In one of my introductory newsletters I talk about humor. If you haven’t read it, here’s the context: I believe that once you know what makes someone laugh, you know a lot about that person. The problem is that some words are very hard to define, and humor, in my opinion, might be the hardest of them all.
Not too long ago I looked at an alternative definition of sarcasm. Sarcasm is easy to spot, easy to define, but there are still many different perspectives on it. Some people think sarcasm is a form of humor. Some think it’s a form of sociopathy.
So what might humor be?
The pendulum swings wide, my friends. How shall we count the ways? How shall we fill in the gaps from…
- The Marx Brothers to the Wayans Brothers.
- Satire to sitcoms
- Oscar Wilde to that Gallagher guy who smashes watermelons with a big hammer
- Standup comedians to slapstick
- Lowest common denominator puns to highbrow British wit
- Crass limericks and dirty jokes to just about anything else
Do you see the challenge? What in the world makes something funny to one person and repellent to another? Why do some people (like myself), laugh whenever South Park is on, but you couldn’t pay others to sit through 15 seconds of it?
Why do some people (like myself) find that few things are less funny these days than films that are billed as comedies and sit-coms that can feel like torture?
Why do some people only love a laugh at someone else’s expense and some people find that a trait of cruelty?
I do not know. Maybe you do. Here’s your assignment:
Think about things that make you laugh. Now try to explain why they are funny. Use those examples to define humor, if you can.
I’ll try too. Let’s talk in the comments section.
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