Humour

It can be found literally everywhere, in every aspect of our lives. It is used to lighten the mood, to generate conversation, even to coax one from depression. It brings color to life and is one aspect that makes it worth living.

The basic types of humour include:

Slapstick. Also known as physical comedy and uses violence or physical occurrences. Visceral and probably the lowest form of humour, slapstick relies on the comical side of physical suffering.

Farce. Use of unlikely or improbable situations. Comical satire.
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Hyperbole. Use of exaggeration.

Reframing. Use of alternate perspectives of reality.
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Timing. Use of tempo and rhythm. Often used not as a main technique, but as an essential complement to the main comic device.

More “exotic” types of humour include:

Deadpan. “Detached”, emotionless humour.
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Dark Humour. Making light of an otherwise grim or solemn situation.
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Irony. Heavy use of paradox.

Observational Comedy. Use of everyday aspects of life. Often dubbed “funny because it’s true.” Widely used by stand-up comedians.

Off-Color Humour. Also known as toilet humour, or crude humour. Use of vulgar or indecent elements. Heavy use of innuendo.

So what makes something funny?

Humour operates on the core elements of surprise, paradox and absurdity. Humour stems from being presented with a scenario that goes against our expectations in a way so absurd it triggers laughter. To laugh at something means to understand its clever twist, to see how its elements work together to make us laugh, or how its deviation from reality creates a humourous effect.

The unexpected twist, what comedians call the punch line, requires an almost unconscious process of reasoning to be understood and appreciated. It’s that switch in our brains that has been inexplicably flipped; we don’t know why it’s funny, it just is. That click is similar to understanding a certain concept, or reaching a certain revelation. The punch line is that eureka moment, that humour epiphany that comedians and comedy-lovers alike crave.

Perhaps I can go so far as to say that humour is even a useful device for measuring intelligence. There’s so much unconscious cognitive activity going on when we laugh at something. Memory, reasoning and analytical skills are all at work when we try to decipher the inner workings of a joke. Humour can be charmingly simple, yet delightfully sophisticated.

When the laughter has died down, what makes a joke meaningful is its ability to remain charmingly uncomplicated. Like all the simple pleasures in life, humour has that uncanny ability to reduce all that is perplexing and unpleasant into comfortable face-value components. Laughter heals our wounds, soothes our frustrations, and once again breathes life and color into a tired existence.

Ideas and material inspired by Rowan Atkinson’s 1992 lecture “Funny Business”, Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up routines, the BBC’s “Not the Nine O’ Clock News”, Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” and various other funny moments that made me think.

One comment

  1. Vidhi Vakharia

    lol 😀 The videos are so refreshing!

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