Where To Find Funny
Humor or comedy is a tendency of stimulating experiences to elicit emotional amusement and give vent to unrestrained laughter. The word derives from the classical medicine of the ancient Greeks, who taught that the state of fluids in the body, called humors, controlled emotion and bodily health. They thought that a certain amount of wine, vinegar, and honey helped to control temper and a certain degree of humor. These medicines were much more successful than we realize today.
Today we know better what causes Humour, but we still rely on these substances to provide us with some of our most powerful emotional reactions. We find funny when we laugh at ourselves or at others. Humorous people can be disagreeable, frightening, or downright outrageous. Some people joke about everything, with no restraint; they just have a healthy sense of fun in their witty observations and expressions. We are drawn to laughter, even though sometimes it hurts.
But where does humour come from? There is no one answer to this question, as it is both an instinctive and a learned response to observing incongruities or other abnormalities in a situation. When observing something that defies common sense, we may respond by showing incongruity, exaggeration, irony, or other such techniques. Such reactions, while healthy when matched by a healthy self-discipline, are dangerous when unchecked.
Where do we find funny, when others cannot find funny? This is a trickier question. Sometimes humour comes from the familiar, the expected, the normal, or the unexpected. An example of this is a joke told by a friend or family member to another that isn’t funny because it only made sense, or it’s just not the right time or place. This type of joke is perfectly acceptable, but unlikely to fuel feelings of resentment or anger.
More likely the real source of humour will be the incongruity itself. The obvious, for example, is a physical comedy: a punch line that borders on cruelty, a crude physical comedy that draws its inspiration from something real, like the way a dog snaps when he is teased. A more subtle kind of incongruity is a verbal contrast, like a white person speaking to a black person who remarks that white people are too full of themselves to understand. Another example is a comic play with a white character that demonstrates the superiority of a black or Asian character. In either case, the incongruity is in seeing the contrast, not the actual act of race or colour. This is what draws in many people, and is the source of much hilarious comedy.
A final example of where and how to find funny is in how and where to tell a joke. Many forms of entertainment rely on improvisation, and a telling of a joke requires advanced skill. The intent behind the telling of a joke is as much to entertain as it is to offend, and in that respect, we might compare comedians to late night television hosts. While the act of telling a joke is itself a source of amusement, the telling of jokes relies heavily on familiarity. It is often only through repetition that a joke becomes funny.