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On Laughter and Its Darker Side

Updated: May 17

A group people wearing mask

It is said that laughter is capable of being the "best medicine." Even though it cannot cure cancer, it sure can improve one's physical and mental health. It is so embedded in humanity that it is something that the large majority of people actually want to have, as long as the time and place are appropriate for it. Few are the people who do not like the idea of being able to laugh every day, as laughter is at heart the expression of joy—and thus—its indication.


Additionally, being able to make other people laugh is a very desirable trait in both men and women, as it is very attractive for both a friend, a partner, and, basically, everyone whose role could be helped with a little bit of laughter here and there—including teachers and philosophers. After all, one of the reasons philosophers such as Slavoj Zizek attract so much attention is because of their ability to humor their audience, whether they actually listen to his words or not.



The darker side of laughter, of course, is not when you make people laugh with you, but being laughed at. While many people are blessed with the mental fortitude to endure mockery, the sad truth is that the more sensitive you are, the more likely you are to be negatively affected by the laughter of others, directed at you.


This is why, essentially, the more your presence becomes public and you get more known, the likelier people will begin to laugh at you, and it's not necessarily personal, as almost all public figures and entities can become suspect of being mocked. I call it the sensitive originator's dilemma.


Thus, if you wish to become known to circles beyond your family and/or local community, you must face the likely inevitability of being taken as a joke, whether or not that attitude from some people is justified or not. Hence, we can also learn from mockery how unjust life is, especially if you, for instance, did nothing wrong, other than having something that is beyond your control, such as being Jewish, suffering from obesity, or having an obscure voice.



The ultimate negative consequence of laughter could be the suicide of people who were laughed at in the time before their mental escalation towards suicidal tendency has begun. And indeed, people have killed themselves before, because they couldn't handle the burden of being laughed at and picked on by those who laughed, harassed, and shamed them.


And still, for some reason, bullying—the exact problem that could lead to the victim's suicide—is still a common thing to do not only in schools but also in other places, most notably the internet, where such exposure of the mockery's subject can be the most severe. In addition, not only can it eventually lead to the victim's deterioration in mental health, but it can also decrease their ability to get accepted into jobs, as their laughed-at reputation can harm this possibility.


Example: Having the same name of a famous person could bring disturbance to your own life simply for having it. In this short post there is a case of another person named Justin Bieber, who was not only harassed by strangers but was also kicked out of Facebook for "having a fake name".


While I wish him a happy life, I also hope that no obvious extreme measures would be taken. Of course, imagine another person having the name "Adolf Hitler" or "Kim Jong Un" (dictator of North Korea); it's like a "curse" you've been given simply by being born (or, at least, being given a name that could complicate your life early on).


Laughter therefore can be more fatal than many may realize, as it can lead to serious consequences—many of which are unjustified and undeserved. This is one of the earliest insights I have realized in life, not necessarily by personal experience, but by watching certain TV shows that would contain characters whose purpose is to be "comic relief."


The most notable disturbance I felt as a kid was when I watched the old show, "Drake and Josh," which basically was a walking example of how it feels to live in constant lack of justice that you don't deserve. I liked the show, though, but still felt sorry for the character of Josh for not being able to catch a break for things he shouldn't have gotten in the first place, while his step-brother received the exact opposite, just for being the "coolest" and the attractive one in the titular duo.


When we think about it, it is possible to assume that some people live that way, in a manner of being "comic relief" in the eyes of those who acknowledge their existence—and as an old Gorillaz song, "Latin Simone," concludes—


It's funny until you're left to kill yourself. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_uAo-Jkxic)



I think this is a very sad reality, but it is also one that we should be aware of. We should all strive to be kind and compassionate to others, and to avoid making fun of people simply because they are different from us.


Not all may kill themselves because of mockery -- but some sure will, and all for the sake of having a good laugh.


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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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