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Humor & Health Journal, Januar/Februar/März 2006

The dadaistic roots of therapeutic humor
by Michael Titze, Ph. D.

HUMORIZING PUBLIC LIFE

René Schweizer is a contemporary Dadaist based in Basel, Switzerland. His life's work has been dedicated to "The transformation of reality by systematic deception" (1979). As a Dadaist, Schweizer is constantly playing with the grotesque, with nonsense and absurdity. For example, he swamped Switzerland's administrative system with "naughty inquiries". A state property office received a letter from Schweizer inquiring as to whether his mind, which he had lost the other day, had been handed in by anybody! He also sent the following inquiry to the head office for kindergartens in the City of Basel: "Up to this point, I have not done one thing right in my life. Therefore, I want to start all over again. Is it possible for me to einter one of your kindergartens?"

In the first phase of Schweizer's nonsensical actions, many of the institutions he corresponded with responded quite seriously, thus involuntarily producing a funny effect. Schweizer published all of this correspondence in books with high print runs. This resulted in a tremendous public resonance and triggered a significant attitude change! At this point, most recent replies to Schweizer's letters from administrative bodies have been unequivocally humorous!

Schweizer's homepage (www.rene-schweizer.ch) includes some of his unpublished poems. One of thes poems is entitled "The Grand Being.":

"Blinkee blankee blonkee blank
Feedee fahdee foe
Shlinkee shlankee shlonkee shlank
Didee dahee do
I came here on a mood
I had nothing to jest
The silence was no longer food
I could no longer rest
I sought the light to see the truth
And knew I was a fool
Was this how I got the blues?
A noise-polluted pool
Blinkee blankee blonkee blank
Feedee fahdee foe."

In his book "The Gagaistic Manifest", Schweizer (1979) writes: Everyone talks about the serious side of life. When you open the newspaper or listen to the radio, you are confronted with it. But where does it say that the world has to obey the principle of seriousness and earnestness? Why should you disfigure your forehead with furrows of pensiveness? Why should you take everything in an enormously serious manner? [...] Creation has established a counterpart to seriousness: humor. But in the official world, in everyday thinking, humor is neglected. Therefore, humor - in all its manifestations and nuances - has to be strategically brought into play. Thus the supremacy of seriousness may be thwarted."(P.9)



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