A Conversation for Ask h2g2

What is humor?

Post 1


Lately, I've been trying to understand why it is that people laugh at the things that they laugh at. We laugh at other people's pain, we even laugh when we're in pain rather often. Then we'll laugh at death as well, for example, if I told you that my duck drowned yesterday, you'd probably start laughing based on your character (and possibly how I said it). That gives us the fact that we laugh when someone is inconvenienced somehow. However, if this were all, we could write it all off as the polar opposite of sincerity. This is not the case, because then we run into jokes. Where do they come from, when do we decide that they're funny? There's dirty jokes, we all know what considers those dirty, but I don't understand why it's funny. There are actually some good clean jokes as well, they're typically not as funny as everything else I've mentioned that we laugh at, but many of them are indeed "funny". I looked through the guide to find answers, but none could be found. I consulted dictionary.com to see where it's roots come from, but nothing revealing about my question (which, by the way, is, "why"). So to you, I ask, "Why do we laugh at the things that we laugh at, why do we deem these things funny?"

What is humor?

Post 2


It is American for humour.

Laughter is a social signal brought about by a release of tension. Or if you prefer, you could read Freud's analysis.

What is humor?

Post 3

Lanzababy - Guide Editor

Hi Kurtis

Welcome to h2g2. It guess that you are not from the UK, by reason of the fact that you spell humour without the 'u'. smiley - smiley

Did you read this article A700958 on irony?

My personal belief is that humour is quite culturally specific and what others may find funny may not even make me smile in the slightest.

I love this site for instance, because there is a balance between the serious and the surreal, and sometimes they blur together in most wonderful mixtures.

Lanzababy smiley - elf

What is humor?

Post 4


So far every reply has alluded to the fact that the word `humour` was spelt wrong in the first post. I wonder how long we can keep this up, and whether the original poster appreciates it.

What is humor?

Post 5

Clive the flying ostrich: Amateur Polymath | Chief Heretic.

Dan Dennet is working on a book that is attempting to describe "funny"

He thinks it's all to do with rewards systems in the brain for decoding puzzles, being applied to novel creations.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzN-uIVkfjg (6.00 minutes in this video)

What is humor?

Post 6

Icy North

You destroy it by analysing it.

What is humor?

Post 7


Aside from the question of how to spell humour, Kurtis raises a very interesting, er, question. In general humour seems to be a reaction to things not being normal or how they should be. I think it is a sort of distortion of outrage, in a way.

What is humor?

Post 8


It`s a very interesting question. Humour seems to be linked to finding things incongruous or not as they should be. That seems to be the basis of every joke. There may be a connection with fear or danger. The response to comedy, laughter, can resemble the response to great distress, crying and hysteria.

What is humor?

Post 9

Clive the flying ostrich: Amateur Polymath | Chief Heretic.

In that Dennet video, he uses a far side cartoon to suggest the nature of 'debugging' = funny.

This is the cartoon.


Yes, it's funny I still find it funny, I also marvel at how it requires 3 levels of intentionality to get the joke.

(I can understand the dog wants revenge on the cat. The cat is cautious so the dog has had to use a lure.) - read the scrawled signs, read the dog's thought bubble, look at the cat. boom. Funny.

Humour, like Shakepeare would be wasted on a chimp.

What is humor?

Post 10


This one makes me chuckle

What is humor?

Post 11

Clive the flying ostrich: Amateur Polymath | Chief Heretic.

smiley - laugh


What is humor?

Post 12


This is a better one of it

What is humor?

Post 13

Clive the flying ostrich: Amateur Polymath | Chief Heretic.

I've cried at this, I think it's so funny. I don't know where you'd begin starting to analyse it, I suppose empathy.


What is humor?

Post 14

Rudest Elf

I don't think any amount of analysis could spoil the following joke posted to the 'Tell Us A Joke' thread by Raymond the Curmudgeon, a few days ago:

smiley - rofl

smiley - reindeer

What is humor?

Post 15


They key to most humour seems to be absurdity in some form.

What is humor?

Post 16


Yes, as you all have noticed, I am indeed an american. That's obviously aside from the point, however. Thank you though, to those of you who didn't go completely off-topic. At the very least, you gave me somewhere to start looking. And that article A700958 on irony, I think will serve very well. I'll try to dig up as much as I can and eventually post it to the site.

What is humor?

Post 17



I rather like 'Juxtaposition of the Incongruous'

smiley - biggrin

What is humor?

Post 18

Clive the flying ostrich: Amateur Polymath | Chief Heretic.

Your welcome Kurtis. Come back any time. smiley - smiley

>completely off-topic.<

That's sort sort of a raison detre for this place! smiley - silly The discussion has been remarkably restrained under the circumstances! smiley - laugh

If you feel in future posts you want to fear topic-drift is detracting and wish to reign conversation back in there is a special smiley for just that purpose:

smiley - offtopic

Clive smiley - ok

What is humor?

Post 19

A Super Furry Animal

>> That gives us the fact that we laugh when someone is inconvenienced somehow. <<


RFsmiley - evilgrin

What is humor?

Post 20


Ewwww. smiley - laugh

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