Media and the Inner World


Comedy & Psychoanalysis

Starts: July 09 @ 2:30pm

Ends: July 09 @ 4:30pm

Address: Jermyn Street Theatre
(Piccadilly Circus) SW1Y 6ST

What is the Relationship Between Comedy and Psychoanalysis?

Freud, who never returned to the subject after writing his 1905 book on the theory of jokes {..} suggested that “censors” in the mind form powerful, unconscious barriers that make it difficult to think “forbidden” thoughts. But jokes can elude these censors — to create the pleasure of unearned release of psychic energy, which is discharged in the form of laughter. He explains why jokes tend to be compact and condensed, with double meanings: this is to fool the childishly simple-minded censors, who see only innocent surface meanings and fail to penetrate the disguise of the forbidden wishes.

(Marvin and Minsky, 1980), http://web.media.mit.edu/~minsky/papers/jokes.cognitive.txt

What is the psychology of humour and jokes? Why do we laugh and why do some of us want to make others laugh? What is it that prompts us to laugh at others and make them the butt of jokes? In his 1905 work Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905) Freud argues that comedy is often used as a way of communicating anxiety and managing hostility. As with dreams, jokes are deeply symbolic and we can use them to learn more about the unconscious and the forbidden wishes and fantasies, which shape and mediate human experience. Like spontaneous slips of the tongue, these wishes find expression through jokes and humour in the course of our everyday lives. Our responses to those jokes can also tell something about the pleasures, longings and fears that influence who we are and the cultures in which we live.

Our event aims to explore these questions through a dialogue between psychotherapists, academics and leading contemporary comedians. Comedians use the symbolic power of humour to express a range of popular, cultural and personal dilemmas for TV and theatre audiences today. When we watch them perform, comedians such as Eddie Izzard, Victoria Wood, Michael Macintyre or Russell Brand allow audiences to experience a range of emotions from outrage to pleasure – thus providing a means of working through the many anxieties and frustrations that permeate contemporary culture. Alternatively, from the perspective of the comedian, what are the pleasures of making people laugh – and what makes people laugh today and what doesn’t and why?

Discussion Points:

1. Is there a relationship between humour, laughter and loss?
2. What is the relationship between humour, laughter and anxiety?
3. What makes people laugh today and why?
4. What does it feel like to make people laugh?
5. What are the unconscious roots of humour?

Comedy: Tom Davis & Michelle De Swarte;
Speakers: Brett Kahr, Iain MacRury and Estela Welldon

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