The concept of humor is an incredibly complicated one, having undergone complex analyses and innumerable manners of usage from the times of the ancient Greeks through the modern era. Masters of comedy and their works have become part of the human experience, widely ranging from Shakespeare’s masterful Much Ado About Nothing to the much-loved television series I Love Lucy. Humor, although in many ways considered to be largely mass-market and tailored to the popular majority, has not escaped the realm of scholarly analysis. Sigmund Freud, in particular, explored many aspects of humor, culminating in his famous work The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious. In this essay, I would like to explore Freud’s fascinating ideas about the nature of humor, comparing them to the ideas of another expert in his own discipline, actor and director Woody Allen. Regarding the philosophy of humor and its effect on both the humorist and his or her listener, Freud and Allen share many concepts of the inner workings and overall process of comedy and wit. This agreement is especially apparent when considering the quality of Jewish humor and the characteristics of the Jewish comedian.
Freud’s Conception of the Nature of Humor
When Freud produced The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious, the discipline of psychoanalysis was in its beginning stages. The Joke was the final work in a series of three books, all focused on seemingly minor individual aspects of the mental life of people and discussed how these issues could reveal important clues about the inner workings of the intellect. The first two books were Interpretation of Dreams, written in 1900, and Psychopathology of Everyday Life, which was written in 1901. All three works offer a bett...
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