The comedic roles and writing of famed actor and author John Cleese often highlight experiences we can relate to with stupid people and outdated institutions. Humour can raise awareness, make a point and open our mindset to change.
In a similar way that bad news and lies can spread rapidly online, so too does humour. Perhaps it is an antidote for the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation.
The extraordinary growth of memes in the digital age reveals how humour can ripple across networks and express an important point to more people and more powerfully than a well-articulated factual argument published in a respected journal.
Mathematicians are now studying the phenomenon of memes, which have been defined as an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.
Political leaders, dogmatic ideologies and political correctness are providing a constant stream of rich content for witty people and organizations to exploit and share at scale.
Outdated industry institutions too can provide a fertile source of creative content. They are vulnerable to informed observers revealing that the emperor has no clothes – that the vast majority of businesses and industry value are not involved in the organisation that claims to represent them.
Regardless, governments and the media usually take these institutions at their word and act accordingly. The temptation is to conclude that they are stupid and nothing can be done. Even John Cleese said that the sad thing about true stupidity is that you can do absolutely nothing about it.
A more creative view is that people are reluctant to question what we always did. No one likes to be proven wrong.
Humour is one way to open conversations that need to be had.
I’m looking forward to reading Cleese’s latest book ‘Creativity: a short and cheerful guide’. Comedy is such a great way to remind us to laugh at ourselves. We can all do with more of that.