We might have imagined that the Greeks, living as they did in conditions which we should regard as intolerably insanitary, would not have welcomed such frequent reminders in comedy of dirt and discomfort. But the humour of excretion seems to belong to all cultures; indeed, the noisy expulsion of gas from the bowels has as good a claim as anything in our experience to be absolutely and unconditionally funny. That is presumably due to the fact that the small child, having begun with a natural sensual enjoyment of defecation, is then restrained from making a mess or a bad smell where adults do not want it, and is thus provided with a channel through which he can later retaliate on society, even if only vicariously, by identifying himself with characters shouting vulgar words in comedy.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Absolutely and Unconditionally Funny
K.J. Dover, Aristophanic Comedy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), p. 41: