Jews, I had heard it said, became masters of humor because of our persecuted existence; Yiddish quips to counteract daily misery.
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz ("Why Are You Laughing?") tested the theory of horror ▻ ha-ha by analyzing google searches. Nay, it is not as believed—news that I find heartening.
Another interesting data point on the relationship between trauma and jokes is a search unusually popular among Hebrew speakers about one of history’s most horrific events, which wiped out nearly half of my family. In Israel, “Holocaust jokes” is the 12th most popular Hebrew-language search for jokes.
Holocaust jokes are extremely crude. An example — and this joke will disturb many readers: “What’s the difference between a ton of coal and a thousand Jews? Jews burn longer.”
The Google data shows that Jews seek out these jokes far more than anybody else. This seems to support a view of humor as helping people deal with extreme suffering and fear. But the timing of these searches reveals a more nuanced story.
Hebrew-language searches for Holocaust jokes tend to be lowest when threats to Israel are highest. In June 2014, after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped by Hamas operatives, Israelis’ searches for Holocaust jokes dropped to their lowest level in more than five years.
This is not only in the case of Holocaust humor. If anything, when horror becomes real, people seem to realize that horror isn't funny. They just now realize that the Holocaust is not meant to be laughed at.
I don't find the early seasons of M*A*S*H watchable. When the character of Frank Burns, a caricature of spite and selfishness, was written off, then I tune in. Colonel Potter was a good man with a funny bone, and even Charles Winchester, while a snob, cared for his patients. It was those seasons that were the funniest—those lines! My ribs are still recovering.
Mean humor—mockery, snark, ribbing, teasing—is a no-no. It's just not funny, in my opinion, that someone slipped on a banana peel and sprained his ankle. If anyone finds that hilarious, I urge you to seek professional help immediately for sociopathic tendencies.