Laughter and Comedy: The Nature of Peace

This is an excerpt from my paper ‘How Effective is Laughter and Comedy in Creating an Atmosphere of Positive Peace?

Humour will present the happy ending and the new beginning.

How Effective is Laughter and Comedy in Creating an Atmosphere of Positive Peace?

How do you feel when someone says something that sends you into paroxyms of laughter, you have lost control, you must ride out the wave of uncontrollable spasms as the tears roll down your cheeks. It is a wonderful sensation, such a release, and an underlying sense of unity pervaids the atmosphere. So how powerful is humour and laughter in creating positive peace? This paper will explore the nature of peace, what is humour and laughter, who are the comic provocateurs. Furthermore, humour will be explored as a channel for dissent, the freedom to break the rules, unmasking and challenging authority. The ability of laughter to transcend opposition and rise above situations will be discussed. Various techniques to resolve disputes and creative approaches of spreading laughter and humour are explored. Lastly, humour as nonviolent activism and comparisons to Gandhi’s Satyagraha are highlighted.

The Nature of Peace

Peace has been narrowly referred to as the absence of war. Metaphorically, we cannot see the woods for the trees. If we are looking specifically at the trees then we are missing the whole experience of the forest. The ‘trees’ represent our focus, such as seeing the world as a hostile, negative place. Where all we see is the scary shaddows of wars, violence, anger, manipulation and conflict. This consciousness is evident today in international politics with increasing militarisation, terrorism and nuclear weapons proliferation threatening mutually assured destruction. However, the whole peace picture is obscured. If one chooses to shift thinking from negative to positive then the various aspects of peace can come into focus. Peace is multifaceted and is based on assumptions and practices. It has been commonly associated with finding peace and quiet at home, peace on the streets, law abiding peace and peace with justice (or freedom) on the global scale. It is also described as an absolute feeling, some experiencing peace through divinity, mystery or god, or picturing it as embodied in the ‘prince of peace’. Peace is the way we understand the deeper nature of life and the meaning of Being.1 Martin Heidegger, considered one of the most influential philosphers of the 20th century, contemplated the notion of Being as ‘a dim, glimmering grasp of the meaning of Being is present and comprehended by each of us in a kind of ‘pre-ontological awareness’. 2

According to Goethe, humour in comedy frees the human spirit from passion providing a channel to envision the world clearly and serenely and to laugh at life’s inconsequentialities rather than weep. This is considered the supreme goal and the authentic happy ending. 3 The happy ending is the here-and-now and the feeling of happiness results from over-ruling restrictions on human liberty.

Humour and laughter, more than other aspects of the human make-up, act as both liberation and liberty at the core of Being.5 Tragedy and humour are the levees of the human spirit, the latter overcomes struggles.6 Humour enables the rising above of a situation and achieves a psychic distance which transcends bondage.7 In addition, the act of laughter creates a feeling of social unity. Real peace is considered a state of harmony or unity.8

Mohandas Gandhi

“Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”


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