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Today when somebody says “that’s absurd” they mean to say it is silly or ridiculous. But the original meaning of the word “absurd” refers to something that is illogical, irrational, or simply contrary to common sense. It is an extreme version of incongruity. For example, talking animals are absurd since such things do not exist in nature. (For a comprehensive definition of the word ‘ABSURD’ read here: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/absurd ).
In a joke absurd humor plays with logic, causality, rationality, and the truth about reality as we habitually understand it. For that reason, it is not easy to come up with a truly absurd joke. Absurd humor is based on deliberate violations of causal reasoning, producing events/ behaviors that undermine our habit of rationality. The point behind it is to challenge our assumptions about the rational world around us, as in this seemingly silly joke: “Why did the elephant sit on the marshmallow? — Because he didn’t want to fall into the cup of hot chocolate.” However silly this may sound, this joke makes fun of our conception of weight: of course, if an elephant sits on a marshmallow it will squish it. The joke plays with our expectation that a heavy weight will destroy a small weight; instead it denies the reality of it and presupposes that the elephant is lighter than a marshmallow, which is, in our world of gravity, is thus far not true.
Absurd humor often employs NONSENSE as technique. By making fun of our belief in rationality and reason it implies that logic is a mere convention, a practicality and a custom that we have been habituated to and don’t question anymore. Think about how logic is perceived in different countries and cultures: in one culture what is considered “logical” (aside from 2+2) may not be the same as in another part of the world. So absurdity/nonsense questions this habit and suggests that rationality may not be “natural” but simply imposed on us for practical reasons.
Lastly, absurd humor (like dark humor) undermines the idea that there is meaning in the world. It seems to say the world/reality makes no sense, it’s non-sensical, confusing and just “absurd” (some people say that’s very realistic!) Think about our world under pandemic.
Absurd humor sometimes employs elements of the SURREAL or FANTASTIC.
All absurd humor contains some elements of social satire. Here is a range of VIDEO EXAMPLES of Absurd Humor:
1) The clip below is from a movie that makes fun of bank robberies based on glamorous portrayals of heists in Hollywood movies. Here absurdity is used in a satirical way to make fun of popular gangster movies and our expectation of what a robbery should be like, which we normally don’t question. Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VdMdboymT8
2) This example is closer to the definition of absurd humor: a respectable family goes to their friends for dinner. When they are invited to sit down at the table, instead of chairs there are toilets and guests are invited to sit on them and proceed with their meal.
The whole tradition of eating at a dinner table is made fun of by being treated in this incongruent/absurd way. The episode challenges our social/cultural norm of behaving properly at a dinner table and eating (in public) and going to the bathroom (in private). These two habits are switched around and made absurd in order to make the point that these habits are socially constructed. Why do we have to eat in public and feel no shame but go to the bathroom in private, in secret? After all, the two processes involve the same digestive system. The absurd humor here also reminds that we do not question our customs thinking them natural or necessary. The dinner scene begins at 2:15 : https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2k3meo
3) The next examples use absurd humor to play with the expected rules of conduct at job interviews:
This one begins at 1:30 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_HvN7TZHQ
The second example of a job interview is from Monty Python (an old British show): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4iFzweRf3E
Can you think of your own examples? Answer below.
1) Post 1-2 examples (it can be a meme, a story, a joke or short video) that illustrate what happens in absurd humor. Explain in a couple of sentences why your example(s) is absurd. **Note: talking animals are used so pervasively in pop culture today that they can hardly classify as absurd because we’re accustomed to this figure.
2) Leave 2 comments on others’ posts.