What Humour is all about…

The mystery of what, exactly, is "funny" will probably never be solve because a sense of humor is as unique as a fingerprint.

Why do we laugh? 
Psychoanalysts learn a great deal about patients by listening to their humor. And you can learn a great deal about your own psychological makeup by constantly asking yourself (and answering truthfully), Why did I laugh at this joke and not at others? Here are some possible answers to why we laugh:

  • We laugh out of instinct
  • We laugh for release or to feel better
    Laughter relieves tension. So we choose to watch comedies to laugh away and release some anxiety. Humour can also be a release for regressive infantile or aggressive behavior. Humor is also one way of coping with tragedy or fear. Laughing at misfortune frequently replaces negative feelings with positive feelings.
  • We laugh out of surprise.
    The need for surprise is the one cardinal rule in comedy.
    •  We laugh at an unexpected end to a story – aka a joke. Surprise
    is one of the most universally accepted formulas for humour. Once the surprise factor is gone, the same story is no longer funny. Appreciation of any piece of humor decreases rapidly through repeated exposure, or when the ending is predictable.
     • We laugh at surprising wordplay eg. the wind was blowing so hard… you could spit in
    your own eye

    •  We laugh to cover embarrassment eg when you’ve just been pranked, or said/ done something stupid, or when someone says or does something that’s taboo.
    • We laugh after being misdirected. A key word sets up the surprise. It gets the audience to assume they know the ending but then at the last minute you throw a curve ball. eg My wife and I have many arguments, but she only wins half of them…. My mother-in-law wins the other half.—Terry Bechtol
    • We laugh at incongruity.eg Allen Flint, the creator of Candid Camera, claimed that the talking mailbox gag—a man is mailing a letter when suddenly the mailbox starts to talk to him—was the show’s top laugh-getter. The incongruity of a mailbox talking to someone is funny on its own.

  • We laugh when we feel superior.
       eg We laugh when our football team has just scored a goal, or when we solve a puzzle or win a round on a quiz or game.
       eg We laugh at Candid Camera shows where we, the audience feel superior in being in on the prank, whilst we laugh at the poor unsuspecting victim on screen who, inferior to us, has no clue what’s going on.
       eg We may laugh at other people’s expense. Humor is a socially acceptable form of criticism,. Sometimes we do this to bring down the prestige of someone to make them less superior, and to make us feel more superior – to equalize eg making fun of political figures. Laughter is sometimes an attempt to vent our hostility when physical aggression is not practical.
  • We laugh out of ambivalence
    eg laughing when we see the parent who may often like a child.
  • We laugh to regress.

– Patricia Keith-Spiegel; Melvin Helitzer

Some more Facts about Humour

  • Humor is often unfair. Jokes often take a biased point of view. There’s no room in one joke for a balanced argument
  • Humour works best when you can relate to it and it invokes common experiences


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