An inevitable pitfall of explaining a joke is that it is rendered unfunny, flat, and unbearable in the process. One doesn’t have to go back to Freud’s Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (1905) to know that there’s more at play in comedic speech than is immediately apparent. That comedy has not only psychological but social dimensions isn’t a particularly fresh insight, but it’s one that drives cultural hermeneutics nonetheless. Or, as Lauren Berlant and Sianne Ngai put it in their recent essay “Comedy Has Issues” in Critical Inquiry, “the funny is always tripping over the not funny, sometimes appearing identical to it.” Take, for example, the current fad for sad (white male) clowns: Louis C. K. and Marc Maron have long been two prominent bozos (with the former having very publicly fallen from grace in light of sexual harassment allegations).
The contemporary art world
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