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Argumentative Analysis

In: English and Literature

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In “The Dark Psychology of Being a Good Comedian,” Olga Khazan discusses the relationship of darkness and light in humor. Throughout the article she reinforces the idea multiple times that a twist is needed in jokes. The arguments she offers to support her thesis that comedy requires just as much shadiness as it does enlightenment rely on her research, studies, and experiences. I will argue that Khazan’s argument succeeds because of the overflow of the compelling evidence she provided in support of her claim.
Olga Khazan believes that majority of people find jokes with a little controversy in them to be funnier than those without it. In order for people to laugh at someone’s joke there needs to be some kind of wicked jerk. Peter McGraw believes the best jokes “take something awful and make it silly. Go purely light-hearted and you risk being toothless. Too edgy.. you’ll make people uncomfortable” (Khazan). With this McGraw is saying that it is okay to offend people to a certain degree with jokes. It should be part of the joke. But it should have an equal amount of “feel-good” to it. For example, when the attacks on September 11th happened the whole country stopped. People needed ways to cope. Comedy was nowhere to be found because no one wanted to offend anyone and they did not think anyone would appreciate any comedy. But The Onion thought differently and began to print articles joking about the terrorists. They were not sure how it would go but the issue was a smash. In response, the people overwhelmed The Onion with fan mail because they “seemed to find catharsis in the terrorists’ derisive rendering” (Khazan). They followed McGraw’s theory to perfection and gave the readers equal parts darkness and light.
The edginess it provided was able to make light of a bad situation which is one of the hardest things to do in comedy. People are so often easily offended that it is really an art-form to successfully pull off a joke, especially during a tragedy. If people can find humor after a tragedy like the 9/11 attacks then the theory must be true. Khazan states that “Jokes ease tension; they help us deal with life’s injustices, both minor and large.” Even after a tragedy, when executed the right way, jokes still need a little shadowiness to them. The Onion is a prime example of how people find more humor in equal parts jokes than just light-hearted ones.
The argument that people find risky jokes funnier than regular succeeds because of the evidence she provided. As long as humans have been on this earth, humor has been a part of it. Laughter has been around far longer than language has been around. And as long as it has been around, unsettling jokes have been better than ones that do not bother with it. In an interview Khazan had with McGraw, he says “Humor is something that people inherently enjoy. But there also needs to be something wrong, unsettling, and threatening in some way.” McGraw is trying to point out that everyone enjoys a good laugh. But the only way for it to really stick with us or truly be successful is to fiddle with the line between just right and overboard of edginess. Comedy is a never ending battle between finding the happy medium. Khazan later stated that “According to all of the theories of humor, wit involves putting discordant ideas together quickly, all while being perceptive enough to offend your audience a little, but not too much” (Khazan). Every humor theory there is believes that it is necessary to offend the audience a little bit. Finding the right balance is a very hard thing to do but it is what makes people find things funny. Khazan was able to back up her claim with evidence that people like comedy to have a little edginess.
Another argument that Khazan stated was that comedians have a unique ability to execute jokes the right way. Everyone knows that it can be hard to make people laugh. There can be numerous things that get in the way of making something funny. But do comedians have a greater ability than the average person to be funny? An anthropologist from The University of Mexico, Gil Greengross, “thinks the secret to being funny is being smart” (Khazan). A study was conducted by Greengross to see the connection between being smart and being funny. One part of the study gave students intelligence tests and the next part was writing captions for a newspaper cartoon. The results showed that students with the higher intelligence scores also made the funniest captions. This indicates that the smarter someone is the funnier they will be because they know more things. McGraw weighed in and said “You need to be clever to see the things that are wrong in the world and to make them okay. Smart people are better read and they know more about the world. They can connect these dots” (Khazan). When people know more things they can find a connection with more things. Being well read allows them to talk about more things and have more of an ability to successfully pull off a joke. Both the study and McGraw reinforce the idea that comedians are a little different than the average person. The fact that the comedians are smarter gives them a greater ability to execute jokes.
Khazan’s second argument is also successful in the fact that she gave more evidence on how it is true. She provided convincing evidence that made this claim true. In the above paragraph there were numerous ideas that humor has to involve some kind of wit and the evidence showed that comedians were consistently smarter than non-comedians. But there was also more evidence to be uncovered. Studies have been performed to see the truth behind comedians and them being different. One result showed “Comedians had an introverted set of traits” (Khazan). Because not everyone is introverts, this is fact that comedians are different from a lot of people, although not everyone. Some people believe that to be a comedian you have to be messed up in the head because of how raunchy some comedy can get. But Gordon Claridge, an Oxford psychologist, that although they are introverts it “doesn’t mean comedians are mentally ill” (Khazan). Comedians are not mentally ill they just have different ways of dealing with things. It was later stated that these characteristics could cause them to “tap into some sort of out-of-the-box thinking” (Khazan). Comedians have a different way of thinking than most people do. Their brain causes a different way of understanding and coping with things. This reinforces the idea that they have a unique ability to make people laugh.
For comedians, it can be a tough job. One day you can make everybody laugh. The next you could not make anybody laugh and then ten minutes later you could offend the whole audience. It is a constant battle to find the feel of the audience and what jokes should be used. Comedians are special in the fact that they are able to do it so easily while most people can not do it. They are special. But it all comes back to one thing: Comedy is equal parts dark and light.

Works Cited
Khazan, Olga. "The Dark Psychology of Being a Good Comedian." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 27 Feb. 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.…...

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