LAW BREAKERS AND THE VANILLA PUDDING ROBBERY

 THE VANILLA PUDDING ROBBERY

From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton  Posted July 31 2014

I have to say I was somewhat mystified when I received an email from Ali and I failed to understand why vanilla pudding should be secured unless it was for some sort of competition.

I read the email diligently and after you have read it I think you will understand why I felt it worth sharing.

Robbery after all that is what it was, is a serious crime and what the robbers stole were really important to some folks. This is a rue story and it happened in Ireland.

Excerpted from an article which appeared in The Dublin Times about a bank robbery.

Once inside the bank shortly after midnight, their efforts at disabling the security system got underway immediately.

The robbers, who expected to find one or two large safes filled with cash & valuables, were surprised to see hundreds of smaller safes throughout the bank.

The robbers cracked the first safe’s combination, and inside they found only a small bowl of vanilla pudding.

As recorded on the bank’s audio tape system, one robber said, ‘At least we’ll have a bit to eat.’

The robbers opened up a second safe, and it also contained nothing but vanilla pudding.

The process continued until all safes were opened. They did not find one pound sterling, a diamond, or an ounce of gold. Instead, all the safes contained covered bowls of pudding.

Disappointed, the robbers made a quiet exit, each leaving with nothing more than a queasy, uncomfortably full stomach. The newspaper headline read:
’ IRELAND ‘S LARGEST SPERM BANK ROBBED EARLY THIS MORNING’…..

I could not contain myself and I laughed out loud.

I would have loved to have seen the look on the robbers’ faces when they read the headlines. The Vanilla Pudding Robbery .This is just too funny not to share and hope you Chuckled Anonymously as I did. Laughter is after all the best medicine.

 

SERIOUSLY, HUMOR IS GOOD MEDICINE

Laughter is the best medicine? The emotional appeal of stand-up comedy

From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Posted on July 30, 2014

From Stone Hearth News  Routledge Taylor & Francis Group Oxford UK

Citation Journal – Comic Studies by Dr. Tim Miles

(You might need a cup of coffee – or even glass of wine – to get through this long article – sorry)

Why do we laugh I wonder and hope you did at the first item. It is certainly is an emotional outburst that makes you feel good. 

This article explores the relationship between stand-up comedians and their audiences focussing specifically on the question of emotion. Emotion’s relationship with humour is complicated, and current literature offers a number of contradictory models. Stand-up comedians’ emotional relationship with their audience is also complicated, and current literature does not explore this very thoroughly.

Comics taking to the stage at the Edinburgh Fringe this week should take note: how much of a hit they are with their audiences won’t be down to just their jokes. As Dr Tim Miles from the University of Surrey has discovered, the link between humour and emotion plays a large part in how well an audience connects with a comedian, and vice versa.

Writing in the journal Comedy Studies, Dr Miles explains: “Clearly there is some relationship between humour and emotion, as the states we associate with laughter are usually emotional ones (joy, pleasure, nervousness, a desire to integrate); but the exact nature of this relationship seems difficult to establish.”

Commenting on his study Dr Miles states, “Comedy has often been seen to be a bit frivolous, but it’s actually something really important. Research shows that we laugh not so much because something is objectively funny, but because we want people to like us, or we want to feel part of a group that’s laughing – it’s all about making connections. My work looking at comedians and comedy audiences has shown how live stand-up comedy fulfils a need for feelings of truth, trust, empathy and intimacy between people, which is really important in a society where many people often complain about feeling isolated.”

As part of his research, Miles analysed dozens of questionnaires and interviews with both audience members and comedians, including Russell Brand and Robin Williams. What he discovered was a strong emphasis on ‘emotional experience’ for both stand-up comedians and audience members. Audiences and comedians were connected by bonds of ‘admiration’ and ‘empathy’ and what he calls ‘the paradox of identification’: identifying with the humour or observations made by a comic, but not being able to identify with them in terms of seeing themselves in their place on the stage.

Miles also observed ‘a complex symbiotic relationship between the stand-up comedian and their audience in relation to the body, and well-being – with a relationship that is, in some ways, similar to a doctor and patient’. Indeed, some comedians felt they offered a ‘therapeutic service, or some sort of drug’; references to medicine, therapy and ‘feeling better’ were made by audience members too.

Miles concludes that stand-up comedy is a ‘performance’ like any other, so emotional experiences like identification, interaction, empathy, mutual therapy, well-being and a need for recognition all play an important part. He also points to recent research that suggests audiences ‘perform’ too: their brains enter ‘laughter mode whenever there is an expectation of laughter’. At least that’s what the performers at this year’s Fringe will be hoping as they try to connect with their audiences.

 THE RESEARCH

The data showed a strong emphasis on emotional experience for both stand-up comedians and audience members.

(The letters after the comments denote the circumstances when the comments were made. See links to reference  and details of comedians – http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2040610X.2014.905093#tabModule.)

Comments from stand-up comedians included: ‘When you try a gag out for the first time and you hear the laughter and you think “oh, great” … there’s no feeling like it’ (DFB-KD).

My experience of performance stand-up comedy has been both horrible and enjoyable – at its best, its joyous; at its worst, abysmal’ (TMISU-SMC).

‘Magical when good, excruciating when bad’ (TMISU-AH).

‘It is actually like being able to fly’ (AYI-JC).

Audience members commented along similar lines: ‘It is my favourite pastime. If there was one night left in the world I would go to a comedy club’ (TMQ).

‘When it’s good it’s thrilling, and when it’s bad it’s excruciating’ (TMIA).

And ‘Good stand-up is transcendent; very bad stand-up is at least an experience’ (TMQ).

Specifically, many commented on well-being:

‘Not all comedians are depressed, but I think a very large number of them are… they find making people laugh makes them feel better in the short term’ (DFB-JC).

The corollary of this being a sense of unhappiness or frustration when not performing. Comments included: ‘It’s like an insatiable itch, I get restless if I go too long without a gig… I feel stumped, cut off, listless, uninspired’ (TMISU-MO’S).

Indeed, many stand-up comedians saw themselves as offering a therapeutic service, or some sort of drug. Comments included:

Interviewer: Why do we love people who make us laugh so much?

Stand-up comedian: Because it’s like a drug. I am sure of it. When you laugh you get a good feeling, and we want that feeling. (DFB-RB).

References to medicine, therapy, and feeling better were also common responses among audience members.

Questionnaire answer to the question ‘how would you describe your experience of attending live stand-up comedy?’ included: ‘An essential and rewarding experience. Laughter isn’t available on the NHS, so live comedy is the way to go’ (TMQ).

And ‘Light-heartedness leaves you feeling good and relaxed, like you get your stress out from laughing’ (TMQ).

Similarly, questionnaire responses to the question ‘What do you enjoy most about live stand-up comedy?’ included: ‘I find it therapeutic to go to a stand-up show, not knowing what to expect, and just laugh together with a room of strangers for a couple of hours. It’s a wonderful break from the stresses of life’ (TMQ).

‘There’s the uplifting feeling that laughter gives me. Laughter is like medicine!’ (TMQ).

And ‘Helping someone help me to appreciate and laugh about the otherwise stressful and upsetting things I experience. I once watched a “trans” comic joke about some of the oppressive people and situations I had encountered. I found this healing and de-stressing’ (TMQ).

Interviews with audience members elicited further references to health and well-being, including:  At the time I went to see Russell Howard I was having a particularly difficult time, emotionally and mentally, with how I felt, around about the time when I was at the crossroads and I felt: What do I do? Do I go into education, or carry on with jobs that are making me miserable?

What do I do? I came out of that gig, after laughing so hard, and everything felt right with the world – even things such as the economic downturn, the problems with politics, the wars; they felt so irrelevant. I was in my own little bubble. It was like a Nirvana of well-being. It was such a nice feeling, and even if it only lasts for a few hours, it’s just so nice to find that point where you feel balanced, and it’s difficult to explain.

I mean, Christians always say that when they first pray for forgiveness to God they have a feeling of euphoria come over them, and for me it was kind of like that. It was that kind of euphoria where it actually felt like I have a purpose. No medication you can be given will ever give you that feeling. (TMIA).

The data suggest that there is a complex symbiotic relationship between the stand-up comedian and their audience in relation to the body, and well-being – with a relationship that is perhaps, in some ways, similar to a doctor and patient. Stand-up comedians frequently pointed to their emotional need for recognition and attention. Comments from stand-up comedians included: ‘It’s all about validation via the audience. We are trying to fill a hole’ (DFB-GN).

Other comments included:  When I was in a band, I used to think ‘Are they really paying attention?’. People would carry on talking, and you think: ‘Do they really care? Were they actually listening? Did it make any difference to them?’ You get a much clearer sense of the answer to all that in stand-up. (TMISU-DP).

Audience questionnaire responses also frequently commented on the desire for an emotional relationship. One response, for example, to the question ‘What do you like best about live stand-up comedy?’ was: ‘When it caters to the specific audience and location, as it makes it feel more personal. When it feels like we are friends’. In response to the question ‘What do you like best about stand-up comedy?’: ‘The way it makes me feel. Good stand-up will make me cry with laughter, which is a fantastic feeling, evokes memories of good times and stays with me’ (TMQ).

Some stand-up comedians commented on the dangers of their emotional need.

I think it’s quite scary. You have to be careful, that you don’t start replacing real relationships with sort of the love you get from an audience; but, you know, it’s not really a real relationship – but it’s kind of brilliant, lots of strangers telling you you are brilliant, then you don’t really need people close to you to say that to you any more. (DFB-NF).

A number of stand-up comedians commented that they found it emotionally difficult after a gig, when there is an awareness that the relationship with the audience is over.

For example, I really used to find it hard. You think what do you do once you’ve come off, particularly with live stand-up you can have thousands of people laughing at you, loving you, and then you just go home. On, no, I’m on my own, what am I going to do? You need something, you need some punctuation. You cannot just go to bed. (DFB-RB).

The bond that exists between stand-up comedian and audience member operates in terms of admiration, empathy and what I shall refer to as the paradox of identification. Many participants commented on the identification the audience member feels with the stand-up comedian in strongly emotional, experiential and empathetic terms. One audience member commented in interview that: ‘If it is bad I want to die. There is also an incredible level of annoyance. It is different in cinema. There is something about live comedy performance’ (TMIA).

She also commented that ‘I feel they are being themselves and I am judging them as a person. There is a feeling that I know these people’. Typical responses to the questionnaire question were: ‘If the joke is not funny, I’ll feel bad for the comedian’ (TMQ).

Stand-up comedians often commented on their awareness of the audience’s need for empathy. Comments included: ‘You are selling your ideas and your thoughts – they want a human connection with you’ (AYI-SK).

Another commented on his more practical approach: ‘I would go to the back and say to the audience “those are the shitty seats”, and the people in the shitty seats would go “yeah, you’re with us”‘ (DFB-RW).

One audience member commented on ‘the mercy laugh’: ‘If someone is not very good, it is one of the most awkward things and I feel I have to mercy laugh, which is more likely to happen when seeing unknown comedians as they may not be your cup of tea. When someone is “dying” on stage it makes me cringe and I feel like crying for them, so it makes a miserable evening out’ (TMIA).

Many audience members spoke about this sense of seeing themselves as the comedian, but as an impossibly braver incarnation. Comments included: ‘That’s my voice, that’s what I enjoy – the comedian is saying what I’ve always wanted to say but have never been able to find the words to say’ (TMIA).

And ‘That’s the relationship between the comic and their audience – people can imagine them saying such things, and especially with the outrageous comedian, they think “I wish I had the courage to say that”‘.

Stand-up comedy may appear to require no obvious technical skill – unlike, say, ballet dancing. Seemingly anyone can do it; all that is apparently required is the ability to talk into a microphone.

While matters of ‘timing’, and others skills associated with the craft of stand-up comedy, may elicit audience admiration, there is no apparent need for the physical dexterity of an acrobat, or the technical skill of a concert pianist where the training is foregrounded in the performance.

The audience identifying with the accessibility of stand-up comedy paradoxically operates in conflict with the sense that they cannot identify with the performer, due to the perception that performing stand-up comedy requires a heightened level of bravery, though this admiration may include a degree of respect for the craft. Nevertheless, the emotional relationship between stand-up comedian and audience member exists in a constant state of tension and peril.

CONCLUSION

To suggest – as Bergson did – that emotion is the enemy of humour, based on this empirical data, is clearly wrong, at least in the context of stand-up comedian–audience relationships.

What we see instead is a paradigm shift, with a focus on identification, interaction, empathy, mutual therapy and well-being; as well as a need for recognition. Put simply, the focus is on performance, if one accepts Goffman’s definition of performance as ‘all the activity of a given participant on a given occasion which serves to influence in any way the other participants’ (1959, 15–16).

Participants in these laughter acts have entered a performance and play mode, a semi-fiction where emotion, and its consequences, no longer operate in the same way as before. When one enters a comedy club, there is an expectation of laughter; and in a UCLTV mini-lecture on ‘The Neuroscience of Laughter’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7lE2cl2zFo), neurologist Sophie Scott argues that the brain prepares to enter a laughter mode whenever there is an expectation of laughter. In short, it performs.

What is needed now is a performance-based model of humour – one that places emotion in the experience of human interactions, and draws from a wider range of disciplines, including neuroscience.

From here, an understanding of humour’s relationship with emotion may finally begin to resolve some of the problems and contradictions that exist in current models.

Dr Miles explains: “Clearly there is some relationship between humour and emotion, as the states we associate with laughter are usually emotional ones (joy, pleasure, nervousness, a desire to integrate); but the exact nature of this relationship seems difficult to establish.”

Commenting on his study Dr Miles states, “Comedy has often been seen to be a bit frivolous, but it’s actually something really important. Research shows that we laugh not so much because something is objectively funny, but because we want people to like us, or we want to feel part of a group that’s laughing – it’s all about making connections. My work looking at comedians and comedy audiences has shown how live stand-up comedy fulfils a need for feelings of truth, trust, empathy and intimacy between people, which is really important in a society where many people often complain about feeling isolated.”

As part of his research, Miles analysed dozens of questionnaires and interviews with both audience members and comedians, including Russell Brand and Robin Williams. What he discovered was a strong emphasis on ‘emotional experience’ for both stand-up comedians and audience members. Audiences and comedians were connected by bonds of ‘admiration’ and ‘empathy’ and what he calls ‘the paradox of identification’: identifying with the humour or observations made by a comic, but not being able to identify with them in terms of seeing themselves in their place on the stage.

Miles also observed ‘a complex symbiotic relationship between the stand-up comedian and their audience in relation to the body, and well-being – with a relationship that is, in some ways, similar to a doctor and patient’. Indeed, some comedians felt they offered a ‘therapeutic service, or some sort of drug’; references to medicine, therapy and ‘feeling better’ were made by audience members too.

Miles concludes that stand-up comedy is a ‘performance’ like any other, so emotional experiences like identification, interaction, empathy, mutual therapy, well-being and a need for recognition all play an important part. He also points to recent research that suggests audiences ‘perform’ too: their brains enter ‘laughter mode whenever there is an expectation of laughter’. At least that’s what the performers at this year’s Fringe will be hoping as they try to connect with their audiences.

For full article and references see  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2040610X.2014.905093#tabModule

 

 

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