Nervous laughter 101

I like to think I’m always making discoveries, about the world, my fellow men and women. This makes me interesting in my own head.

Most recently, I came to the conclusion that many people laugh when confronted with something uncomfortable. Imagine my disappointment on discovering later that everyone already knows this. As often is the case, much of the data was obtained from within the confines of cinema theatres.

1. Maya

I am the worst candidate to watch a movie belonging to the horror genre. You see, I am not very good at dealing with (sudden) sounds. I jump when my name is called out (even in a setting that isn’t very quiet to begin with), when the door is opened, or even when I hear a sneeze. Naturally, this means I jump in my seat for the duration of the movie. While many laugh. At times, I would open my eyes – closed them involuntarily! – and wonder if I missed a particularly funny sequence. But no, that was a particularly scary sequence.

2. Tharai Thappattai

I always watch Bala’s movies with a large dose of fear, because I go in with the knowledge that everyone’s lives will be destroyed, the present will trick us into believing there is hope, and the future will remain bleak. [My mother asks me this very sensible question – “Why watch and then complain you weren’t able to sleep because you dreamt someone bit your throat?” Yes, she has a point. But I must watch.] When a college girl comes up to the one-villain-to-rule-them-all and asks to be inducted into his prostitution ring (she wants some pocket money), he tells her she is too skinny and has no butt. “Ella payalum mutta bonda thaan kekkuraan.”* At this point, I wished I could unsee and unhear (not the only instance I felt so watching this movie, I assure you); while many around me laughed.

3. The Hateful Eight

Every time a bullet splattered someone’s insides across the screen, every time Daisy Domergue was elbowed in the face or kicked, every time a scene seemed to be building towards a tense moment, many laughed.

After wondering if my sense of humour has somehow eroded over the years, I realized they laugh like I flinch. Just that it’s taken me a bit long to arrive here.

*I find myself incapable of translating this keeping the (decidedly disgusting) flavour intact. You could take it to mean “But every man comes here looking for a fat ass.”

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