it really set it in that really struck me. Can I ever had Thinking about you know my place and all of this in a book. You know maybe it's in part, but I violation theory. Maybe we have learned to look these violations and and benign, but this time. I think you, as pete said When I have that much more com any material. I'm not travel think we traveled ninety one thousand miles around the world to always round trip back and forth, we done all these things. And saw that I had all news stories sure
same time. One thing I was just thinking about for a long time. I refused to go on roller coasters. I think, since I was in first grade, I have bad experience. On a thunder mountain, I refused to go on then, a few weeks after we finish the book and went to reason park with friends and I did I'm trying on the roller coaster- and I think it's a guy, like you, said it kind of forces you out there all of a sudden. You know forced me to put my son, out there that I hadn't before I mean like right now, I'm on your podcast. This is stuff that wouldn't have happened. If I didn't go exploring these concepts, and jewels of actually has helped me help me with that with the book, because the books written from his perspective, so I'm I'm a character in the book and it took it took some, and he says I had to stop myself from censoring him from saying things about me that were bad or even talking about some sad
thing, so my mother dies while we're writing the button and- and he wrote about that experience and how I dealt with it, and what my sister and I did in terms of scattering her ashes and and you know it's. The seas are things I'm not necessarily proud about my childhood and so on, but that that idea heap he made that happen, because that wasn't If I was writing the book alone, I might have decided to set that aside, and that sounds like where we should have started. I've heard I figured do the case that they got good talking. You guys, good luck with the book. Thank beg. You I won't do it that information. Would you what you will check out the book? It's interesting. It seems it could be practical for people that may to regulate or develop this, humor that they may or may not have or just
here are some interesting stories about the journeys around the world with the funny funny. Oh my god listen folks, there was. I had a thought I'll just share this with you southwest right and they may announcement that there would be no peanuts, and I never want peanuts, but this is a you know to to kind of respect for the health of people with peanut allergies, which can be pretty nasty, not something I deal with on a plane or anywhere for that matter, when I said that the party my brain was like? Are you fucking kidding mate? no peanuts That's the only thing we get on these blights, no p. I don't like practical work bullshit
peanuts is that real person. There complains like that deeper issues, that's why I didn't honor it when it came up in my head. I just said who's that guy. That guy is out of your fucking mind. I said that the guy in my head rest in peace, were cited. Tomer labs hmm
Transcript generated on 2023-02-12.