Dark Humor: The Story of how it Actually Happened

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Dark humor or black humor is one of the most confusing terms in the history of mankind. Is it funny? Is it serious? Does it make fun of the serious things or does it take funny things too seriously?

Dark humor is a type of humor where morbid and grotesque is combined with comedy in order to give a disturbing effect and to convey the absurdity of life. Many times the topics discussed under this genre are grave or serious, but the approach towards it is very light and humorous. Dark humor criticizes the conventional ways of the society with a satirical and sarcastic tone.  It is intelligent, it is witty and it mocks the normative, accepted behavior. It brings out the horrific nature of the things by treating it in most unaccepted way possible.

Dark Humour
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How did it develop?

The concept of Dark humor was first introduced by author Breton in 1939. But he didn’t use it as a separate genre of literature. He rather saw it as an attitude or a stance towards certain things. In Drama or fiction, dark humor is a tone that is amusing and threatening at the same time.

After, the Second World War, Dark humor was developed in a more profound sense. It was used to understand the vast devastation and suffering caused by the war. Laughing at the face of darkness as a means to deal with it. The theater of the absurd which began in the late 1950s’ Europe is a good example of the development of dark humor.  This theater abandons rational devices and critiques the senselessness of human condition. Movies like Clockwork Orange, The Great Dictator, Fight Club are a part of this genre.

Clockwork Orange
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Here, the comic uses the audience as a joke and mocks their cherished values. Dark humor is offensive by nature. Actually it’s as offensive as one can get. By laughing at grave things like morbidity, it confuses its audience. It constantly shifts perspective and tries to depict the paradoxes of real life. But underneath this arrogant, witty attitude dark humor is actually trying to address many grave issues of social life. For example, George Carlin, an extraordinary comedian often used black humor to talk about issues related to religion, sexism, and environmentalism.

Indian version

Now let’s take the case of India. To offend an Indian is the easiest thing there is. All you need to do is say something against their religious or cultural or communal beliefs. Something like Dark humor can never fit our standards of acceptability. But there’s something we can learn from it. Comedy is not all about laughing. It is a way to express your point of view. If used properly, comedy is the best tool to make people aware of current issues and think about it. We need to learn how to laugh at our problems and how to laugh at ourselves because the alternative is denial and conflict.

By Parilov/ Shutterstock

Many genres under comedy are being experimented in India. With comedy industry blooming, many entertainers like AIB, EIC, and many individual comics enjoy popularity. Comedy is a great way to talk about the same old social issues that everyone finds boring. It is an innovative instrument that can be used in many ways. It can be used either to ridicule people, spread gossip or it can be used for a meaningful purpose.

The uniqueness of dark humor- it is the farthest comedy can go. It’s as dark as it can get. So, if we even attempt to understand some aspects of it, we can achieve a great deal. If we try to incorporate newer ways to look at old trifles, maybe just maybe there’s a chance we can work out our problems. For those who take everything very seriously- it’s fine, you can. But try to keep in mind that others may have different perspectives.

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