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Thread: what makes something funny

  1. #1 what makes something funny 
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    I have thought about this for a while and the way i see it anything that is funny is somehow making something seem less dangerous. If you have an example contradicting me please tell me.


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    I think you're way off there. You only have to think of some of the horrible jokes around, like concentration camp humour.
    Example :
    Commandant addresses the parade :
    Today, everyone will play squash.
    Hans, you will drive the steamroller !


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  4. #3  
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    Humour varies from culture to culture.
    I remember attending a lecture by the late Sir Edmund Hillary many years ago,and he talked of the Nepalese Sherpa sense of humour. It was very different. His attempts at jokes, western style, fell flat. But when a Sherpa porter fell over and broke his leg, and lay squirming on the ground in utter agony, all the other porters burst into laughter, considering it the funniest thing they had seen for ages.

    Humour is very obviously a social tool, to assist people to get along with each other, and a big part of the local sense of humour is learned, and is adapted to that culture. It changes. If you look at humorous books over the last 200 odd years, you will discover that the older books were not very funny. But they were probably hilarious at the time.

    Mistermack's prison camp joke would have fallen flat if it had been delivered to the prisoners at the time. Indeed, the jokester would have been lucky to escape with all limbs still attached.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Mistermack's prison camp joke would have fallen flat if it had been delivered to the prisoners at the time. Indeed, the jokester would have been lucky to escape with all limbs still attached.
    That might be right, but I'm not sure. I seem to remember reading of some incredibly grisly humour from people who experienced the camps. Even people who are slowly dying make bad jokes.

    That joke was from the sixties, I was scratching my head for a better one that involved an increase in danger, but my mind went blank.

    That was schoolboy humour back in the sixties, sick jokes were the norm, and political correctness did not exist.
    Which bears out what you were saying about jokes for cultures.
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    "dont make joke with king" it can cause your beheading. and it will be funny!!!!
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    Prince seems to recall explanation of humor as "interrupted defense mechanism", good topic worthy of further investigation. Humor frequently exploits embarrassing or absurd situations, and/or taboos, so, seems reasonable hypothesis at this point.

    Is life one long, bad, practical joke to which we already know the punchline? Is humor our way of responding in kind? Will Prince ever learn use of first person pronouns?

    Who knows?
    The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.- Thucydides
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    墨子 DaBOB's Avatar
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    Humor is so subjective. I, for example, often laugh at things that aren't supposed to be funny, as well as routinely make jokes that only I get. I've never been able to really laugh at Chinese humor, though I sometimes fake it hoping that one day I'll be able to laugh for real.
    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by LiamMcGoldrick View Post
    I have thought about this for a while and the way i see it anything that is funny is somehow making something seem less dangerous. If you have an example contradicting me please tell me.
    Interesting that you happen to use the word "contradict" because humor results when the consequences or reality contradict (or diverge from) our expectations, often in unexpected ways. Related to "cognitive dissonance".

    This explains everything that produces/results in humor/laughter — the grisly, the embarrassing, absurdities, elephant jokes, knock-knock jokes, stand-up comedy routines, etc. The punch-line exposes the contradiction/divergence, leaving the listener misled to the very end.

    If you can't see the contradiction/divergence in a "humorous" story or situation, then post it here, and I will show it to you.

    This also explains the rare occurrences of people laughing in tragic situations. The sherpa breaking his leg, or the airline passenger hearing the flight attendant warn everyone to assume the crash position, or the person informed that a dear relative/friend has just died, etc. Sure-footed sherpas, known for scampering up/down mountains, aren't supposed to break their legs by merely falling over (and they shouldn't be falling over either). Everyone hears about the dangers of flying, but no one actually ever experiences a crash (it "always" happens to someone else, not me). And loved ones obviously aren't supposed to die.

    Different cultures emphasize some contradictions/diverges over others, thus the difficulty in someone from one culture "getting" the humor of another culture.

    To laugh means to openly admit that this contradiction/divergence exists (if only in the mind of the one who laughs). Groups of laughing people mean that they all see the particular contradiction/divergence, they perceive the situation similarly, they're all of one mind about it, they're "on the same page", they can relate to one another, etc.

    This also explains the importance of having a sense of humor, people being able to laugh at themselves, not taking the world or themselves so seriously, etc. Otherwise the cognitive dissonance can intensify and become pathological and express itself in various negative emotions (anger, jealousy, disgust, embarrassment, suspiciousness, etc).

    Ha! I thought everyone knew this about humor.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaBOB View Post
    Humor is so subjective. I, for example, often laugh at things that aren't supposed to be funny, as well as routinely make jokes that only I get. I've never been able to really laugh at Chinese humor, though I sometimes fake it hoping that one day I'll be able to laugh for real.
    Chinese man is asked,"When do you have your elections?" replies "Evely molning."
    The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.- Thucydides
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Finger Prince View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by DaBOB View Post
    Humor is so subjective. I, for example, often laugh at things that aren't supposed to be funny, as well as routinely make jokes that only I get. I've never been able to really laugh at Chinese humor, though I sometimes fake it hoping that one day I'll be able to laugh for real.
    Chinese man is asked,"When do you have your elections?" replies "Evely molning."
    Well that is actually hilarious, but the Chinese man doesn't realize it's a joke. Just like when the Chinese man tells me some story about a baozi eating itself I find that I am not amused but hungry. I personally think making fun of accents is brilliant!
    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
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  12. #11  
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    Confuscius he say : Woman who sit on judge's lap get honourable discharge.
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    I have noticed that humour in the south of England is different from the North...At a motorcycle rally last summer I had a few Southerners camping next to me I heard one guy recaling the story of how they all left without him the year before and they were all rolling around laughing..But to us in the North , that would just be everyday pub banter...slightly amusing ,yes, but just a recollection of events and not particularly funny because its just one of those things that happen all the time..I also noticed that when my mates and I used humour involving irony then the Southerners just looked blankly at us and wondered what we all found so funny !
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    Prince has theory that he is very funny fellow and that anyone who disagrees must be sitting on their balls.

    LOGIC!
    The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.- Thucydides
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Finger Prince View Post
    Prince has theory that he is very funny fellow and that anyone who disagrees must be sitting on their balls.

    LOGIC!
    who is this prince you're referring to ? he seems like a funny fellow
    pity you're no match for him
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  16. #15  
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    He is trying. Very trying. You should try living with the bastard!
    The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.- Thucydides
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  17. #16  
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    fun is a highly relative term.
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  18. #17  
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    the way i see it is is cultural but because from culture to culture different things are seen as dangerous. Also an example of something that may seem to be more dangerous but is funny is the snl short where Andy Sandburg punches random people in the face but to me that makes the person being punched seem less dangerous and the person punching look dumber and therefore in some ways less dangerous the same thing can be applied to your steam roller joke
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    The element of surprise, sometime a physical event, sometimes a thought or both, seems essential to humor as well. Some primates share our humor traits as well so i might be a form of evolved behavior to social bonding. I've been all over the world and I think humor seems pretty much the same everywhere. If Hillery couldn't pull it off it's probably the fault of his translator--perhaps tipping the surprise or some other problem.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by LiamMcGoldrick View Post
    the way i see it is is cultural but because from culture to culture different things are seen as dangerous. Also an example of something that may seem to be more dangerous but is funny is the snl short where Andy Sandburg punches random people in the face but to me that makes the person being punched seem less dangerous and the person punching look dumber and therefore in some ways less
    dangerous the same thing can be applied to your steam roller joke


    I agree with this...I work in the health service in operating theatres and Find that people in our profession alongside paramedics ,doctors,firefighters etc tend to have our own culture of "gallows" humour.. some of the things we joke about would be seen as insensitive or cruel , even sick to people outside the profession. Its not funny to us because we are sick or because we are insensitive.. its funny and unthreatening because we KNOW what we do and that we DO care ! so we know there is no malice otherwise we wouldnt be doing what we do ! it's also Risque and daring like we are secretly daring each other to go a step nearer the mark..
    we even have our own humorous (to us)... abbreviations to describe conditions for eg... T.F.B.N.D.Y ( known as a T.F. BUNDY ) meaning "Totally F***ed But Not Dead Yet ".... you get the idea?
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    Quote Originally Posted by pipster View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LiamMcGoldrick View Post
    the way i see it is is cultural but because from culture to culture different things are seen as dangerous. Also an example of something that may seem to be more dangerous but is funny is the snl short where Andy Sandburg punches random people in the face but to me that makes the person being punched seem less dangerous and the person punching look dumber and therefore in some ways less
    dangerous the same thing can be applied to your steam roller joke


    I agree with this...I work in the health service in operating theatres and Find that people in our profession alongside paramedics ,doctors,firefighters etc tend to have our own culture of "gallows" humour.. some of the things we joke about would be seen as insensitive or cruel , even sick to people outside the profession. Its not funny to us because we are sick or because we are insensitive.. its funny and unthreatening because we KNOW what we do and that we DO care ! so we know there is no malice otherwise we wouldnt be doing what we do ! it's also Risque and daring like we are secretly daring each other to go a step nearer the mark..
    we even have our own humorous (to us)... abbreviations to describe conditions for eg... T.F.B.N.D.Y ( known as a T.F. BUNDY ) meaning "Totally F***ed But Not Dead Yet ".... you get the idea?
    that sounds like fun but when u said u sometimes see how far you can go it got me thinking and im starting to think that rather than humor makes things seem less dangerous i think the person who posted that humor is a contradiction is right but the way i see it we are both right if he is because finding out something you though was dangerous actually is not is a contradiction
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  22. #21  
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    Why is it funny when a guy gets hit in the stones? If we could figure that out then I think we'd have an answer.
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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