When Bad Things Become Funny

Smithsonian Magazine:

Joking about a tragedy shortly after it happens is usually a comedic no-no, as proven by the boos and shouts of “Too soon!” when comedian Gilbert Gottfried tried to joke about 9/11 in 2001 and, more recently, when comedian Jeffrey Ross brought up the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, in one of his routines. Yet at times, joking about tragedy can be ok, even if it is shortly after the event. The Onion ran a satirical 9/11 story two weeks after the terrorist attacks, which was successfully received.

Researchers puzzling over this inconsistency set out to discover when tragedies are fine to joke about and when they’re not. In the journal Psychological Science, psychologists from the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder, explored how two elements come together to facilitate humor: how “bad” an event is—ranked from a severe to mild violation—and how removed an audience is from that event.

Read the whole story: Smithsonian Magazine

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