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Keegan Michael Key Explains the Science Behind A Laugh

To send you into the weekend, it's a twofer Friday on today's Pardon My Take. The creator of "Billions," Brian Koppelman, joined the show to explain the shenanigans happening in the stock market. In addition to that, actor/comedian Keegan Michael Key hopped on the pod to discuss a variety of topics with Mr. Cat and Mr. Commenter, including Key and Peele, his new podcast, "The History of Sketch Comedy," and much more. 

As a comedian, it is of course Keegan Michael Key's goal to make people laugh. That got Mr. Cat and Mr. Commenter thinking... why do we laugh?

Mr. Commenter: One thing I've always wondered, I don't know if you touched on this in your podcast or not, but when people laugh, why do we laugh? And I'm not talking about, like, the mental recognition of the joke or the unexpected punch line that hits you in a different way. I'm saying like physiologically, like, why does my chest convulse and why do I make this weird sound out of my mouth when I think that something's funny?

Keegan Michael Key: It's crazy, you asking that question just made me realize how much of a nerd I am. There is a philosopher, I can't believe this is happening, I get to actually answer this question after all these years. There was a French philosopher named Henri Bergson, and Henri Bergson believed that there is this social contract that we have with each other, this malleability that we have with each other. Like, you know, when you walk down the street and you and the other person go the same way. You go, "Oh, excuse me." So you go, "Excuse me." He goes, "Excuse me." And you both go the same way and you go, "Oh sorry," and you go the same way again. And then the next thing that happens is you go, "Hahahaha."

Keegan Michael Key: It's a release, it's a release from the fact that you broke a social mouret, right? Two met get, two straight men get too close to each other. It's like, "Oh, sorry about that." That's where laughter comes from. The interesting thing is when we're babies, we don't laugh for that reason. When we're babies, we laugh out of joy. When we get older, we laugh out of uncomfortability. So your diaphragm contracting, and you pushing air out of your body is a release of social tension and uncomfortability.

Mr. Commenter: OK.

Mr. Cat: I usually just kiss the dude, but that sounds good, too. Dude, if we're locked for more than a second, just kiss. 

Mr. Commenter: You gotta break the tension somehow. 

Keegan Michael Key: (Laughing) That's permission, that's just permission.

Mr. Cat: Right, just kiss the dude and go on your way. 

Mr. Commenter: What you just described was Andrew Luck, like Andrew Luck gets tackled, he gets sacked and he laughs at people. He laughs, he's like, "Good hit." But that's not because he thinks it's funny. He's just tense in the pocket and then he gets hit and he's releasing that tension afterwards."

I loved the excitement that Keegan Michael Key showed when he was able to answer a question like this. You could tell that he thoroughly enjoyed delivering this scientific answer to the AWL's, and now we all just learned something out of the ordinary, thanks to him.