I recall watching Korea’s popular comedy show, Gag Concert, from the comfort of my cozy one room 아파트 (pronounced a-part-uh) many years ago. Prior to living in Korea, I had been warned that Koreans were passionate, i.e., slightly crazy. I had heard stories of angry girlfriends doing unthinkable things. I had personally witnessed a man kick a woman outside a hospital. I had on many ocassions witnssed several Koreans engage in shouting matches that inevitably ended with a shoving match or even fisticuffs. I was not surprised when these events occurred unfortunately. That is because I was tempered by the many warnings I had received. While waching television in Korea, especially Gag concert, I recall naively thinking to myself that Koreans were violent people. Gag Concert seemed to confirm this for me since much of the comedy involved hitting, slapping, and inflicting pain in various degrees to people who acted foolishly. I thought “we don’t do that in America”. Our comedy is more cerebral. I also thought “Koreans are less civilized than the Japanese”. I imagined that the Japanse what with their stereotypical politeness would never engage in such behavior in oublic or for the sake of comedy.
Fortunately, I am wrong and this notion is largely unfounded. My assumption about Koreans is cursory and limited. If I or anyone gos around making judgements based upon chance occureences or meetings with people jand from those interacrions make generalizations about many other people, that is what is truly foolish. For that a double-eye poke, or a slap to my face or head are in order.
This idea about the highly volatile temperament of Koreans was deconstructed after watching a couple of episodes of a Japanese comedy show. They too used slapping, hitting, and the inflction of physical pain to the same effect. Furthermore, I watched older situtation comedies produced in America, e.g., Gilligan’s Island. Often the Skipper would remove his hat and hit the star, Gilligan, over the head for his half-witted remarks or actions. And who can forget the comedy troupe, the Three Stooges? They used only slapstick for comedic effect. Often Moe, Curly, and Larry inflict what appears to be extremely painful measures to punish each other to the viewers delight.
All in all, what I did not realize is that this was just a form of comedy– slapstick. As a form of humor it may be less cerebral than say the comedy of George Carlin, Chris Rock, or even Jerry Seinfeld, but it does not reflect a more violent brooding nature of the person carrying it out or even the viewer. This was the mistake in judgement I made. Today I know that although a comedy show like SNL (Saturday Night Live) may rely less on slapstick as compared to Gag Concert this does not reflect the societies temperament.