Well, it does have purpose -- dare I say it, a serious one. Making people laugh is a worthwhile thing to do, even if it does look frivolous. Imagine if no one was allowed to laugh about stuff. What a miserable life it would be.
Laughter is a release mechanism. It relaxes people. It makes them feel that things aren't so bad. Laughing along with scores of other people at, say, a standup comedy venue, can also give people a powerful sense of belonging. So it has a valuable social cohesion function.
It can also bolster a collective sense of morality. Much in the same way that we like to know that the bad guy gets thrown in jail, we also like to laugh when the mighty fall. Take the Donald Sterling case. Everyone was laughing at that when it was in the headlines ...
I've been thinking about other services that people provide to compare with comedy. And one that seems to have some notable similarities is sex work (no, I'm not joking).
A laugh is like a little orgasm, after all. It's a pleasure hit for the audience member. And a bigger one for the comic. Plus he or she gets paid -- well, hopefully! In both comedy and sex work, the performers are often not rewarded financially.
And I do think there's more exploitation that occurs in comedy venues than in any red light district. This is because a lot of funny buggers really need the laughs. They'll perform for free so they can get them! And a lot of them have contradictory confidence issues. They can be bold enough to get up in front of an audience and bare their souls for yucks. But they're often too timid to ask for a raise, or even payment in the first place. Odd.
Obviously, if you're performing for laughs you're not selling your body, or even selling your soul. But you are doing something that's quite scary and stressful. You're certainly "out there" and crossing a lot of boundaries. And while you may not be physically naked and exposed, in an emotional sense you are!
There's also a kind of intimacy that comics develop with their audience. This might not be the case so much with political or satirical comics or commentators. But it is often the case with stand up comedians who do self-deprecating stuff, particularly about their own lives. And there are a lot of those.
Clearly the audience appreciates it -- as long as it doesn't get desperate and creepy of course. Fans do kind of fall in love with comics -- not just in spite of their faults and frailties but because of them.
And a lot of comics do crave this weird kind of love. So, it's no surprise that psychological issues are common in the profession. Many of them are degrading themselves publicly in search of affection. That can't be healthy. And there's no denying that a lot of hookers are drawn to that world because they are damaged souls in search of love and intimacy.