7. Jokes and the Species of the Comic

Here, Freud distinguishes between jokes and 'comic' events. A joke is made; the comic is found - and first and foremost in people.

1. Freud then cites examples of the comic - namely naïve - which are the most similar to jokes. The naïve occurs if someone disregards an inhibition because it is not present within him - therefore it is not surprising that the naïve occurs most frequently in children. The key difference between a joke and something naïve is whether the speaker intended to make a joke or not. Further differences are evident in terms of the condition that both persons speaking and hearing a joke should have similar internal inhibitions - however with the naïve, it is that one person should posses inhibitions that the other is without. So, the naïve, is a species of comic in so far as its pleasure springs from the difference in expenditure which arises in trying to understand someone else, and it would approach the joke in being subject to the condition that the expenditure economized in the comparison must be an inhibitory expenditure.

The comic arises in humans, animals and indeed even in inanimate objects. It is found in movements, forms, actions and traits of character, in both physical and mental characteristics. Other methods that serve to make people comic are: putting them in a comic situation, mimicry, disguise, unmasking, caricature, parody, travesty etc. Freud aims to determine what conditions are valid for the comic. From looking at various examples he proposes that the origin of comic pleasure is the comparison of another person with oneself, from the difference between our own psychical expenditure and the other person's as estimated by empathy. The other source of the comic lies within our relations with the future, as we are accustomed to expect it with expectant ideas. Freud proposes that we quantify an expected expenditure with each of our ideas, and as the comic situation evolves to present something unexpected, this expenditure is less than we had anticipated, producing pleasure.

2. As well as coming across the comic in life experiences, it can also be brought about intentionally. The main methods involve either producing the effect in oneself, or putting others in comic situations resulting from human dependence on external events. The key methods identifiable are (as cited above): mimicry, disguise, unmasking, caricature, parody and travesty. Freud then notes that certain instances of jokes and things comic can be sufficiently similar to produce confusion as to which they actually are. For example, jokes judged as 'faulty reasoning' are similar to naïveté, and indeed are sometimes even referred to as 'comic stories'. Only when we know the condition of jokes in avoiding criticism can we classify these borderline cases. So in terms of the relation between jokes and the comic, from the analyses he gives, Freud concludes that comic pleasure arises from a comparison between two expenditures both of with must be ascribed to the preconscious, whereas a joke, is the contribution made to the comic from the realm of the unconscious. So the comic and jokes are distinguished first and foremost in their psychical localization.

3. Having looked at the relation between jokes and the comic more closely, Freud then returns to the problem of methods of making things comic. He looks at mimicry. He concludes that the more faithful the mimicry is the more pleasure it provides. This can then be translated into terms of reduced psychical expenditure producing pleasure. Furthermore it is again a case of a comparison between expected expenditure and expenditure actually required for an understanding of something that has remained the same. However on investigating the comic this leaves the problem that difference in expenditure, whilst being the basic determining condition of comic pleasure, this difference alone does not invariably give rise to pleasure - therefore what further conditions must be present or what disturbances kept back in order that comic pleasure may actually arise from the difference in expenditure?

4. Freud addresses this problem in so far as it contrasts with the problem of jokes. Freud cites two cases in which comic habitually appears, to try to illuminate this subject. 1) Cases in which the comic appears as though by force of necessity (the 'inevitably' comic) and 2) those in which it seems entirely dependent on the circumstances and standpoint of the observer (the 'occasionally' comic).

The conditions that Freud proposes for pleasure to arise from the comic are therefore more essential to the second class:

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