On Humor - Chez Goodman 
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 Essay  Description
 *On Opinions  A disclaimer and introduction to these essays.
 *On Identity  Some of my thoughts on identity.
 *On God  Some of my thoughts on the nature of God.
 *On Life  Some of my thoughts on the meaning of life.
 *On Humor  Some of my thoughts on humor.
 *On Guns  Some of my thoughts on guns and gun control.

Some Thoughts On Humor

Splat I love humor and comedy. Laughter is a lubricant that helps you slip past the bad times (but can also make you fall flat on your face). Humor is like art: you may not understand it, but you know what you like. I still don't understand all the elements of humor, but I'll share what I think about it so far.

Humor is about things that are wrong. Point to anything that's funny, and you'll find something absurd, incorrect or undesirable. Since we're all very different in many ways, with different opinions of what's absurd, incorrect or undesirable, we find humor in different things.

For instance, if you saw a picture of an octopus taking a woman to the theater, that's so unlikely to happen that you might find it amusing. On the other hand, if you're an octopus yourself, you might not find it so funny. Laughter is a voice in your head saying, "That's just wrong!"

Humor is like a tickle. Too subtle, and there's no response. Hit a nerve and the response is more pain than pleasure, but if the tickle is just right the response can vary from giggles to guffaws, and it can build up so that it's easier and easier to amuse. It's even infectious: if you hear others laughing it makes what's being said more humorous.

Another element of humor is timing. Surprise can be vital to a joke. Many jokes have a common structure. Like a micro-story, they describe the place and players: "A duck goes into a bar." Then they set up the plot: "The duck asks the bartender for a drink, and the bartender asks if the duck has any money." (Notice how absurd this is? It's already humorous.) Then it concludes with a jarring punchline: The duck replies, "Just put it on my bill."

Copyright © 2004 David K. Goodman. All Rights Reserved.
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