To be funny – Part 1 of 4
Daily Life, Laughing, Laughter Theoretics, NWH2018, Teaching, The essence of humour
Humour can help you connect with other people and make unpleasant situations a little more bearable. This is part one of a four part blog about how to be funny. Being funny might seem like it takes a lot of work, but it’s actually not that hard once you tap into your inner sense of humour. Even if you don’t think you’re naturally funny, there are things you can do to make yourself and other people laugh.
Learn a little about what makes you laugh.
Laughter itself is unconscious. While it’s possible for us to keep ourselves from laughing (not always successfully), it is very hard for us to produce laughter on demand, and doing so will usually seem “forced”. Fortunately, laughter is very contagious (we’re about 30 times more likely to laugh in the presence of others), and in a social context, it’s easy to start laughing when others are laughing.
- Studies have shown that three things make us laugh the most: a sense of superiority over someone else behaving “dumber” than us; a difference between our expectation of something and the actual result; or welcome relief from an anxiety.
Learn to laugh in boring or unfunny circumstances.
It’s good to know that the less funny a place is, the easier it becomes to add the element of humourous surprise. It might be easier to get people to laugh about in an office workplace than to get people to laugh in a comedy club.
- This is why ”The Office”, the NBC show, uses an office as its setting: it’s about as boring as it gets. They even process paper. How boring is that?! We’re not used to looking at an office as a funny place, so when it is funny, it’s ”especially” funny.
Learn to appreciate witty wordplay and puns.
A lot of the time, comedy comes from linguistic confusion (unintentional) or linguistic playfulness (intentional). We sometimes find things humourous when there’s a gap between our words and our meanings.
- Freudian slips are linguistic errors that are believed to expose what you were ”really” thinking rather than what you “meant” to say, and are often of a sexual nature.
- Witty wordplay is more intentional: “A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.” Or this one, where the words “hockey” and “fight” are switched: “I went to a fight the other night and a hockey game broke out.”
There’s perhaps nothing in comedy more widely cited but more thoroughly misunderstood than irony. Irony occurs when there is a gap between our expectations of a statement, situation, or image and the actual experience of it.
- Comedian Jackie Mason illustrates irony with a joke: “My grandfather always said, ‘Don’t watch your money; watch your health.’ So one day while I was watching my health, someone stole my money. It was my grandfather.”
- This joke messes with one of our fundamental expectations: that grandparents are nice, friendly people who are utterly harmless, and that the advice they offer should be sincere.The joke is funny because, in it, we are presented with a grandparent who is rascally, thievish, and double-crossing.
- Look at the picture on the left of this. It’s one of my favorites, because I have twin daughters.
Trust in your inner sense of humour.
Being funny doesn’t come in a “one-size-fits-all” package. What makes you funny is unique to you and the way you observe the world. Trust that you do have a funny bone; as babies we laugh from 4 months of age, and all children express humour naturally from kindergarten age, using humour to entertain themselves and others. It’s already in you – you just need to bring it out!
If you have something to add, please leave a comment below !!!
Next part is going to be about developing a funny personality.