Some of the most revered people in our world are comedians, much more so than in other cultures it seems. Our extensive entertainment world is surrounded by comedians born out of the underground stand-up comedy world, destined to make millions because they can deliver something a notch above a knock-knock joke.

The ability to make people laugh is powerful. I’ve heard humor described as the art of using an intelligent construction (words, actions, delivery) to produce an unintelligent result–the bursting and uncontrollable thing we call laughter. Forcing someone to laugh is to force happiness upon them.  “Funny” to us is one of the most flattering descriptors. Such a detail gives people character and makes them interesting. To lack humor is to lack an essential component of social relationships.

Of course, humor is not universal. What I find funny won’t always be funny to you and vice versa. But set aside the goofy type of comedy, the lower level impulse humor that everyone laughs at from time to time. Comedy is at its rawest and most artistic form when it is thoughtful. And at the heart of comedy is truth. Truth is what make things funny, be it satire or circumstance. Even jokes in poor taste (see Anthony Jeselnik) are rooted in truth because they understand the wrongness of their punch lines.

Combine the elements of happiness and truth to produce the commentaries of the greats like Jon Stewart, Lewis Black, Jon Oliver, Stephen Colbert. Their brand of comedy is so appealing because rather than deliver a dry informational style, they package injustice in our world into a laughable phenomenon despite its often depressing implications. Humor better than anything else conveys a relatable medium that can attract so many to understand issues they wouldn’t consider thinking about.

The importance of this work and of the artistic nature of all great comedy is that it can turn the dark and bleak into a forced happiness with a purpose. It is a gift to be able to turn the foreboding mess that life can be into hope. Comedy is essential to the human spirit. It is vital to maintain a sense of humor to distance oneself from the stressful rawness of the day-to-day bustle. Laughter is the coping mechanism that delays the decay of mental health. To take things too seriously and not give in to more laughter in your existence is to deny humanity itself.