New York City
The staggering diversity of laughter–from an uninhibited guffaw to a nervous giggle, from a derisive snicker to the malign “bwahahaa” of the comic strip villain–suggests that laughter has many sources and modes. Ever since Aristotle’s lost book on comedy, laughter has been a conundrum in Western thought that has puzzled not only philosophers but also scientists, sociologists, and comedians.
Laughing Matters draws on a number of sources to explore why people laugh. Beginning with a presentation by artist Luke Murphy utilizing simple Powerpoint graphs to “clarify” the relationship between laughter and other emotional states, the evening continues with a screening of Samuel Beckett’s short film from 1965, in which an aging Buster Keaton seems to have a pathological aversion to allowing his face to be seen by the other protagonists or even the camera. Beckett’s 20-minute film will provide the background for philosopher Simon Critchley to explore the three philosophical traditions that attempt to explain why humans enjoy laughing.
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