This post is in response to a call by Letsblogoff asking “what makes you laugh’. A list of other contributors , which we will update as more declare themselves, is at the end of the post.

Chimps laugh when they are afraid, at least they appear to.  And I found myself wondering about the relationship between laughter and fear. Is humour our best defence against all manner of bad things?

I recently saw a film called Four Lions, written by Chris Morris. It is, and this is unpromising, a comedy about suicide bombers. You can read a much more articulate review of it than I can manage here.  In short, it is very funny in places, and also very sad.  It trys to laugh at something which none of us really feel inclined to laugh at.  I believe that places it right at the heart of one of  comedy’s great traditions.

Dictators don’t seem to like comedy.  Comedians don’t seem to like Dictators.  Charlie Chaplin had a very clear target with The Great Dictator.  I feel bad for admitting that he never made me laugh but there is no doubting the impact of his film  particularly in an America which was still formally at peace with the Nazis at the time.

Mel Brookes scored a direct hit The Directors, a film with a plot which I am not going to attempt to retell. But if you haven’t seen it, or even if you have, let’s have a burst of Spring Time for Hitler.

And the tradition of laughing at dictators continues. Kim Jong-il is guilty of unspeakable crimes against his own people. That’s a fact which isn’t diminished by his portrayal in the outrageous, definitely not safe for work, comedy Team America. There is a scene where he feeds Hans Blix to his pet shark which is very funny but it is this musical number which strips him of his dignity. And this clip is not work safe either. Sorry – rude word right at the beginning.

And maybe there is something else here. Maybe it’s not fear that leads to laughter after all. Someone wiser than me, which is a way of confessing that I can’t find out who, even with Google, said that comedy is dignity about to sit on a drawing pin. And maybe that’s why we laugh at Dictators and would be murders. Because what could be more arrogant, more pompous than that. Maybe we all enjoy laughing at the fall pride comes before. One of my favourite clips from a British comedy follows.

Jokes about people who are perceived to be weak, racist jokes about black people, misogynist jokes about women, homophobic jokes about gay people – none of these make me laugh. But dignity on a drawing pin gets me every time. And is it about fear? I’m not sure, but certainly less so when we’re done laughing.

These are the other Letsblogoff participants. I’ll update throughout the day.

Veronika Miller @modenus Modenus Community
Paul Anater @paul_anater Kitchen and Residential Design
Rufus Dogg @dogwalkblog DogWalkBlog.com
Bob Borson @bobborson Life of an Architect
Tamara Dalton @tammyjdalton Tamara Dalton Design Studios
Sean Lintow, Sr. @SLSconstruction SLS-Construction.com
Madame Sunday @ModernSauce Modern Sauce
Christian McLean @chirn9980 ChristianMclean.com
Barry and jb @BMoxieBMore Building Moxie
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