Passive smirking

The EU today announced its intention to tackle what it described as the growing problem of the indirect effects of excessive humour across Europe.

“While laughter has been long recognised as the best medicine, like all medical treatments it can be harmful if taken to excess. It is these extremes of comedy that we are concerned with, and in particular with the indirect effects, which we call ‘passive smirking’.

“We are not talking merely about the damage to self-esteem, and indeed the long-term psychological harm that can be caused by the humiliation of being the only one not to ‘get’ a joke. Of greater concern is the potential physical harm caused by laughing too much – we are all familiar with the saying ‘it only hurts when I laugh’. It’s no longer just a question of individual choice – telling a joke may have an effect on a whole theatre full of people, causing uncontrollable laughter. Studies show that more than one million work days were lost in 2004 as a result of muscle strain brought on by excessive laughter, and humour has been implicated in a number of choking accidents.

“But we must also not forget the unpleasantness of having beer sprayed over one by a person overcome by the effects of too much humour; to say nothing of the economic costs in dry-cleaning.”

They also plan to look at the problems caused by humour on the internet.

“People are worried about internet pornography. Yet the economic effects of too much humour are not insignificant. We estimate that across Europe one keyboard per second is being disabled by coffee or other beverages, solely as a consequence of internet-based humour. There is a clear case for action across the EU to harmonise the amount of humour available, and to place clear safety limits on the number and type of jokes to which EU citizens can be exposed.”

A spokesman for the Confederation of Comics, Stand-up Comedians and Radio Scriptwriters (COCSUCARS) condemned the plans. “When puns are outlawed, only outlaws will have puns,” he said.

“We may indeed in counsel point to the higher road, but we cannot compel any free creature to walk upon it. That leadeth to tyranny, which disfigureth good and maketh it seem hateful.”
JRR Tolkien, Morgoth’s Ring

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