Photo by Savannah Dematteo

Learning to Be Funny

Laughter is a very universal human experience, and let’s out a contagious symphony of chuckles, guffaws and snorts. That’s why learning to be funny helps us bond, breaks tension, and brings joy to life. 

But have you ever wondered: what makes something funny? How can you craft a joke that lands right and leaves people in stitches?

Let’s dive into the fascinating world of humor, explore the anatomy of a joke, and start learning how to be funny.

The Science of Humor

Humor thrives on surprise. Our brains anticipate a specific outcome, and laughter erupts when that expectation is subverted cleverly or unexpectedly. 

The most common form of joke is the rule of threes. These kinds of jokes often build up in threes, setting a pattern that gets broken with the punchline. Take, for example, from Reddit:

A German spy, a British spy, and an Italian spy are caught and then interrogated.

The German is picked up from the cell and brought to a torture chamber. He holds out for just ten minutes before he gives up his secrets and is brought back.

The Brit is then picked up. Same procedure, but he holds out half an hour before he spills the beans.

The Italian goes in. Ten minutes pass. Half an hour passes. One passes, then many more.

After a long time, he gets brought back. None of his secrets were revealed. The German and the Brit ask him how he was able to withstand the torture. But the Italian replies, “I wanted to talk a minute in, but my hands were bound.”

Puns, double entendres, and other wordplay exploit the multiple meanings of language, creating a humorous dissonance. Here are some examples:

  • A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two-tired.
  • No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationery.
  • A pessimist’s blood type is always B-negative.

There is also the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated things or situations that can create humor. Here are some examples to think about:

  • A sophisticated tea party is being held by dinosaurs. 
  • The Queen of England in McDonald’s ball pit.
  • An angel is baking a cake with a bunch of cherubs.

Slapstick humor relies on physical pratfalls, exaggerated movements, and unexpected actions to evoke laughter. This type of comedy is no longer as prominent as it was in the past. Contemporary examples of slapstick humor include The Three StoogesThe Naked Gun, and Mr. Bean.

Observational comedy, jokes that point out the absurdity of everyday life or human behavior, can resonate with audiences. Jerry Seinfeld and many modern stand-up comics are well-known for their particular brands of observational comedy.

It’s important to remember that humor is subjective. What one person finds side-splitting might leave another blank-faced. Cultural context also plays a significant role: a joke referencing a local event might translate differently across borders. SO BE CAREFUL!

Directing Your Jokes Properly

A well-timed pause, a change in inflection, or even a funny facial expression can elevate a joke from good to great. 

  • Even if your joke isn’t perfect, your confidence in telling it can make all the difference. Project your voice and maintain eye contact.
  • Don’t rush! Take your time to set up the joke and emphasize the punchline.
  • Use gestures and facial expressions to complement your words. A raised eyebrow or a sly grin can add more humor.
  • Pay attention to your audience’s reactions. If the joke falls flat, don’t dwell on it. Move on gracefully.

Practice Makes Perfect: Don’t be afraid to experiment and refine your delivery. Tell your jokes to friends and family, watch stand-up comedy, and find what works best for you.

Other Ways of Learning to be Funny

Humor isn’t confined to jokes. Here are some additional ways of learning to be funny:

  • Sharpen your eye for the absurd and offer clever remarks about the world around you.
  • Poke fun at yourself in an endearing way, not self-loathing.
  • The most mundane story can be funny with the right embellishments and delivery.
  • Playful back-and-forth with friends can be a great way to create humor spontaneously.

Remember: Humor is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the process of learning, experimenting, and making people laugh.

Renee’ Servello’s Humor All The Way is a collection of funny writings that speak about the hilarity of aging and more. It’s available on the website!

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