Monday, July 5, 2010

Laughing and research

What is it that makes us laugh in a joke, after all?
It seems to me that a joke always requires from the audience a certain amount of mental effort to see the meaning of the joke. There is a gap in the plot and it has to be filled for the joke to be funny.
For instance:

A guy comes into a bar, completely drunk, and asks for a drink. The barman tells him that he never serves drunk people. The guy goes away but comes back five minutes later. The barman refuses again. The guy goes away but comes back ten minutes later, and so on.
Finally the drunk guy asks the barman: "Is there a single bar in this city where you don't work?"

To laugh at this joke you need to understand that the guy thinks he is visiting different bars, but he is so drunk he always ends up in the same bar.

The misanthropically inclined mind will think that then the laughter is only a demonstration of pride to have been able to crack the mystery.

But another interpretation would be that cracking the mystery is a pleasure in itself, and the real cause of the laughter.

We researchers are devoting our time to crack mysteries, although of different proportions. We are laughing the great laughter.