theories of humour and their relation to the recent popularity of blogs

Blogging sites are a relatively new trend that allows each and every individual to their own soapbox. Everything from celebrities, hobbies and the wild and crazy are covered in different blogs, and everyone has their own opinion. What is even more recently popular is websites such as: “TFLN” (Text’s From Last night), “MLIA” (My Life is Average) and “FML” (F*ck My Life) that offer a different forum for people to share their thoughts. These sites allow users to submit instances or messages in which they are the butt of the joke, web surfers can then add their input as they see fit. The concept of submitting one’s self as the joke brings humour through the superiority of reader’s reaction to the situation. No matter how bad things are, readers can see that these people have it worse. This essay is going to look at the lesser obvious theories of humour that ‘self ridicule blogging’ fall under.  As Freud explains, “Sometimes a joke may express a thought particularly succinctly; in other cases, such as double entendres, one gets two meanings for the price of one” (Lippitt, 170), Therefore different theories are the reason why blogs can produce varieties of humour. Existential humour is very predominant in these blogs, the idea of making one’s life as obsolete as a single statement or message. Humour and release is also found within this type of blog humour, users find therapy in sharing their low points and in turn laughing at them selves about their situation. These blogs of sharing stories give hope, in that life could be worse or things have a way of looking up. Humorous in it’s own way; these blogs make light in other’s life. Incongruity is found in the statements and claims found in the blogs. They result in a strikingly humorous outcome because of the unexpectedness and absurdity of the jokes. The recent popularity of blogging as a medium for humour is this generation’s contribution to evolution of humour. 
            Existential humour is found within blogging because of the radical statements made in these blogs pertaining to one’s existence. The site ‘FML’ completely writes off someone’s life because of a certain situation. For example a post on the site someone would submit would read “Today, I wanted to have a good lunch with my wife before fasting for my surgery which I may not survive, she decided getting her hair cut was more important. I ate alone. FML”. The user submits a very vulnerable situation in which his life is worth less than a hair cut to his wife. Users then underneath either agree ‘your life sucks’ or ‘you deserved it’. The ability to take one’s entire existence of life and dub it horrible because of a single situation is existentialism at it’s finest. ‘Texts From Last night’ incorporates a second medium in to the blog. The user submits text a message beginning with the area code in brackets, sent from a wireless device from ‘the night before’ (implying the sender was under the influence and therefore the message was regrettable or momentous). The texts are usually extreme situations and readers either dub the situation as ‘best night’ or ‘worst night’. For example,(310): Threesomes are so awesome. You even have company on your walk of shame”; the post is then commented on by other users as being either ‘the best night’ or ‘the worst night’. There is also a great deal of pop culture as a medium intertwined with the text messages- so a pop culture expert would be able to fully appreciate and participate in the humour. For example, “(314): On a scale of Chris Brown, how angry are you?” the reader would have to be up to date on entertainment news and know that the artist Chris Brown was recently charged for beating up artist and former girlfriend, Rhianna. The existential humour is found with the bold statements of the reader’s replies. The website ‘My Life is Average’ is very similar to ‘F*ck My Life’ in that single situations label an individuals life as ‘average’. However it also kind of pokes fun at the website ‘Texts from Last night’ in that a lot of peoples life are not wild and crazy and are simply put, average. For example a user would submit “Today, I was having sex with my girlfriend. She yelled out the name Tommy. My name is Tommy. MLIA” This statement is existential in that because his girlfriend did not yell out some other name (like the stories on FML or TFLN would) his life is average. John Lippitt beautifully sums up his article with George Batailles infamous claim that a burst of laughter is “the only imaginable and definitively terminal result of… philosophical speculation” (Lippitt, 71). Existential humour is very the foundation of this new wave of situation reporting blogging. 
            Laughter and release is also found within this type of blog humour, users find therapy in sharing their low points and in turn laughing at them selves about their situation. In all the above-mentioned sites, ‘F*ck My Life’, ‘Texts From Last night‘ and ‘My Life is Average’; people submit their own experience s comedic material and allow themselves to be laughed at. Ronald de Souza writes, “No I am not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you” (de Souza, 227) an age-old statement that explains the need to laugh at one’s self. Sigmund Freud, an expert on humour and release, explains how jokes are a way of getting something across that is serious, but is excepted because it is taken as a joke, “a good joke can be made from the material of words and thoughts for a good insult” (Lippitt, 170). For example, “(773): Just saw your first draft of your suicide note. You spelled "worthless" wrong”, a perfect example of a humorous insult, masked in a joke. These blogs serve as a forum for being pathetic and with that comes the humour and release. ‘My Life is Average’ is the ultimate display of living an ordinary pathetic life, and to users that is humorous. The mundane everyday situations are laughable and therefore therapeutic in dealing with one’s own pathetic existence. Finally, some websites of sharing stories give hope, in that life could be worse or things have a way of looking up. Humorous in it’s own way; these blogs make light in other’s life.
            Incongruity, Schopenhauer explains as “the true theory of the ludicrous” (Lippitt, 148).  ‘F*ck My Life’, ‘Texts From Last night and ‘My Life is Average’ are all based on the element of surprise. Everyday millions of web surfers look at the updated page every hour to see the ever changing, ridiculous posts recently added to the blog. Even though readers know it will be a series of different posts, there is no way to prepare for the absurdity of the remarks. For example a ‘Text from Last night’ reads: (262): Care to explain to me why there is a baby food jar filled with semen in my fridge? Or why its labeled as unicorn sweat?” a perfect example of no congruity between this text from the one before or even the congruity within the text itself. The statements on the sites usually start out in some kind of logical manner and then immediately switch to being completely unexpected. For example on ‘F*ck My Life’ a post reads Today I checked into my flight early. The kiosk asked me if I wanted an earlier flight for fifty dollars. Awesome. I swiped my card then continued to the next screen where I was informed my new flight was delayed to the same time as my original flight. FML”, a perfect example of humour and incongruity. ‘Logical’ incongruities involve violation of logical laws (Lippitt, 149); readers see the situation going in one direction and find humour in a surprising ending.
            The recent popularity of blogging as a medium for humour is this generation’s contribution to evolution of humour. Using all the infamous theories of humour these blogs are a quintessential addition to the broad topic of mediums of humour. “Contemporary humour researchers often divide accounts of humour into three main theoretical traditions, focusing on respectively, incongruity, superiority and the release of energy” (Lippitt, 147). Superiority is the most obvious theory of humour in blogs. Everyone has their own say and opinion, making them superior to their readers (or minions). Lippitt explains Bergson’s view of laughter; “We all dislike- even fear being laughed at, precisely because we associate this with being in a position of inferiority. Laughter can therefore act as a very powerful ‘social corrective’; a weapon society can use to restrain those insufficiently flexible to adapt to whatever demands of them” (Lippitt, 55). Existential humour is the foundation of these blog sites. The statements made by those who submit take on a new meaning once they are posted on the blog; they become a representation of the poster’s life. Their life is then ‘rated’ and commented on based on its worthiness. Laughter and release are found in the overall outcome of the jokes as being laughable. Whether it was an individual’s pathetic realization or the outcome of laughter at the joke or absurdity, the result is laughter. In The Critique of Judgment by Kant Immanuel the incongruity theory of laughter is explained, “Laughter is an affection arising from a strained expectation suddenly being reduced to nothing” (Immanuel, 199). These blog sites are successful because of the commitment and participation of their users. The blog is constantly updated with hilarious content and is never redundant. The short posts almost always, push the barriers of the absurd and end in an unexpected twist of events. Hopefully these blog sites will stem an entire new medium for humour as technology continues to develop. The theories of humour however, remain the same, and effective.

Works Cited
De Sousa, Ronald. “The Ethics of Laughter and Humour”. The Rationality of             Emotion. Bradford Books. New York: The MIT, 1990. 
FML: Your everyday life stories. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.
Immanuel, Kant. The Critique of Judgment. Oxford Claredon. Print. 1952.
Lippitt, John. "Humour and incongruity." Cogito Summer (2004). Print.

MyLifeIsAverage - Life is pretty normal today. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.             .

Texts from last night. Remember that text you shouldn’t of sent lastnight, we do. Web. 8 Dec. 2009.