Friday, January 25, 2019

Sophie Scott, laughter and the folly of Have I Got News for You

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Professor Sophie Scott is a psychologist and stand up comedian who will be speaking in Leicester next month - more about that at the end of this post.

She has written an article for BBC News today about laughter, explaining that there are:
many reasons people laugh - and most of them are not because somebody is being particularly funny.
One theme she takes up is the way humour can be used to disarm criticism:
Other public figures appear to carefully cultivate a "funny" image, where they often appear the butt of the joke. 
For example, MP Boris Johnson was arguably first perceived as funny on satirical TV quiz show Have I Got News For You. 
Mr Johnson kept up this light-hearted, funny persona over the following couple of decades, helping him to bat away critical comments with jokes and bluster. 
Whether it was getting stuck on a zip wire, or joking about never becoming prime minister, difficult questions could be disarmed, and his personal charm seemed enhanced, by the sounds of laughter.
Having inflicted Johnson on us, the people behind Have I Got News For You are determined to do the same with Jacob Rees-Mogg.

It's Twitter account - I imagine it staffed by dozens of new graduates who are chained to their desks each day until they have reached their personal target for satirical tweets - never misses a chance to play up Rees-Mogg's chosen image as a fogey.

Yet his exaggerated courtesy, his old-fashioned language and his children with their quaint names and quaint clothes are all chosen to disguise the fact that he is a very 21st-century financier.

Andrew Adonis really should stop calling him "the member for the 18th century". It's just what he wants.

Anyway, if you want to hear Sophie Scott talk about laughter, you can hear at the Secular Hall, Humberstone Gate, Leicester, on the evening of Sunday 10 February.

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