Friday, December 7, 2012

Feeling out of humor

Reading this post made me feel incredibly sad. It reports on the apparent suicide of a nurse at the hospital where Kate Middleton, aka wife of Prince William, had been receiving care for severe morning sickness. The nurse had been pranked by two radio DJs posing as the Queen and Prince Charles, and transferred the call to another nurse directly involved in the Duchess' care.

As noted in one of the comments on the post, pranks like this  reveal what jerks the pranksters are and how accommodating the victims are. I think that is what makes me feel sad. We would expect and hope that a nurse would be helpful. So, why take that helpfulness and make it into an object of ridicule?

So, I am thinking about pranks and how they work and why audiences find them humorous. Pranksters and audiences know what the victims do not know - they are "in" on the joke. Could it be also that audiences laugh because they recognize that they could be the ones being pranked, and find relief, even superiority, in not being the victims? So that pranks can do quite a lot of harm because they cause us to identify - with and against. It encourages the opposite of empathy. Yet, it is all undertaken in the name of not only "entertainment," which is supposed to be too trivial to take seriously, but also more specifically of a good sense of humor, which is acceptable and even admirable.

BTW, I am wondering whether it makes a difference when the victims of pranks are otherwise not Just Like Us. Is it different to pull pranks on business or political leaders?

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