Laughter has achieved special significance within some of the more radical postmodern, and especially poststructuralist, discourses as an icon of liberated desire. Yet there is a sense in which laughter is anything but the expression of libidinal force, in which it can be seen to reflect a momentary subversion of desire. To understand this, poststructuralist linguistic theory itself can be employed (against itself), because in the linguistic philosophy of Jacques Derrida in particular there is a unique acknowledgment of the temporal dimension of communication and thought, and of the relationship of this to human desire. Such a model of communication provides insights into the way in which laughter is produced through the subversion of the human experience of temporality — and of desire, an effect of delayed satisfaction. The present article draws widely on the comic theoretical heritage, seeking to synthesize existing theories into a time-based model of how, and why, laughter is produced.
© Walter de Gruyter