Why We Laugh
What makes something funny? It’s usually something that is a surprise, maybe something absurd. Those of us who like surprises do so because they challenge our thinking like verbal punch lines, slapstick, and other humour, like April Fool’s pranks.
Another thing that makes people laugh is exposing others’ shortcomings. I guess that works if for some weird reason you need to feel superior to others.
We can also be tickled because something is a sort of release valve for our inner desires or secret thoughts, like sexual or scatalogical humour. There’s a two-year-old in all of us who spent a lot of time thinking about our diaper and what was in it.
Some people laugh at jokes that are easy to predict and that turns out to be some sort of self-validation: see how clever I am to have seen this coming?
Personally, I laugh hardest at my own stupidity.
Which kind of jokes tickle us the most is a good clue about the inner workings of our minds. Laugh all you can and want, but maybe ask yourselves why the laughter came.
Humour can be pretty useful at times. This week I ended up having my second ever argument with the person I have described as my best friend. To his credit, he repeatedly used humour throughout the interaction to diffuse tensions.
Jokes can create a bond. A few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I went to a fast food place late at night. Half the tables had trays that hadn’t been cleaned off. She started to tear pieces off the hamburger bun and tossing them in the air. I flicked a piece of bread to her and it bounced off her head into her drink. Two 60-ish ladies having a food fight at Mickey D’s. Sometimes you just need to be absurd.
Scientists have been studying what makes us laugh since Aristotle and modern scholars have come up with the scientifically-proven funniest joke in the world (seriously – Google it):
Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He’s not breathing and his eyes are glazed, so his friend calls 911. “My friend is dead! What should I do?” The operator replies, “Calm down, sir. I can help. First make sure that he’s dead.” There’s a silence, then a loud bang. Back on the phone, the guy says, “Ok, now what?”
Works for me – two fewer idiots out there with guns!
Manon is a resident of Boyle Street and an active volunteer in the community. This column contains her own opinions, and is not affiliated with the Boyle Street Community League.