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Photo by Stewart Munro / Unsplash
Good-Bye, Curb
The last Curb Your Enthusiasm aired Sunday. It will be sorely missed, even if I think this last season hasn’t been as good as the previous ones. Britannica has a great entry about Curb basics. I don’t think you’ll need a subscription to access it. Two excerpts: 1. Curb is

Make no doubt about it: Humor is like a frog. Once you dissect it, it’s dead.

But if you want to be a funny guy, it helps to understand how humor works.

It works from incongruity.

A drunk man is funny because it’s incongruous with his rational existence. A woman slipping on the ice is funny because it’s incongruous with grace. A misdirection at the end of a joke is hilarious because it’s incongruous with the lead-up.

Sometimes the incongruity isn’t obvious.

I think a lot of humor over the past 30 years falls into that category.

Ben Stiller invited Larry David to his birthday party. Ben told Larry “no gifts.” The invitation to other invitees said “no gifts.”

Everyone brought a gift, except Larry.

Ben was irritated.

Larry: You said “no gifts.”

Ben: Everyone knows “no gifts” doesn’t mean, “no gifts,” Larry.

A lot of the humor in Curb Your Enthusiasm is like that. Larry approaches something rationally, logically, taking things at their face value, and he acts accordingly (often with vigor and persistence). He’s 100% right and he’s 100% wrong at the same time. It’s funny.

Contemporary Humor: Hemispheres Colliding

What’s happening in those Curb skits?

It’s hemispheres colliding.

The left hemisphere of the brain measures, divides, and gets things done. It’s logical. It’s efficient.

The right hemisphere is holistic. It values relationships, music, and other inefficient things. It looks at the big picture.

The left hemisphere is supposed to work for the right hemisphere for the same reason English royalty didn’t dress themselves: their minds and existence are for greater things. It’s best to leave mundane things like picking one’s trousers to a subordinate.

But sometimes the subordinate revolts. The left hemisphere wants to wear the trousers itself.

It then exerts its own understanding by using its tools. It reaches conclusions that are logical and efficient.

It’s why Larry didn’t bring a gift. It was the logical thing to do. It was the right thing to do.

But it was also the wrong thing to do.

Hemispheres colliding.

It’s hilarious.

This video isn't about hemispheres colliding, but it is an entertaining account of humor and creativity.