C. Todd White
Now I shall laugh and I shall cause all to be laughed at, and by my power as a God, I will spare none.
Psychologists describe laughter as an instinctive and intuitive reaction, a reflexive response resulting from a physical, emotional, or intellectual stimulus or tickle. Sociologists show that every society has sanctions and taboos that act to either stifle or incite laughter. Anthropologists have found ritualized clowning to be ubiquitous to culture. All of the humanities have noted that patterns of social comedy provide unique windows through which we may better understand how and why the innate psychological trait of laughter manifests itself in various cultural groups; yet words such as jester, clown, and comic are rare in the indexes of the works that these fields produce.
Charles Darwin was the first to suggest that laughter, a uniquely human phenomenon, developed in the neocortex and was coeval with the emergence of speech. J. J. M. Askenasy, of the Tel Aviv School of Medicine, concurs: "Laughter is a primitive communication medium understood by all human societies in spite of their very different languages. No case of a human being who did not laugh once in his lifetime has been published in the literature" (318). By laughter we have thus defined our humanity.