by Larry P. Johnson
Reprinted from "The San Antonio Express-News," November 2, 2019.
What makes us laugh? Humor comes in many forms, any of which may tickle the funny bone of one person and fall flat with another.
Mark Nichol, writing for the Daily Writing Tips website, describes a few types of humor:
- Anecdotal humor refers to personal stories that may be true — or partly true — but have been embellished. Mark Twain was a master of this type of humor.
- Deadpan or dry humor has an impassive, expressionless, matter-of-fact presentation.
- Epigrammatic humor consists of a witty saying, such as, “Too many people run out of ideas long before they run out of words.” Two masters of epigrammatic humor were Benjamin Franklin and Oscar Wilde.
- Farcical comedy is based on improbable coincidences with satirical elements, punctuated with overwrought, frantic action. It also refers to incidents or proceedings that seem too ridiculous to be true.
- Ironic humor involves incongruity with norms, in which the intended meaning is opposite, or nearly opposite, to the literal meaning.
- Self-deprecating humor is when performers target themselves and their foibles or misfortunes. Comedian Rodney Dangerfield practiced self-deprecating humor.
- Slapstick comedy mocks violence and simulates bodily harm for comic effect. The name derives from a stick with an attached piece of wood that slapped loudly against it when one comedian struck another with it, enhancing the effect. The Three Stooges were renowned for their slapstick comedy.
We need humor in our lives. Eric Cervone, political columnist and commentator for the website Townhall.com, writes: “Comedy is also a survival mechanism — a way to persevere through difficult times. Comedy thrived during the Great Depression, and Holocaust survivors have credited humor with giving them the ability to endure unspeakable evil.”
Humor can also hurt. Jokes have power. When the intent is to malign, ridicule or disparage, a joke becomes a weapon.
Does our sense of humor change over the years? Researchers at the University of Akron, Brandeis University and Northeastern University set out to determine whether young, middle-aged and older adults found video clips depicting inappropriate social behavior to be funny. They discovered adults 64 to 85 were less likely to enjoy humor at the expense of others. Instead, they liked jokes that bring people together through a funny or awkward situation.
Ninety percent of men and 81 percent of women say a sense of humor is the most important quality in a partner. It’s also considered crucial for leaders.
Scott Weems, author of “Ha! The Science of When We Laugh and Why,” says: “Our sense of humor isn’t fixed. We determine how humorous we are, and we can become funnier if we want.”
He suggests learning to tell a single joke well. “Everybody should have at least one joke in their back pocket, appropriate for all audiences,” writes Weems. “Practice it often. Perfect it. You’ll be surprised how often it comes in handy.”
OK, here is my favorite riddle: Why didn’t the skeleton go to the party? Because she had no body to go with.
Well, that’s how I see it.