No Laughing Matter: A Request

'Como no me voy a reír?' ('How Can I Not Laugh?') - Carlos Puebla


Recently, my interest has been piqued by the use of laughter in song, and I am hoping to write something on the subject. However, at present, I can only think of a few songs that incorporate ‘laughter’ into the song itself. So here is a call to arms; ‘musos’ take heed – I need a list of songs with laughter in!!

Now; let’s set the parameters here. I am not talking about comedy songs, nor about songs that make you laugh. I am talking here about songs that have some form of laughter in them. Ideally, these will be popular music, though examples from elsewhere would be interesting and welcome.

I want to write something about the uses of laughter, the types of laughter, and if there is a space to be found between the two scientific typed of laughter ‘Duchenne’ and ‘non-Duchenne’ laughter as used in song. Though it is always (necessarily) rehearsed and seldom ‘genuine’ laughter, unconnected to emotional experience (traits all of ‘non-Duchennian laughter’), laughter’s very presence in song constitutes something of an ‘inconguity-based concept’; a common feature of Duchenne laughter.

So what role, what function, and what purpose, does laughter have in music. Any theories on these, or any related questions to laughter in music would be greatly appreciated. But for now, I need examples. To kick off, and to give a more concrete example of what I’m talking about, here are three examples (the only three I have so far!!!):

  1. Mira Yanki, Como Nos Reimos’ (Look Yankee, How We Laugh) by Carlos Puebla

A song about the Cuba attitude towards American ‘imperialism’. An example, I tentatively suggest, of laughter’s “dark side” (Panksepp, 2000), used to establish “exclusionary group identities” which are aggressively delineated.

  1. La OEA Me Causa Risa’ (The OEA Makes Me Laugh) by Carlos Puebla

Your man likes a laugh! Similar to above, there is a ‘dark side’ to this laughter, as well as a group identification. However, this time it is a definition as excluded from a group (the Association of American States). There is also an attempt to trivialise what was quite a (potentially) traumatic event for Cuban economic/ political/ cultural relationships with the Americas – thus ‘laughter-as-dissociation’ as advanced by Keltner and Bonanno, 1997.

  1. ‘We Hate it When Our Friends Become Successful – Morrissey

“… and if they’re Northern, that makes it even worse”! I’m not sure about this laughter yet. I think there is something here in suggesting a non-Duchennian performance of a Duchenne laughter (or vice versa) in that there is (deliberately) something of a ‘shock’ inherent in the actual use laughter, particularly following the phrase ‘it’s really laughable’  – a phrase usually used to describe something distinctly unfunny! So though emotional and stimulus-driven, this laughter is affected, contrived and pointed.

So, that’s as far as I have got so far. Any additions to this meagre list would be greatly appreciated.

Happy hunting!

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