Thoughts On Comedy, Laughter, And Friends

planet yabadada friends

I just can’t help it – I take everything seriously, even jokes.

Movie genre is a peculiar thing. Its effect on our perception of the events onscreen is similar to how a chosen color palette in photography directs us to see an object in a particular way. I think, though, that comedy is the trickiest of all the genres. Perhaps even the most controversial.

Just like sharing a laugh connects you with other people, having a good chuckle while watching a comedic movie or a TV show gets you attached to the characters onscreen very easily. That’s why so many filmmakers rely on humor, sprinkling at least a modest number of jokes here and there even in the soberest of flicks.

Laughter, as pleasant and exhilarating as it is by nature, exposes our vulnerabilities. In real-life situations, even a smirk, a grin, or a full-blown beam shows a lot about our character to those who notice. And when we let ourselves to outright laugh without much thought at what we’re laughing at…Well, let’s just say it’s similar to when random people start telling you their dreams in great detail, without considering a fact that they’re just spilling out their subconsciously coded information about themselves right at you. They just tell you their dreams as if they’re just random weird stories. I laugh when it happens. Quietly, in my head, of course.

Everybody loves a good laugh. But when you don’t have anyone to share it with, you might start relying on sharing it with fictional characters onscreen. For instance, I absolutely adore the brilliant TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer which has a lot to do with its top-notch humor that’s full of clever references and endearing self-awareness. I dug it a lot and it just felt so me. But my rediscovery of this show came at the time when I was feeling probably the loneliest in my life – during my university years in my early 20s. I was relying on these characters to get that human connection that I craved for in real life and by doing so I was numbing out the communication with my own self which would have shown me the reasons of my detachment from the outer world if only I’ve listened.

Comedies are very personal and very intrusive. Fictional characters onscreen hang out in their own world and interact with each other. But they make you feel as if you’re participating because you are – you are laughing. Comedy does not exist without you laughing from the other side of the screen. By laughing – and yes, by crying too – you help the fiction to manifest itself into this material reality.

At that period of my life, I was so into this show that I was almost constantly fantasizing about talking to its characters and actually spending the time together. I had regular dreams with them and in their world. I traded my lonely life for an even lonelier fantasy. Because when the episode would be over, there would be nothing but an empty space and an awkward silence. Especially after an accidental binge. Because I guess it is true what Christopher McCandless wrote:
“Happiness is only real when shared.”

The real Chris-McCandless, 1992. His life story inspired “Into the Wild” – a non-fiction book by Jon Krakauer, 1996, that was later adapted into a widely-acclaimed biopic adventure drama film by Sean Penn, 2007.

At that time I was convinced that fictional characters are the only people I could connect with. That’s partly because I felt being a part of a tightly-knit group of friends whose jokes I would get every single time – that’s something that didn’t happen in real life as I’m taking everything literally first before getting it, very often being the last one to get it. And that’s a huge part of why I started to self-identify as autistic.

At that time I regarded being alone as being lonely and that was because I used up all my alone time dwelling on my loneliness and analyzing what I’m doing wrong that results in my not having friends. I convinced myself that I’m only worth as much as the number of friends I have. I thought that only the time spent with friends – fictional or not – balances out my loneliness. But I wasn’t some delusional fool and I knew exactly what was going on as my onscreen friends weren’t hearing me back. I might have been talking to them and laughing at their jokes but they’ve never done the same to me. I was blank.

Loneliness doesn’t disappear after spending time with other people, be it fictional or real. Loneliness disappears when you spend your alone time diving straight and deep into it, to its root, to its truth. Once again, the quality beats the quantity. Even if the only quality connection you can receive at the moment is with your own self, that’s worth a thousand times more than being around the people who don’t really get you.

But fear not, I’ve evolved and I’m in a different place right now. It took me a while to understand that laughter is energy and a potent one. You choose it to be either wasted in front of the screen (wasted if used as a mere substitute, that is), or be used to attract the real kind of joy, you know, with tangible human beings.

Laughter is the easiest way to connect. To kind of try out a person and see if you’re on the same page, at the same level, talking the same language, being in the same boat – well, you got the drill. But however well you’re vibing together and having a good time, it’s really just the first step – albeit a huge one! – into something way deeper.

Laughter digs out a tunnel through the wall between two hearts, with vigor of a war miner yet with joy and a flowery bliss of a child.

Once upon a time, I met this guy. He was the most hilarious person I knew. That’s probably because we understood each other’s jokes more than anyone else around. We not only understood but encouraged each other to highlight that humorous side of life and to benevolently poke at the funny things in us and others. It was pure bliss spending time together. That lasted for a while until one significant walk and talk we had one evening. Then we sat down and he opened up to me, started telling me stories from the sadder part of his life, the things he went through, the things that shook him, the things that changed his life. I was holding that space for him, listening intently. And suddenly I realized that it’s probably the longest that I’ve ever seen him without either smiling or laughing. He was looking straight into my eyes and, as if for the first time, I could appreciate his gorgeous facial features carefully sculpted by gods and life. Then I realized that what we actually had been doing with our everyday comedy was taming each other, preparing for the next step in our friendship that we knew was coming. And when the time came, he let me in.

Sadness is serious and sadness is naked. Sadness hides behind our laughter because those things that make us laugh are usually the ones that are too serious to handle with a cold face. And then there’s just too much tension, too much energy and you need to let it go, let it free. Humor is our natural and delightfully playful resource that helps us survive every day while enjoying the ride. But humor doesn’t analyze the core of the issue, it just exposes it. Sadness is not that appealing to an eye which is not ready for the rawness of vulnerability in another. But when the connection is already there, then you are ready to perceive and appreciate the real human beauty.

Because, in the end, laughter connects but sadness binds.

Screenshot of the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, S01E08. Buffy, Willow, and Xander, a little upset after realizing they’re “never gonna have a happy normal relationship” because they’re living on a Hellmouth.

Featured image: a promotional image of the TV show Friends.

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