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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enormously provocative
Yes, it is true: Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy is funnier than this analysis of laughter. But they are equally provocative. Bergson's thesis may not suit all of us, but it must challenge even those of us involved in the comedic professions to re-examine why people laugh. I think his observation of what makes something funny as opposed to tragic - the elimination of...
Published on November 12, 2000

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Would have preferred a legitimate publisher
It's great to reprint classics, but this "book" seems to have been "published" by a 10-year-old working from his bedroom in Kentucky. Not only is there no typesetting to speak of in this volume (it appears that public domain copy was simply poured into a Word doc), but there isn't a single YEAR mentioned anywhere in this book, aside from the reference to being "Made in...
Published 23 months ago by M. Helin


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enormously provocative, November 12, 2000
By A Customer
Yes, it is true: Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy is funnier than this analysis of laughter. But they are equally provocative. Bergson's thesis may not suit all of us, but it must challenge even those of us involved in the comedic professions to re-examine why people laugh. I think his observation of what makes something funny as opposed to tragic - the elimination of emotion - is pretty spot on. How else could we laugh at someone falling down the stairs? The moment we think of the actual pain or humiliation, the comedy dies at least a little. While the book does not directly attack the magic of those beings, clowns and tricksters, who simulataneaously inspire laughter and sadness and/or fear, the principles of the book lead to what sorts of rules these people follow. If you can extraploate from the thought laid out here, many, many questions will be answered and perhaps even more raised. Which makes this an indispensible book for anyone in the performing arts. Highly, highly recommended.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit dated. Somewhat incomplete. Astoundingly insightful, May 9, 2005
Before reading this essay, you should be forewarned that it was written by the same great opponent of Cartesian dualism that resisted the reduction of psychological phenomena to physical states. In other words, this is an early 20th century French philosophical essay. To go further, it's a bit dry. Still, it is hard to argue with many of the axioms that Bergson espouses in this essay. For the most part, the laughter caused by much of modern comedy can be explained using one of his primary axioms or their many corollaries. Bergson's biggest miss here, however, is that although he adequately explains why a comic may cause an individual to laugh at either the comic himself or a third party, he doesn't sufficiently explain, or even realize, that much of what the comic intends is for his audience to laugh at themselves. Even so, you can still ascribe Bergson's incisive deductions to include the comic audience and still come to the heart of why people laugh. In any event, to my knowledge the subject has never been tackled so logically. Certainly, no (funny) comedian will ever attempt to publicly disclose the nature of laughter, but don't suppose that there aren't many famous comedians out there today who are familiar with this essay. It is obvious that many comedians and writers are familiar with this essay and that they have put these axioms directly to the test to great comic effect on many occasions. A word of advice to anyone who has difficulty wading through the chapters of Bergson's dry, recondite language: Read it in your head with the voice of baby Stewie from the Family Guy in mind. This technique amused me through the first half of the book, and by that time the language didn't bother me so much anymore.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still profound after all these years, March 24, 2003
By A Customer
Why is a pun amusing? In brief, it treats something human as if it were something mechanical. Language is a way of conveying meanings from one human to another, and the most inflexible, most mechanical, most artifiial POSSIBLE way of looking at words is to classify them by their sound alone. That's precisely what a pun does.
When Mel Brooks is playing a Polish actor playing Hitler, he says: "All I want is peace. A little piece of Poland, a tiny piece of France...." That is amusing -- the juxtaposition of the vital and the mechanical.
More sophisticated jokes than such puns are based on the same juxtaposition. Here is one of Bergson's example, from a play by Labiche. "Just as M. Perrichon is getting into the railway carriage, he makes certain of not forgetting any of his parcels: 'Four, five, six, my wife seven, my daughter eight, and myself nine.'"
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Early, provocative, but slight work on the subject., February 1, 2007
This review is from: Laughter (Paperback)
One of the more accessible books by an underrated philosopher whose usefulness, especially with regard to literary narrative, is being rediscovered, "Laughter" must qualify as one of Bergson's slighter works. Much of its importance stems from its place among the very first essays to take seriously an elusive and slippery subject. As a result, the author's thesis that laughter derives from "the mechanical encrusted upon the living" is at once somewhat dated and limiting. A reader wishes more distinctions between "comedy" and "laughter" (since many of the most revered comedies, from Shakespeare to Keaton, no longer provoke laughter from their modern audiences). Moreover, the author's thesis, though consistent with his views of "real time" (la duree), is applied too broadly to illuminate the dark let alone grey areas of "black comedy" along with numerous sub-genres, ranging from witty and garrulous, so-called "screw-ball comedy" to parody and the mock-heroic (both of the latter presenting major obstacles to appreciation let alone laughter because of what the post-modernists call "cultural amnesia").

Nevertheless, it's a readable start.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Would have preferred a legitimate publisher, October 19, 2012
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This review is from: Laughter: An Essay On The Meaning Of The Comic (Paperback)
It's great to reprint classics, but this "book" seems to have been "published" by a 10-year-old working from his bedroom in Kentucky. Not only is there no typesetting to speak of in this volume (it appears that public domain copy was simply poured into a Word doc), but there isn't a single YEAR mentioned anywhere in this book, aside from the reference to being "Made in the USA in 2012." The original date of Bergson's publication isn't mentioned (1911), the year that he revised it isn't mentioned, the translator's note isn't dated--in all, a completely bizarre manifestation. Save your money and read this essay on the internet. It's free. You can even print out what you find online and read it that way. You won't be doing anything different than what the manufacturer of this "book" has done.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for a college class, May 28, 2014
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This was required reading for a college class. It is an interesting essay on the history of comedy and the people involved. It is not a funny read by the way, purely academic.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good book on a topic where it not written much about, July 3, 2013
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My impressions are very good. It is a topic that triggers me and finding that there are very few writings, is a further stimulus to appreciate it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, December 25, 2012
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I bought this book when I was going threw a rough time and I enjoyed it. I would recommend this to anyone
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4.0 out of 5 stars Those French!....., June 27, 2011
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o dubhthaigh (north rustico, pei, canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Laughter: An Essay On The Meaning Of The Comic (Paperback)
I tend to like how Bergson writes and find his analyses worth mulling over, even in English when the subtleties can occasionally be rendered deformed by a translator. I came away from this book philosophically appreciating even more John Cleese's premise that "All comedy is a function of the wrong time, the wrong place and the wrong size."
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4.0 out of 5 stars Does that man remind you of a machine? Then laugh at him!, June 3, 2009
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Like Socrates, French Philosopher and Nobel Prize Winner for Literature Henri Bergson is associated with a "method." Socrates piled question after question upon the hapless denizens of Athens. Bergson posed questions not to citizens but to situations, gestures, stage plays, puns, quips, oddities and mannerisms. He asked: what makes this so funny, laughable, risible?

If his book LAUGHTER were a prize fight, it would still be going on: for it never delivers a knock-out punch. LAUGHTER never quite succeeds in defining what makes the humorous uniquely what it is. Perhaps Bergson never intended to deliver a crushing blow or write the last word. Perhaps he was more the butterfly gathering nurture first here then somewhere else. Certainly, his thought was always in motion. But then so was life, in his view.

The way Henri Bergson analyzes humor is consistent with his theory of life. Not for him Descartes's view of man as a mind locked into a machine. Henri Bergson does accept that spirit is not matter and that a man's soul is always being tempted by his body to cease growing, cease adapting to reality, tempted to grow lazy, "inattentive" and eccentric.

We laugh when we see people layering themselves with something alien to their best nature. They wear disguises, like clowns or the emperor who preened himself on his invisible clothes. They repeat cliches from the ceremonial side of life that don't apply to the spontaneous challenges of love, politics or art.

When men lose interactive, supportive touch with their society, we laugh at them. We thereby simultaneously salute their spirit while rebuking their giving in to the downward tug of their flesh. Laughter is the medicine by which society, a living thing, heals itself. Laughter is the abrasive scouring away the barnacles growing on living flesh. Laughter is what the doctor ordered.

Next time you chuckle over a cartoon, try out a little Bergsonian analysis. Does that talking dog remind you of a person? Does that man trapped against his will in an office romance remind you of an animal caught in a trap? Does that robot seriously think itself in love with the scientist who created it? Laughter thrives on imperfection, exaggeration, the conquest of the living by the mechanical. Or so says Henri Bergson. -OOO-
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Laughter: An Essay On The Meaning Of The Comic
Laughter: An Essay On The Meaning Of The Comic by Henri Bergson (Paperback - November 14, 2013)
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