What is dark humour?-and why are we drawn to it in fiction?
Humour is a situation, words or actions that make us laugh; when humour is dark, it is related to things that are serious or unpleasant. From Monty python to Dorothy Parker, and even Shakespeare, dark humour and satire has entertained the best of us. But given that darker humour teeters on the edge of social acceptability, why do we find it so irresistible?
Psychologists and academics alike have pondered this enigma. They generally agree that it has something to do with coping strategies. Take this quote by Sigmund Freud:
‘’The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure’’-Sigmund Freud
-Or in layman’s terms ‘If I didn’t laugh I would cry!’
The idea of surmounting evil with humour, in some way dissipates the awfulness and pain of a situation. That although we may be pushed this way and that by circumstance, we are still hanging on in the face of hopelessness-a case in point being the plethora of Coronavirus jokes on social media…..
In fact, a study published in the 2017 journal ‘Cognitive Processing’ suggests that not only are those who appreciate dark humour able to cope with negative emotions more effectively, but they also have a higher IQ. (The Guardian, 28th Jan, Jamie Doward). Furthermore, there seems to be a link between dark humour and low aggression. The suggestion is that appreciating dark humour is a complex information-processing task, in which high aggression levels and negative mood could cloud an individual’s ability to get the joke. This is contrary to previous implication that only grumpy people enjoy darker humour.
It does indeed seem that dark humour is good for us. So dismiss your doubts, stop feeling guilty, and dive in head first with a dark humour read!