Understanding the Psychology of Funny
Humour or comedy is the trend of occasions to elicit humour and also give humour to the onlookers. The word originated from the natural medicine of the ancients, who believed that the balance of essential fluids in the body, called humours, controlled emotion and physical health. Hence humour was considered as a balm for the soul. The belief in the healing properties of humour has been the driving force behind many of the funny pranks and jokes which have been used throughout history as a way of social interaction and social etiquette. From trickery played on guests in honour of a family member to the more recent methods of humorous street entertainments, humour is present in all cultures and societies.
The trickiest element of a joke is its ability to elicit a response from the audience. It is this skill of the joke teller, which makes some people find a particular joke offensive while others find it funny. A joke which tickles the joke teller but which offends the audience is deemed by some people to be the inadvisable kind of joke. On the other hand, a joke which tickles the sensibilities of the listener without causing offence is a well liked form of joke.
A number of famous funny quotes have been around for ages and continue to influence the thoughts and outlook of many people today. One such famous quote is one attributed to the renowned humorist Bill Graham: “If you don’t have any use for the things you have, make up your own.” This funny quote, often attributed to Graham Green, has become a popular motto for people who want to live a life full of creativity and purpose. Another well-known quote is from George Bernard Shaw: “You cannot succeed purely by being funny; it is only by combining the most stupid and commonplace tricks with the wisest and cleverest ideas that anybody can become successful.” Shaw’s famous quote has, over time, become a byword for wittiness and, to some, it encapsulates the value of true wisdom and learning.
Another factor which makes things funny is that people respond positively to the unexpected. For example, if you look at popular comedians and actors and compare their stage skills with those of standups, you will see the results of an hour of laughter being spent on the floor during acts or when jokes are delivered. The audience appreciates a funny man or woman who knows when to draw a line and when to let the punch lines flow freely. It is important to understand that being funny is more than just knowing how to make jokes. Being funny involves using humor within the rules set by the society we exist in- making the target feel that he or she is being taken seriously, even though in reality there is no intentional comparison between the two situations.
Some may find it hard to believe that there is an actual science to the art of humor. The scientific community has come up with funny theories, however, they are still unproven. In fact, humor just makes things funnier. For example, there is a theory that states that if you tell a lie you will feel the lie will be funny. However, there are no scientific principles behind this so it is nearly impossible to test this out in a real-world setting, except in an empty field with no objects around to provide cues.
Another funny theory concerns the difference between what is funny and what is not funny. If you take the Big Short film seriously, for example, one can derive an entire theory of funnyness from analyzing the differences between people’s reactions to others’ behavior. Basically, everybody understands that a funny joke is one where a character says something that is obviously false, but which ends up being funny because of the reaction it triggers in the audience. However, when a tell-tale punchline is needed to make the character say something other than the obvious, the comedy becomes unintentional. According to the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream franchise, humor is “a simultaneous internal and external response generated by the contrast between what is expected and what actually comes to pass”.