“As long as the humor is not destructive” the woman explained in response to the interviewer’s question about the meaning, value of humor in daily life. The context is a German radio program about “What does humor mean” interviewing a number of people using humor in the positive, Eckart Von Hirschhausen (Humor Hilft Heilen-Humor Helps Healing) and Myriam Brenner from the German Clowns Ohne Grenzen (clowns without borders…) Interspersed in the program, the radio show played a series of ask the person on the street interviews, how they viewed humor, in which I heard this woman using the word destructive to describe humor.
That was a rather big eureka to me, as it answers a question that has been on my mind for a long time: how to qualify the use of humor. I am guessing that you might have considered this concept: when is humor a good thing? What is the difference between laughing at and laughing with?
As a professional humorist, the question often comes up in one form or another. I have never felt comfortable qualifying humor as positive or negative, something doesn’t quite jar right with that definition. Yet now, I feel I have found the answer, destructive describes why it is a negative.
The opposite term, Constructive, is just as excellent as far as a qualifier in my humble opinion. When the Humor is constructive, it brings people together to laugh in a most healthy way, in celebration. It is a life affirming, let’s celebrate the joy of living. It might be on a more minor scale than a spiritual awakening, yet that moment of connection where the constructive humor is shared opens up a sense of trust and enjoyment of being together, an affirmation of joie de vivre (joy of life).
There is surely more on my mind concerning this, especially looking at how verbal language, or the lack of it, affects the quality of humor. However for now, enough said….Further!
ps. If you are a German speaker, and wish to hear the interview (it was broadcast in early 2016) as of this writing, it’s still available at the following link: