There it goes. You are hanging out with some guys. Having fun, making jokes. But now it’s your turn for a pun. Your punchline drops and….. “Chirp chirp”, crickets flock in the room.
What the heck happened?
What is this locust doing here?
Why don’t people laugh at your joke? Why do they start laughing at you?
The joke was good, you might even ripped it from some comedian.
While you giggle nervously, you leave with your tail between your legs. One minute later the cool kid cracks a worthless joke and everybody laughs? What is up with that?
I used to have that all the time back in high school. I knew I was witty and not afraid to show it among friends. At home, I could make everybody laugh. But at school, I bombed every time. The cool kids would have nothing of my witty remarks. Neglecting my verbal. As a reward for my witticisms, they would make the most worthless comebacks. Followed by pointing and laughing.
Apparently, there was more to it, than just being clever and funny to make people laugh.
So why didn’t people laugh? What other elements are involved in this elusive humor thing? A lot of the times laughing doesn’t even seem related to jokes. How is that? According to popular
According to theory, there are two overlapping basic instincts for laughter. Social standing and surprise (and maybe salads). Both can be combined in humor, but humor does not have to be part of it. Together these form an intricate psychological play that makes us laugh. From these two basic categories a few subcategories of laughter are defined:
- Solving a puzzle
#1 Reasons for Laughter -elements of making jokes
When you laugh out of surprise it is due to release of tension, like hiding our embarrassment. Accidently falling or dropping something causes you to laugh it off.
In a joke, you are tricked and laugh at an unexpected finale in the narrative. When repeating gags based on surprise, the twist will be expected. Thus not as funny anymore. So use your shockingly good unicorn jokes sparingly.
Source: Source: Bizarro
There is a major drive in people to feel superior. Or when feeling inferior, trying to bring others back to their level. That’s why many jokes are at someone’s expense.
You make sadistic remarks to feel better. Think about jokes were people make fun of minorities, the office loser or stupid people. You do it because it makes you feel better, more superior. You want to further elevate yourselve.
People with a higher perceived status use this tactic to maintain their position on the metaphorical podium. With an emphasis on perceived, status is a subjective social reality.
In addition, we make fun of celebrities, politicians or our boss. To drag them down to our level. Or at least in our imagination. Trying to compensate for the inferiority we feel because of their fame, influence or authority.
You have instinctive moments when you laugh as a reaction to certain situations. Other primates display certain laughing behavior as well. Think of apes showing their teeth to display dominance. When celebrating a triumph, you use jokes to display extra dominance. When you won a game and want to smear in our victory. Or when you lost trying to crack a joke to remain our dignity. Since humor is an acceptable way of attack. Though it is only accepted if others loath the object of disfavor as well.
1.4 Incongruity and Ambivalence
When stories, jokes or situations are incongruent or ambivalent we laugh.
Certain aspects can’t be rationally paired or are unclear in their meaning. Your mind makes you laugh as a reward. The theory states that as cognitive beings, we are limited in our reasoning. Evolution rewards you in moments you can’t rationally cope with unresolved issues.
This “error” and consequent dopamine reward due to incompatibility, is used by many comedians. All the random jokes you find on internet meme-hives are the basis of this bug/feature in our mind.
Source: Off the mark
1.5 Release of Tension
When you do something embarrassing or something awkward happened, you laugh it off. It is a way to defuse a situation.
As a tense situation is finally over you laugh in relief.
The comic relief is added in movies to release tension throughout an otherwise heavy or serious movie. Making it a more enjoyable than when all the suspense is cramped up. That is why thrillers don’t often have comic reliefs because the goal is to feel intense throughout the movie.
On a different scale, we love to laugh in groups. To release our collective anxiety together. That is why we gather in comedy cafe’s and watch comedies together. With the anticipation of relaxing through laughter.
1.6 Solving a Puzzle
When solving a complex endeavor. Or having an epiphany you can laugh. We are celebrating solving something complex. Making this a surprise andyou feeling superior. That is why buddha laughs all the time, he has seen the puzzle of the world fit together.
Humor is therapeutic as well. It can confront you with inconvenient truths. You can use it to introduce and accept uncomfortable facts. This is not always a productive way of coping. Imagine people who joke about their own insecurities. But take no part in their issues. On the other hand, it is a way ease into accepting your insecurities.
Wit is also used to relay harsh lessons of wisdom. Often harsh criticism doesn’t get accepted when just bluntly stated. With the ease of humor, it can be digested more easily. Take The Daily Show, it has confronted people for years with uncomfortable facts by making people laugh. This way people don’t shy away from reality but are more able to confront it. George Carlin and Bill Hicks are prime examples of comedians who use this. Truth through comedy.
So what of our sick sense of humor?
Lots of us have this sinister tendency to make inappropriate jokes. For a part, it is innate to us to relativize serious and negative experiences. Making us feel better through laughter. You can look at adversity more directly through humor. Seeing your true believes no one truly wants to express.
But on a more individual level. It is mostly to gain status, by finding respect or attention by shocking people. One gains ‘respect’ by the audacity of the joke, and surprise of the brutality.
Source: Cyanide and Happiness
#2 Social Standing and Laughing
So we skimmed the surface of the mechanics of laughter. Let’s elaborate a bit more on social standing, bonding and the connection with laughter. The act of laughing is a social behaviour. People are 30 times more likely to laugh when in company. Take note of how often you laugh alone compared to social situations. It really is a social interaction. A communication of status and moods, or the establishment thereof.
“People laugh when they’re interacting with other people regardless of the “jokiness”” –
As said, we like to feel superior or make others feel inferior. In a group with a clear hierarchy people often postpone laughing until the “silverback gorilla” starts laughing. Imagine a boardroom, only when the CEO laughs the rest feels allowed to laugh as well. When the junior associate walks in and cracks a joke, nobody will laugh due to the social hierarchy.
People look unconscious for social hierarchy cues and act accordingly. Laughing on your own terms in these situations can raise your perceived social standing with peers, but also bring you on the radar for the dominant player. Be it positive or negative.
When persons of similar or unknown perceived status meet, they try to figure out how to get along. When optimistically engaged, a positive atmosphere can be established through laughter. By stimulating pleasant emotions in others. And bond over the shared emotional experience. When a “laughter” transaction is done properly, people enjoy each others company more. This bonding is also used to try to get accepted. Lower standing people laugh nervously to try to fit in, trying to create positive feelings in superior people. Like cracking jokes, laugh themselves. This will get them accepted or neglected.
This bonding is used to try to get accepted. Lower standing people laugh nervously to try to fit in, trying to create positive feelings in superior people. Like cracking jokes, laugh themselves. Getting them accepted or neglected.
There is lot more nuance to this, but one thing is clear; laughter has many forms.
#3 Quick Implementation
So now we know a lot more about why we LOL, ROFL, LMAO and PMSL. But what can we do with this information? Here are a few action steps you can take, to up your witticism game!
- Laugh on your own terms.
Don’t laugh to get accepted, don’t laugh when “higher up” makes crappy remarks, don’t laugh when nervous
- When making jokes use a frame of superiority
- Use surprising twists in your stories.
- Relay wisdom or harsh confrontation supported by humor
don’t bombard people with knowledge or crass criticism and expect them to accept it.
- And wear a purple wizard hat
There is, of course, a more nuanced narrative to the different aspects of laughing, social status, and surprise. Understanding why people laugh will make it easier to understand why a joke bombs or wins. It has helped me to
It has helped me to recognize a lot more how people actually interact. How I can understand my own position and those of others. And improve on that. When trying to bond I joke around. It may get some getting used to, but not laughing at the guy you actually hate may tip the perceived social standings.
So tell me, how do you recognize the interplay of laughing, humor, and status in your life?