Dem bones, dem bones, dem wry bones.
HE RECENT uproar over The New Yorker cover artfeaturing Michelle and Barack Obama as a terrorist First Couple in the Whitehousedoes not come as much of a surprise to scientists studying humor in primates.
Notes Dr. Samuel Piske, head researcher of Primate Studies at Emory University, "Our closest relatives express very little genetic knack for satire. We suspect this may be in part because the funny bone and the satire bone are not connected in any way."
Although the foot bone's connected to the leg bone, and the leg bone's connected to the knee bone, nature did not see fit to connect the primate's funny bone to its satire bone, thus leading humans to experience similar difficulty recognizing satire in its many guises.
Says Dr. Piske, "Our primate cousins certainly know how to initiate laughter in the social unit. For example, throwing poop at each other always gets a howl. But when we give them various cartoons satirizing poop throwing, they just stare at the cartoons and scratch their heads. Sometimes they even rip the satire to shreds and screech while jumping up and down in impressive displays of aggression."
But satirists worldwide should take heart, says Dr. Piske. "People think that evolution is complete, but it is an ongoing process, and if satirists keep putting it out there, nature will eventually find a way to forge that all-important connection between the humor bones. In the meantime, don't rule out throwing the occasional poop."
© 2008 Kate Heidel