We might be forgiven for thinking that stand up comedy is a relatively new artform. However, particularly if you watch some of the more physical stand up comedians such as Jim Carrey, you will easily see how the art of clowning around to elicit laughter from an audience gradually evolved into the current form of stand up comedy.
I have covered in this blog before how court jesters would often not only fill the royal courts with laughter, but how they could even mock and make fun of royalty. This might be a little surprising, that royalty had such a sense of humor that they allowed themselves to be mocked in order to make sure their courts were entertained.
Even more surprising however, is that there is evidence that court jesters were so well respected in the court that they could even influence royalty in decision making. In China, it is thought that the court jester Yu Sze managed to persuade the emperor that it would not be a good idea to paint the Great Wall of China. This decision is credited with saving thousands of lives. Not perhaps an outcome you would expect from a jester brought in just to entertain.
This again brings us back to the modern stand up. I’ve talked about how some use the physical humor that is a familiar element of the style of the jester or clown, the example of the court jester Yu Sze shows how sometimes humor can be used to raise awareness or influence opinion on serious matters. Today, there are many examples of stand up comedians who cover serious topics in their routines designed to raise awareness of current issues or global situations. Though their primary purpose is to entertain and make the audience laugh, some will also admit that they are extremely satisfied if they have helped the audience think more about some of the serious issues they include in their material.
Making people laugh is not as easy as it looks, but doing so in a way that can influence decisions or at least make people think, is an incredible skill, I’m sure you agree.