In Friedrich Nietzsche’s Words: Why Do We Like Comedies?

Perhaps I know best why man alone laughs: he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter. The unhappiest and most melancholy man is, as fitting, the most cheerful.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power ≈ 91 On German Pessimism


This Nietzsche’s thought can be seen as a bridge between his youthful stage and the work The Birth of Tragedy, in which he followed Schopenhauer and his pessimism and wanted to affirm German music as a resurgence of the tragic age of the Greeks, and his later phase of thought. In Gay Science he writes: the path to one’s own heaven always leads through the voluptuousness of one’s own hell and: for happiness and misfortune are brother and sister, and twins, who grow tall together. For Nietzsche suffering and joy go hand in hand, life without suffering is life without joy. In order to experience joy and happiness, one has to suffer. Great joy comes after hardships.

This brings us to to the relevance of Nietzsche’s words to comedies. As it is known, great comedians are often melancholics, Jim Carrey for example. Our experience of great comedies can be more authentic and joyful if we suffered beforehand. We may find relief in comedies from our oftentimes stressful existence, and as Nietzsche emphasizes, we can experience joy and laugh precisely because of that. And this thought alone is more than comforting.

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