Is There Really Such a Thing As Good Humor?

Have you ever found yourself doing the ‘what if’ exercises when you’re trying to come up with funny things? I did once and can vouch for their effectiveness. Consider using ‘what if’ in your life every single day and you’ll find yourself having far more fun than you ever thought possible. Consider this:


“What if… she was a man?” – George Carlin Women love being told they aren’t as good looking as their favorite guy friend. You might say “what if she was a man” and be met with “that’s just great”. Laughing. Or, “what if she wasn’t attractive at all?” – Brian Fargo

When using humor to bring out someone’s worst feature, it helps to bring out what is beneath the surface. Think about it like this: all of us have been through life trying to figure out who we are. There is always something funny about someone or something that makes us laugh. We have to draw the line between what we consider to be funny and what is truly funny.

The ‘incongruity theory’ helps us find humor in what is truly terrible. It’s the idea that what makes us laugh can be the exact opposite of what is keeping us from finding happiness. For example: Imagine two people who hate each other but enjoy each other’s company.

To test this out, put yourself into situations where you are the butt of a joke and attempt to analyze the difference between how you feel and how your mind registers it. If it’s not funny then you might be experiencing what’s called an incongruity. In an incongruity, the brain doesn’t realize that it isn’t the speaker that is funny but rather the listener. So in a way, your laughter is directed not at the joke, but at the person giving the punch line.

Something else that you will find when testing out whether or not something is funny is the use of the word “adjective.” A word that has an adjective can sound funny if only the adjective is present. For example: Michael Jackson was funny. However, if you say Michael Jackson is funny, then you are using an adjective that includes the word “adjective.” By using “adjective” in place of “comparison,” you can see how your body reacts.

A third popular approach to testing the value of humor in a relationship is to look at its relationship with benign violations of the norm. In a situation where there is significant and blatant sexual harassment, one could argue that jokes are in fact funny. This is because the victims of the harassment would likely find it funny to respond by making the perpetrator laugh. However, if this is not the case, humor may be used as a tool to deflect or escape from uncomfortable feelings. Again, this differs from the perspective that “normal” humor is just the expression of emotion.

The key take-away from all of these methods of discovering if humor is useful is that although for some people it might be, others will find that it is not. It seems that the key to answering the question of if humor is good for you comes down to whether or not you agree with forabosco’s claim that laughter is the best medicine. If you do agree with him, then you can test for yourself the value of humor in your relationship by trying some of these techniques out.