Is This Even Funny?

Sometimes when I write a post, I’m struck with the same question that perhaps you have when you read my post: Is this even funny?

Funny as a crutch!

Wait. Wasn’t this part about the main character wearing mismatched shoes funny when I wrote it yesterday?

I’ve been thinking a lot about comedy lately, mostly because I’m trying to write a humorous novel and, as I’ve been writing, I often find myself stopping and wondering if a passage I’ve just written is funny to anyone other than me.  And maybe it’s not even funny to me, I’m just so bleary eyed from staring at my computer monitor that I’ve become hysterical and will laugh at anything, including drowned kittens or an episode of “Two and a Half Men.”

So while I’m avoiding my half finished novel, let’s ask the question, What is humor?  A little digging around the internet came up with this quote from American humorist, Mark Twain: “Explaining humor is a lot like dissecting a frog.  You learn a lot in the process, but you wind up killing it.”  With that admonition in mind, I took the risk, and forged ahead to discover that there are three reasons why we laugh.

  1. The Relief Theory: We laugh as a physical response to relieve tension, either physical (tickling) or psychological (nervous laughter).
  2. The Superiority Theory:  We feel superior and laugh at the misfortunes of others, e.g. the Three Stooges eye poke, or the social ineptitude of the nerds on “The Big Bang Theory”  because, hey, at least we’re not Curly Howard or Sheldon Cooper, so life must be good and that makes us happy.
  3. The Incongruity Theory: We laugh at the juxtaposition of the unexpected.  You can see this in just about every Monty Python skit, but especially here:

Before you start arguing in the comments, let me head you off by saying that even the advocates of each of these theories do not believe they are all encompassing, and there’s lots of humor (particularly verbal humor, such as puns) that these theories do not explain.

But I think they probably explain most humor, and certainly all of my humor.  The humor I write, at least on this blog, is self deprecating in nature, is mostly explained by the Superiority Theory of Humor, though I occasionally veer off into Incongruity.  I usually write about an episode of my life that is excruciatingly embarrassing, and you get to read about it and point and giggle and think, “Boy, I’m sure glad I’m not the lady who writes that Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please blog!”

Go ahead, feel superior.

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at Stock.XCHNG.

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19 thoughts on “Is This Even Funny?

  1. Elyse says:

    There is also a world of difference between stories you tell verbally and ones you write. I took a humor writing class about two years ago. For my first assignment I had to write up a story I’d told many times — one that made people hyperventilate and cry laughing. When I wrote it up it wasn’t funny. I had suddenly lost my ability to be funny. So I had to totally recraft it, adding dialog (made up) and changing the perspective. It was an amazing learning experience.

    But about a month or so, I tried to tell the story. Nobody laughed. So be careful what you write!

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    • Karen says:

      There’s definitely something different that’s going on in our brains when we’re reading James Thurber as opposed to listening to a stand up comedian.

      Case in point, I tried recording Podcasts of this blog awhile back, and while I like to think I’m pretty funny as a person (as well as a writer), speaking these posts out loud did not have the same effect.

      Or maybe people just laugh at me in real life because of the way I look. 🙂

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  2. Clever Girl says:

    You may be hilarious in person, certainly in writing Karen, but sometimes what one writes doesn’t come across as well when it’s read out loud. Obviously. But I’ve done both stand-up, and now writing comedy, and they’re not that different. Where was I going with this? I have no idea. Anyway, you’re definitely entertaining.

    There are sooo many blogs out there that people think are funny, and they just aren’t! I know, comedy is subjective, but still…

    WordPress did an interview last week with a panel of bloggers that they thought were funny, and asked them what they themselves thought was funny, and you know what? I didn’t think that most of the panel’s blogs were funny! The humor of some of them was sophmoric and the punctuation of their writing was horrible! It really made for difficult reading, and it certainly didn’t make me laugh.

    By the way, I think the television laugh-track killed good comedy!

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    • Karen says:

      Ok, I never did stand up comedy, but I was a corporate trainer (not one of those awful ones! I was entertaining! You actually enjoyed learning how to use Outlook with Business Contact Manager with me!), so I’m a little bit familiar with the performance of comedy and here are my thoughts:

      When you perform, either in a club, or in front of captive audience in a business setting, or for your circle of friends at a social event, you get a lot of laughs from comic timing, gestures, faces you might make, and voices you can impersonate. You lose all of those tools (maybe not the timing one) when you write humor. So, IMHO, I think there’s a pretty significant difference.

      Regarding humor blogs here on WordPress, yeah, when I first starting blogging, I used to regularly search the “Humor” category, and what I found wasn’t particularly humorous, but I also realize that what I write is not everyone’s cup of tea, either, so I try to be pretty generous with my definition of “humor.”

      Don’t even ask me what I found when I started searching the “Sex” category.

      😉

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      • Clever Girl says:

        Yeah, all those things you mentioned are valid, with the facial expressions, gestures, etc.

        With writing, you can get some of the punch, emphasis and other necessities with proper wording, sentence structure and punctuation, which, referring back to the not-so-funny blogs, were sorrily missing, and therefore, not funny (but still, it’s subjective, so perhaps one should be more generous with the definition).

        I love that you did corporate training! If that doesn’t give you a sense of humor, I don’t know what does! 😀

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    • Karen says:

      I wanted to add that I absolutely adore your blog, I read a LOT of cooking/food blogs here on WP, and yours is extremely well done, engaging and fucking funny. The photos alone make me want to move to California just to order dessert.

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  3. Madame Weebles says:

    Figuring out what’s funny is tough. I try not to think about it too much because then I starting thinking too much and then I get paralyzed. I don’t often write about my life because my life isn’t especially funny. It isn’t sad, but it’s not really funny or wacky. You’re lucky to have some good, wacky material.

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