John Cleese, the legendary English actor, comedian, writer and film producer, explains the very “basic misunderstanding” between being serious and being solemn in a 1991 presentation for Video Arts, a British production company that produces training videos for companies.
Now I suggest to you that a group of us could be sitting around after dinner, discussing matters that were extremely serious like the education of our children, or our marriages, or the meaning of life (and I’m not talking about the film), and we could be laughing, and that would not make what we were discussing one bit less serious.
Solemnity, on the other hand, I honestly don’t know what it’s for. I mean, what is the point of it? The two most beautiful memorial services that I’ve ever attended both had a lot of humor and it freed us all and made the services inspiring and cathartic. But solemnity, it serves pomposity and the self-important always know, at some level of their consciousness, that their egotism is going to be punctured by humor. That’s why they see it as a threat.