Humor and Violence

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Violence has been described as physical aggression enacted by a perpetrator with the intent to harm, demean, or humiliate. Humor, on the other hand, is generally associated with mirth, a positive emotion. Yet acts of violence often form the basis of humor. Violence has been a part of humor throughout human history and violent or aggressive humor has recently become a common tactic in advertising. What is it that turns violent, aggressive, or tragic events into humor? This chapter examines violent humor from the perspectives of existing humor theories and introduces the tripartite theory of humor, which posits that the presence of surprise (high), violation (benign), and a facilitating situation (e.g., other people laughing, humorous music, or context) are sufficient and necessary conditions for humor to be successful. We then examine the use and effectiveness of comedic violence in advertising and social media as well as the societal effects of comedic violence.



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