Un-Dark Humour

You've got to laugh: why a sense of humour helps in dark times | Comedy |  The Guardian

To be able to laugh at taboo subjects requires a degree of intelligence and emotional distancing.


Does dark humor make you laugh? You know, all those jokes about painful or taboo subjects such as death, disease, deformity, or sexuality? Well, researchers say that if you appreciate or indulge in dark humor, also known as morbid humor or black comedy, you are probably not just a genius, but also show less aggression and are less negative.

Not everyone has the nerves or intelligence for morbid humor. You need the nerves because you are making fun of taboo subjects, and getting others to laugh along with you. And intelligence, because understanding dark humor demands astuteness since it is not as easy to understand as your regular everyday jokes. It requires unraveling intelligent wordplay, and also demands better emotional control so that you can distance yourself from the content and enjoy the joke! 


“Humor plays on taboos,” says Peter McGraw, author of The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny. “It talks about things that are wrong. You have to act a little foolishly and disclose information that makes people laugh.”

Dark humor is a satire that addresses ugly topics (torture, environmental disasters, serial killings, or even simply fear).

You’d think dark humor would dumb down the ugly. But it technically does not.


Louis C.K. often gets giggles from depraved thoughts. He has a joke where he asks the audience to consider the love child molesters must-have for molesting children, given the punishment if caught. It asks us to consider what is in the mind of a child molester and he’s asking us to understand the things that drive them. Watching the clip, you can almost feel the audience’s guilt as they laugh.


When you try to unravel a single word’s multiple meanings, you are pitting your brain’s left and right hemispheres against each other. Top that with trying to disentangle complex emotions about taboo subjects, as well as laugh at them – and you are right out of your emotional comfort zone!


I mean, murder is murder. Poking fun or understating that tragedy would be a crime in itself. It’s easy to say you can take the darkness out of the humor. But you can’t take the humor out of the dark. Every darkness has its monster. When I was little, the monsters hid under the bed or in the closet. Now that I’m bigger, the monsters lie in the shadows of parking garages, behind shower curtains, and some are still under the bed


Fears like these can be so irrational. Do you know what else is irrational? Funny.