Opinion | Now is the time for humor

By Allison Dantinne, Senior Staff Columnist

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I’ve only written one hard-hitting column during my entire tenure at The Pitt News. It was my first column, right after Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed, and it took the neutral stance of “wow so we didn’t have enough information but it happened anyway.” It was a safe, tepid take, devoid of emotion and care, on an event that had already taken place. There was no risk, no feeling, no joy. It was a thing that happened, and it was stated as such. 

Here, however, I will take a risk and pose an opinion — humor is important.

Read it again. Humor is important. Not just fun. Not just enjoyable. In a war, humor is the first to perish. It is vital we maintain our desire for humor today and every day following. 

Humor is not only for those who can afford to laugh right now. It is not just for those as lucky as I am, who have only been hurt by not having graduation and continuing to pay my landlord rent despite not living in my beloved Pittsburgh apartment with my wonderful friends and kitchen mice. I laughed thoroughly and heartily at Dwight Schrute throwing Jan’s stroller at a fence on “The Office,” which allowed me to laugh and cry as I washed my dishes and wrapped them in discarded newspaper. 

Humor is also for those who require catharsis from the heavy sorrow of loss. We have lost loved ones. We have lost jobs. We have lost major life events. We have lost time and we have lost normalcy. The current of loss is ever-pulsating, coursing through every newsroom, every grocery store, every person I meet and will meet. It is collective and it hurts, we all know this, and we know the hurt must be fixed some way. 

Laughter can reduce stress. Finding something to laugh at can orient our focus away from our constant focus on our rapidly changing world, our changing feelings of safety and freedom, our inability to cope with living through what will surely be remembered as a historic event. It is hard to bear the weight of history while still living. It feels absurd. 

So laugh at something absurd. I suggest laughing at Joe Exotic’s line of underwear or that one vine about Jones’ Good Ass Barbeque and Foot Massage. Should either of these things exist? No, not at all. But am I glad it exists, exactly because it should not.

There is a sense of catharsis in laughter during a tragedy. An outpouring of laughter may allow us to release some of the burden of our rapidly changing world, in which we are unsure of our safety at all times. In this outpouring, we find community. Laughter is a communal activity. It brings us closer, gives us the means to relate to one another. Laughing about the same thing provides a sense of intimacy between people, and in a time marked by social distancing, the intimacy of laughter is more important than before.

Here, memes shared among friends are useful. Develop inside jokes. Share articles. Create a group chat solely for sharing lizards in costume. Build a community of those who will uplift you through laughter.

I have tried throughout my time here to provide a source of amusement for any student or adult lurking about The Pitt News website. Frankly, I was poor at providing information and fresh takes on current events or social issues. That’s why my first serious article became my last. The best I could do for others was entertain. 

I could write horoscopes that called Pisces the Brackenridge Hall of people — which I, someone who lived in that residence hall with a mouse and the elevators too far spaced apart, can attest to, is an accurate fit. I could write about stealing oranges from Market, an action or student revolution which one gracious reader called a bad take, claiming “I understand satire, but I also understand morality,” as their reason for disgust. Sorry for the lack of retraction, sweetheart. I can explain in great detail the amount of sweating I do in my apartment over the summer and curse watermelon for being the Mike Pence of fruits. 

In short, I can be human with you all and for you all. Unabashedly, humorously human. And it is human impulse to want to spread some joy. 

The purpose is not to justify all that I’ve done here — though I will say everything I’ve written here was of importance — it is to give justification to our desire for laughter and joy right now. 

It is time to laugh, and if possible, do our most human task of providing sharing laughter with others. We must not forget our shared joys; they have not left us.

Allison Dantinne primarily writes satire and humor for The Pitt News. Write to Allison at [email protected]