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  • The 2 Positions of Comedy

    When one thinks of comedy, one rarely thinks of Henri Bergson—quite possibly because one has never heard of Henri Bergson. I was surprised to learn not too many years ago that Bergson was considered the greatest thinker on the planet…at least according to another great thinker, Bertrand Russell.
    At the end of the 19th century, Bergson lectured in sold-out venues around the world. He probed the nature of man and the human soul. He examined life from the viewpoint of a poet and a scientist and then, quite surprisingly, turned his attention to comedy.
    His lectures on comedy have been collected in an essay called “Laughter.” To summarize very briefly: Man is torn between two forces. The desire to organize, prioritize, mechanize, and create rules to handle the obstacles of life—and an equally powerful, opposing desire to throw caution to the winds and be flexible to deal with situations that aren’t easily handled by sticking to the rules.
    There you have it.
    Bergson observed that comedy is created when a character is stuck in one of these two positions. The closer man resembles a machine the funnier he becomes. This rigidity can be physical, like Charlie Chaplin’s walk or Peter

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