Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Bernard L. De Koven

Seeing the Funny Side to Everything

"The thing about making machines is that everything is a failure."

Well, seriously, what I think is funny... Well, this is funny. This is funny. I think there's a funny side to everything, no matter how horrible it might be. I think bars are funny. I think pogo sticks are funny. I think pullovers are funny. But not as funny as cardigans. Funny is brilliant. And to be funny is the best possible thing for me. I can't be hugely kind. I don't have many of the sort of attributes that society thinks to be worthwhile. But if I can be funny, that's the 'good' that gets me. And to hear people laugh at my work is enormously rewarding.

These are the words of a man called Paul Spooner, a creator of automata. They strike me as being deeply significant, especially now given the unsettling changes in our governments, especially for those of us who may be overcome by the apparent seriousness of things of late. If you happened to see my post about Keith Newstead, you already know why I'm so interested in practitioners of this particularly playful art.

Something else he says during his interview struck me as both poignant and profoundly applicable to all of us involved in the playful arts:

I think that people who do art are kind of witnesses. I think that it's a process of bearing witness as to what it's like being you in your situation. It's a good idea to try to describe what the world seems like from your point view. And to me, it largely seems tragically funny.

Mr. Spooner is a member of the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre (be sure to check out their YouTube channel). He's currently in the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's touring exhibition, "Curious Contraptions" at the Exploratorium.

About the Author

Bernard De Koven is the author of The Well-Played Game. He writes on theories of fun and playfulness and how they affect personal, interpersonal, community and institutional health.