WHAT TO DO ABOUT ABSURDITY?
The comedians of the world have known from the beginning that the conditions of human existence, if viewed directly and rationally, appear somewhat absurd. In an earlier book ( Fisher & Fisher, 1981), we studied a variety of comedians and clowns by means of interviews and formal psychological tests and learned a good deal about their personal conflicts and comedic strategies. One of the points that particularly impressed us about these people, who are so dedicated to being funny, is that they forever feel called upon to shield people from the threats and forebodings typifying modal life on this planet. As the result of early transactions with their parents they feel obligated to soothe others and to interpose themselves against the bad things "out there." They are weighted down by a poignant sense of duty to help those who come asking for the antidote provided by humor against human misfortune.
It is apropos in this respect that the early court jesters were assigned the role of protecting the king against the chaotic and uncontrolled forces in the universe. The jesters were considered to be qualified for such a role because their foolish strangeness and deviance intimated they were in contact with, and could potentially influence, analogous outlandish phenomena. Paradoxically, even as the funny ones soothe and protect, they also provoke. They go out of their way to conjure up images of threatening, forbidden stuff (variously relating to sex, death, anality, and hypocrisy). But each provocation is bathed in humor and the reassurance that there is nothing to fear from the threatening theme because it is, after all, only one more example of something ridiculous and absurd. The provocation functions in a fashion analogous to an injection of an attenuated virus intended to initiate the body's manufacture of a proper antibody. Much of the power of comedians resides