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November 2, 2016

The gifts of comedy

The cult to laugh is my first religion. That is why I go to the temple of cinema, usually when I know there is a comedy film in the billboard. To be a critic and judge with a long yardstick the comedians is easy, especially because we see them making a fool of themselves. Yet, humor is one of the arts that requires not only a lot of humility, but also a great mental ability and a sharp social view.

The comedy in films goes back to the first day of its invention. Among the 10 short films that the Lumière brothers displayed in Paris in 1895 (the day that cinema was born), there is the first comedy film L’Arroseur Arrosé (The Waterer Watered). A solemn gardener watering the plants; behind him, a boy stepping on the hose. The man looks through the hose’s hole, to see why the water is not coming out of it, and the boy takes his feet from it. While people was impressed watching the first show of pictures in movement, they were also laughing at the mockery of the waterer being pranked.

What today makes us laugh, because humor has changed, is that among those first short films was also L’arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat (Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat). When the innocent generation of the technology-less world saw the train coming to the screen, they jumped out of their chairs running for their lives. Humor has changed and evolved, without any doubt we owe credit to the comedians who have improved the art of keeping us laughing for a century through cinema.

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Max Linder is one of the first comedians of the cinema. His short films date back to 1905 and he inspired Chaplin. Before Linder, there were other comedians as André Deep and Jean Durand, but their comedy was still simple and from far-fetched situations. Max Linder was the first to outline a character who resembled the real life. Chaplin took all these elements but gave to them something more: a heart; it is to say a deep problem, something moving. Chaplin built his films as life and Greek theater, between drama and comedy.

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Obviously, when we talk about the golden age of cinema we cannot forget to name Buster Keaton, Mack Sennett, Harold Lloyd, also Laurel and Oliver Hardy the kings of silent film.

In the contemporary comedy, we see a high level of parody toward the same evolution of cinema and comedy itself. Comedians such as Jim Carrey have their highest tradition based on the humor of Jerry Lewis, and this one, together with his excessive funny face expressions is the most faithful to Buster Keaton and the gags tradition. Mike Myers’ humor parodies all the features of the 80s and 90s generations. His secret spy films and his worship to the God Freddy Mercury.

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Going to the movies and watching a comedy film is one of the best spiritual and health therapies. The actor or the writer working in comedy must have a special status in society, same as a doctor, a spiritual guide or a massage therapist. Humor constitutes one of the most detailed areas and one of the hardest to improve. Comedy in cinema is completely bounded to its time; comedy is one of those genres that needs the most the referent of reality, its epoch or the true psychology of humanity. Since this contact between nonsense and its true referent is what makes us laugh. We have to think why when someone falls down, there is the unstoppable need of laughing. It is because of the breakup of reality, because of the unexpected fracture of the logic sequence. Plus, it is good to know that humor is one of the best weapons when it is about to tell everything what is forbidden to talk in a society.

Comedy is full of kindness. It is known that laughing reduces cortisol, the hormone causing stress; it strengthens lymphocytes, in charge of making an effective functioning of the immunologic system. It increases dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline. It is compared to an orgasm, because of the release of pleasure in the central organs and the prevention of cardiovascular events. Plus, it is aseptic since the fuss that a laugh produces, frees places from evil spirits.

Society needs comedians, from all epochs to overcome its problems and to know better to itself. From simple comedians such a Steve Martin to refined ones such as Peter Sellers, it changes and improves the intelligence of society, and for its effect, it improves the life quality. We have to thank to all the actors and directors who have worked in comedy as Billy Wilder, Frank Capra, Blake Edwards, Mel Brooks, even Milos Forman who with his film Man on the moon, 1999, more than a comedy film made an extreme reflection about the borders of comedy.

Do not stop going to the cinema, let us remind that in the ancient China and India, there were temples where people used to gather to laugh. They considered laugh as something divine and wise, and they gave it a spiritual role as a bridge for contacting the universal.

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Angulos 2004

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