Laughter in all its outbursts



What could be more natural than laughter, especially when you are a child? And yet, what could be more protean than this act to which we are all genetically predisposed? Laughing under the onslaught of tickling is not the same as expressing your hilarity when listening to a good joke or succumbing to a collective giggle … We now know, moreover, these variations use different areas of the brain. Various parts of the body too, as we discover on the screen, in a pastiche of sports commentary during the tasty “Olympic Games of laughter”.

This is one of the lessons of the exhibition, which is both fun and interactive, offered until August 2 by the Museum of Man in Paris. This course helps children and their elders to understand that we do not all laugh at the same things, depending on the country, the culture, the context, our experience, our memories …

A “wall of laughter” hosts a collection of small cardboard cards on which each describes a situation of hilarity. Some evoke a Charlot film, others mention a part of “guilis” or write down their favorite joke …

Further on, the visitor is encouraged to rate – from 1 to 5 – extracts from cartoons, series or humorous chronicles according to their level of humor. Ratings compared to the average given by other visitors. The opportunity to appreciate that we are not all sensitive to black humor, irony or absurd situations in the same way. Also, the challenge is great when the time comes for a “duel of laughter”, like a game show, each candidate gradually approaching his opponent, with the objective of getting him to cheer up first …

In any case, laughter, with its contagious mechanism, often provides the group with its cement. An essential role within society, but which can also prove to be harmful, when the witticism or the joke turns into mockery and in reality aims to devalue or exclude one of its members. Obviously, laughter does not escape relationships of domination: thus, a study shows that, in the company, we laugh more readily at jokes when we think that their author can have an influence on our level of remuneration. . And when you are at the bottom of the hierarchy, you favor self-mockery …

At the confluence of neurosciences, biology, sociology, anthropology and culture, this exhibition also erases some a priori. Like the one who would like laughter to be “The proper of man”, to use Rabelais’ formula. Certain researchers thus maintain that the monkey but also the rat or the nestor kea, a parrot from New Zealand, are endowed with this faculty, even though it fulfills other functions than with us. And that is not a joke!

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