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?
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.
- The Relief Theory: We laugh as a physical response to relieve tension, either physical (tickling) or psychological (nervous laughter).
- 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.
- 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.
- The night I lost my virginity: Blogs Posts I Didn’t Write
- My kids’ strange birthday parties: Coconut Bras, Half Birthdays, Murder and Strippers
- The bizarre power my cleaning lady has over me: When the Help Isn’t So Helpful
- The weird places I’ve had sex: Sexual Bucket List
- The time I lost a beer drinking contest: Tales to Tell
Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at Stock.XCHNG.