That’s pretty scary.
In case you missed the memo, my first novel, coming out in about a month, is a science fiction horror apocalypse called The Panama Laugh.
It’s funny at points, but it’s not all that funny overall. It’s not a comedy, but comedy is a running theme; there’s a Vaudeville backstory, and a viral media campaign that viewers clearly find campy and amusing, at least partially because they don’t realize that some of the most horrifying elements of the videos are real. Within the context of the novel, I mean, of course. If they were really real, and I was writing a novel about them being real but then being presented as fake to an audience that didn’t know they were real, then that’d be, like, reflexive, right? That’d be, like, Sex, Lies & Videotape for cannibals!
Laughing, like screaming and/or lashing out physically, is one of the ways humans react to stress or discomfort, social or otherwise. It’s held up as the descriptor of “having a good time.” Go out with friends, “have a few laughs.” We all need laughter in our life. Right? Right?
But laughing can also be a terrible weapon aimed not at positively releasing tension but at viciously hurting other people. Ever been laughed at on the playground? Like that. Ever felt like something in a comedy routine was wretchedly hateful, racist, misogynist, whatever? Like that. Ever seen the oh-so-funny racial images from the KKK or from Nazi Germany, or read the single-panel cartoons in Hustler? These things hide behind the costume of comedy, but they’re something far more simplistic. They’re hate, pure and simple, and whether the claim “it’s funny” is an excuse or the creator really is that screwed up, it’s often not possible to tell until it’s too late.