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BBC 6 minute English-What makes us laugh

BBC 6 minute English-What makes us laugh

BBC 6 minute English-What makes us laugh


Transcript of the podcast

NB: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Alice: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Alice

Neil: … and I’m Neil. OK Alice, I’ve got something for you here… a question

Alice: Yeah

Neil: Ready? What is the Mexican version of One Direction

Alice: Um… No idea

Neil: Juan Direction. Get it

Alice: Very good

Neil: Juan Direction… You know

Alice: Yes, yes, I get it

Neil: Never mind. Can you guess what the subject of today’s show is instead

Alice: Is it bad jokes

Neil: Come on! That was a good little gag! Yes. The subject of today’s show is… what makes us laugh. And in this context, to get something, for example a gag – or joke, means to understand it. We all like to laugh – well not you apparently – but most of us do! It’s good for our health, it reduces stress and releases feel-good hormones in the body

Alice: OK, thank you, Neil. But how about answering today’s quiz question? Which Greek word means the study of laughter and its effects on the body? Is it

a) risology

b) gelotology? or

c) comology

Neil: That’s difficult and I’m going to say c) comology because it’s got the word ‘comedy’ in it, you see

Alice: Oh, very good. OK. Well, we’ll find out later if you’re right. Now, did you know, we rarely laugh when we’re on our own? Laughter is a social thing that we generally like to share with other people

Neil: Really? I laugh when I’m watching cartoons on my own – don’t you, Alice

Alice: No, Neil, I don’t. Anyway, some researchers believe that the purpose of laughter is related to the way we bond with each other. And the more we laugh, the more we bond as a group

Neil: Interesting idea. It could explain why stand-up comedy – where a comedian performs in front of and talks directly to their audience – is very popular entertainment. But what does it take to keep your audience laughing? Let’s listen to Steve Byrne, a successful US comedian talking about this

INSERT Steve Byrne, comedian

The one single thing an aspiring comedian should do is to write, write, write and talk about the things that make them laugh. Selfishness – time to be selfish – time to be a little narcissistic. What is it that makes you laugh? Because that will get you closer to finding your voice. Because ultimately that’s why people come see you

Neil: So comedians need to be selfish and narcissistic – that sounds pretty negative

Alice: Yes, it does. Narcissistic means being too interested in yourself – for example your appearance or other personal qualities. And aspiring means wanting to be successful in your chosen career

Neil: And what does Steve mean when he says comedians need to find their voice

Alice: Well, he means they need to talk about what they think in a way that’s unique – meaning unusual or special – to them

Neil: OK. Let’s listen to Steve again talking about turning 40 and what he finds funny about that

INSERT Steve Byrne, comedian

When you turn 40 you will hear this in your life and hopefully you’ll hear this the rest of your life. ‘You look good for 40. You look good for 52. You look great for 63.’ You never hear that when you’re young. You never hear: ‘You look good for 19.’ You think there’s going to be some magic potion – some magic shortcut to it all. It’s writing and getting up on stage. It takes a lot of perseverance and it’s such a competitive occupation. You know, you’ve just got to outwork everybody

Neil: Well, we heard Steve making his audience laugh there. And by the way, Alice, you look fantastic for 40

Alice: That’s not funny, Neil. I’m only 39 and you know it. Anyway, moving on, Steve says there’s no magic potion or shortcut to success. You have to work hard – it doesn’t happen by itself. And perseverance means to keep on trying to achieve something even when it’s difficult

Neil: He says you have to outwork everybody – which means to work harder than everybody else. Steve certainly doesn’t make comedy sound much fun, does he

Alice: No. In fact some people say there’s a connection between depression and comedy – that comedians can be introverted and depressive

Neil: Is that right? Introverts are generally quiet people who are more interested in their own thoughts and feelings than in spending time with other people

Alice: Yes, you’d think that most comedians would be extroverts – people who are lively and enjoy the company of others. OK I think it’s time for the answer to our quiz question, Neil. I asked: Which Greek word means the study of laughter and its effects on the body? Is it

a) risology

b) gelotology? or

c) comology

Neil: Yes. I said c) comology, which I think I’m beginning to regret now

Alice: Yes, well, indeed. Sorry, I’m afraid that’s the wrong answer. It’s actually b) gelotology – which comes from the Greek word, gelos, meaning laughter

Neil: OK. You can stop sniggering now, Alice and just tell us today’s words once again

Alice: Alright then. Here they are

get something gag stand-up comedy narcissistic aspiring unique perseverance outwork introverts extroverts

Neil: Well, that just about brings us to the end of today’s 6 Minute English

Alice: See you next time

Both: Bye

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