Friday, May 21, 2010

Do you wanna hear a long joke?

A joke is a short story or series of words spoken or communicated with the intent of being laughed at or found humorous by either listener/reader or performer/writer. A practical joke differs in that the humor is not verbal, but mainly physical (e.g. throwing a custard pie in the direction of somebody's face). Some jokes are not funny.

Jokes are performed either in a staged situation, such as a comedy in front of an audience, or informally for the entertainment of participants and onlookers. The desired response is generally laughter, although loud groans are also a common response to some forms of jokes, such as puns and shaggy dog stories.

Why we laugh has been the subject of serious academic study, examples being:

Immanuel Kant, in Critique of Judgement (1790) states that "Laughter is an effect that arises if a tense expectation is transformed into nothing." Here is Kant's two hundred and seventeen year old joke and his analysis:

"An Indian at an Englishman's table in Surat saw a bottle of ale being opened, and all the beer, turned to froth, rushed out. The Indian, by repeated exclamations, showed his great amazement. - Well, what's so amazing in that? asked the Englishman. - Oh, but I'm not amazed at its coming out, replied the Indian, but how you managed to get it all in. - This makes us laugh, and it gives us a hearty pleasure. This is not because, say, we think we are smarter than this ignorant man, nor are we laughing at anything else here that it is our liking and that we noticed through our understanding. It is rather that we had a tense expectation that suddenly vanished..."

Henri Bergson, in his book Le rire (Laughter, 1901), suggests that laughter evolved to make social life possible for human beings.

Sigmund Freud's "Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious".

Arthur Koestler, in The Act of Creation (1964), analyzes humor and compares it to other creative activities, such as literature and science.

Marvin Minsky in Society of Mind (1986).

Marvin Minsky suggests that laughter has a specific function related to the human brain. In his opinion jokes and laughter are mechanisms for the brain to learn nonsense. For that reason, he argues, jokes are usually not as funny when you hear them repeatedly.

Edward de Bono in "The Mechanism of the Mind" (1969) and "I am Right, You are Wrong" (1990).

Edward de Bono suggests that the mind is a pattern-matching machine, and that it works by recognizing stories and behavior and putting them into familiar patterns. When a familiar connection is disrupted and an alternative unexpected new link is made in the brain via a different route than expected, then laughter occurs as the new connection is made. This theory explains a lot about jokes. For example:

Why jokes are only funny the first time they are told: once they are told the pattern is already there, so there can be no new connections, and so no laughter.

Why jokes have an elaborate and often repetitive set up: The repetition establishes the familiar pattern in the brain. A common method used in jokes is to tell almost the same story twice and then deliver the punch line the third time the story is told. The first two tellings of the story evoke a familiar pattern in the brain, thus priming the brain for the punch line.

Why jokes often rely on stereotypes: the use of a stereotype links to familiar expected behavior, thus saving time in the set-up.

Why jokes are variants on well-known stories (eg the genie and a lamp): This again saves time in the set up and establishes a familiar pattern.

In 2002, Richard Wiseman conducted a study intended to discover the world's funniest joke [1].

Laughter, the intended human reaction to jokes, is healthful in moderation, uses the stomach muscles, and releases endorphins, natural happiness-inducing chemicals, into the bloodstream.

One of the most complete and informative books on different types of jokes and how to tell them is Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor (1971), which encompasses several broad categories of humor, and gives useful tips on how to tell them, whom to tell them to, and ways to change the joke to fit one's audience.

[edit] Rules

The rules of humor are analogous to those of poetry, as said the French philosopher Henri Bergson: "In every wit there is something of a poet"[1](In this essay Bergson viewed the essence of humour as the encrustation of the mechanical upon the living. He used as an instance a book by an English humorist, in which an elderly woman who desired a reputation as a philanthropist provided "homes within easy hail of her mansion for the conversion of atheists who have been specially manufactured for her, so to speak, and for a number of honest folk who have been made into drunkards so that she may cure them of their failing, etc." This idea seems funny because a genuine impulse of charity as a living, vital impulse has become encrusted by a mechanical conception of how it should manifest itself.) These common rules are mainly: precision, synthesis and rhythm.

Speed also plays a role, such as enhancing the laugh effect. As Mack Sennett showed in his works, the more frantic the funnier.

[edit] Exactness

To reach exactness, the comedian must choose the words in order to obtain a vivid, perfectly in focus image, and to avoid being generic (that drives the audience confused, and results in no laugh); to properly arrange the words in the sentence is also crucial to get exactness. An example by Woody Allen (from Side Effects, "A Giant Step for Mankind" story [2]):

“ Grasping the mouse firmly by the tail, I snapped it like a small whip, and the morsel of cheese came loose. ”

[edit] Synthesis

As Shakespeare said in Hamlet, "Brevity is the soul of wit"[2]. That means that a joke is best when it expresses the maximum meaning with a minimal number of words; this is today considered one of the key technical elements of a joke. An example from Woody Allen:

“ I took a speed reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia. ”

Though, the familiarity of the pattern of "brevity" has lead to numerous examples of jokes where the very length is itself the pattern breaking "punchline". Numerous examples from Monty Python exist, for instance, the song "I Like Traffic Lights", and more modernly, Family Guy contains numerous such examples, most notably, in the episode Wasted Talent where Peter Griffin bangs his shin, a classic slapstick trope, and holds his shin whilst exhaling and inhaling to quiet the pain. This goes on for considerably longer than expected. This joke is repeated again in the fourth season in the episode Brian Goes Back to College when Peter is dressed as John "Hannibal" Smith from The A-Team.

[edit] Rhythm

Main articles: Timing (linguistics) and Comic timing

The joke content (meaning) is not what provokes the laugh, it just makes the salience of the joke and provokes a smile. What makes us laugh is the joke mechanism. Milton Berle demonstrated this with a classic theatre experiment in the 1950s: if during a series of jokes you insert phrases that are not jokes, but with the same rhythm, the audience laughs anyway. A classic is the ternary rhythm, with three beats: introduction, premise, antithesis (with the antithesis being the punch line).

In regards to the Milton Berle experiment, they can be taken to demonstrate the concept of "breaking context" or "breaking the pattern". It isn't necessarily the Rhythm that caused the audience to laugh, but the disparity between the expectation of a "joke" and being instead given a non-sequitur "normal phrase." This normal phrase is, itself, unexpected, and is a kind of punchline.

[edit] Conclusions

When a technically-good joke is referred changing it with paraphrasing, it is not laughable anymore; this is because the paraphrase, changing some term or moving it within the sentence, breaks the joke mechanism (its vividness, brevity and rhythm), and its power and effectiveness are lost. Douglas Adams described sentences where the joke word is the final word as "comically weighted." This saves the "payoff" until the last possible moment, allowing the expectation for surprise to reach its highest point, while the mind is more firmly rooted in the pattern established by the rest of the sentence. [citation needed]

[edit] Why do we laugh (model of appreciation)

No satisfactory theory of laughter that explains why humans laugh has yet gained wide acceptance.

Some of the prominent explanations (that is a humor appreciation model) comes from part of the ideas contained in the psychology essay Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, by Sigmund Freud (1905) [3].

According to Freud's operational description, we laugh when the unconscious energy emerges to reach the conscious mind; and it reaches it unexpectedly thanks to the techniques used by the comedian. This exceeding energy is rapidly discharged in the form of laughter.

Freud distinguishes three fields: the comic, the wit, and the humor.

[edit] Comic

In the comic field plays the 'economy of ideative expenditure'; in other words excessive energy is wasted or action-essential energy is saved. The profound meaning of a comic gag or a comic joke is "I'm a child"; the comic deals with the clumsy body of the child.

Laurel and Hardy are a classic example. An individual laughs because he recognizes the child that is in himself. In clowns stumbling is a childish tempo. In the comic, the visual gags may be translated into a joke. For example in Side Effects (By Destiny Denied story) by Woody Allen:

“ "My father used to wear loafers," she confessed. "Both on the same foot". ”

The typical comic technique is the disproportion.

[edit] Wit

In the wit field plays the "economy of censorship expenditure"[3](Freud literally calls it "the economy of psychic expenditure".); usually censorship prevents some 'dangerous ideas' from reaching the conscious mind, or helps us avoid saying everything that comes to mind; adversely, the wit circumvents the censorship and brings up those ideas. Different wit techniques allow one to express them in a funny way. The profound meaning behind a wit joke is "I have dangerous ideas". An example from Woody Allen:

“ I contemplated suicide again - this time by inhaling next to an insurance salesman. ”

Wit is a branch of rhetoric, and there are about 200 techniques (technically they are called tropes, a particular kind of figure of speech) that can be used to make jokes[4].

Irony can be seen as belonging to this field.

[edit] Humor

In the comedy field, humor induces an "economized expenditure of emotion" (Freud literally calls it "economy of affect" or "economy of sympathy". Freud produced this final part of his interpretation many years later, in a paper later supplemented to the book.).[3][5] In other words, the joke erases an emotion that should be felt about an event, making us insensitive to it. The profound meaning of the void feel of a humor joke is "I'm a cynic". An example from Woody Allen:

“ Three times I've been mistaken for Robert Redford. Each time by a blind person. ”

This field of jokes is still a grey area, being mostly unexplored. Extensive use of this kind of humor can be found in the work of British satirist Chris Morris, like the sketches of the Jam television program.

Black humor and sarcasm belong to this field.

[edit] Cycles

Folklorists, in particular (but not exclusively) those who study the folklore of the United States, collect jokes into joke cycles. A cycle is a collection of jokes with a particular theme or a particular "script". (That is, it is a literature cycle.)[6] Folklorists have identified several such cycles:

the elephant joke cycle that began in 1962

the Helen Keller Joke Cycle that comprises jokes about Helen Keller[7]

viola jokes[8]

the NASA, Challenger, or Space Shuttle Joke Cycle that comprises jokes relating to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster[9][10][11]

the Chernobyl Joke Cycle that comprises jokes relating to the Chernobyl disaster[12]

the Polish Pope Joke Cycle that comprises jokes relating to Pope John Paul II[13]

the Essex girl and the Stupid Irish joke cycles in the United Kingdom[14]

the Dead Baby Joke Cycle[15]

the Newfie Joke Cycle that comprises jokes made by Canadians about Newfoundlanders[16]

the Little Willie Joke Cycle, and the Quadriplegic Joke Cycle[17]

the Jew Joke Cycle and the Polack Joke Cycle[18]

the Rastus and Liza Joke Cycle, which Dundes describes as "the most vicious and widespread white anti-***** joke cycle"[19]

the Radio Erevan (or Yerevan) Joke Cycle, which satirizes Radio Yerevan as offering naive or stupid answers to questions from its listeners, answers that often satirize Communism, Marxism, Socialism, Russian society, or Russian institutions[20]

the Jewish American Princess (or JAP) Joke Cycle that appeared in the late 1970s, comprising jokes about a JAP who is "vain, pampered, spoiled, sexually manipulative, materialistic, bossy, uncultured, loud, overdressed and bedecked with jewels, a bubble-head, a younger version of the Jewish wife, and spoiled by a doting father"[21]

Gruner discusses several "sick joke" cycles that occurred upon events surrounding Gary Hart, Natalie Wood, Vic Morrow, Jim Bakker, Richard Pryor, and Michael Jackson, noting how several jokes were recycled from one cycle to the next. For example: A joke about Vic Morrow ("We now know that Vic Morrow had dandruff: they found his head and shoulders in the bushes") was subsequently recycled and applied to the crew of the Challenger space shuttle ("How do we know that Christa McAuliffe had dandruff? They found her head and shoulders on the beach.").[22]

Berger asserts that "whenever there is a popular joke cycle, there generally is some widespread kind of social and cultural anxiety, lingering below the surface, that the joke cycle helps people deal with".[23]

[edit] Types of jokes

Jokes often depend on the humor of the unexpected, the mildly taboo (which can include the distasteful or socially improper), or playing off stereotypes and other cultural beliefs. Many jokes fit into more than one category.

[edit] Subjects

Political jokes are usually a form of satire. They generally concern politicians and heads of state, but may also cover the absurdities of a country's political situation. Two large categories of this type of jokes exist. The first one makes fun of a negative attitude to political opponents or to politicians in general. The second one makes fun of political clichés, mottos, catch phrases or simply blunders of politicians. Some, especially the you have two cows genre, derive humor from comparing different political systems.

Professional humor includes caricatured portrayals of certain professions such as lawyers, and in-jokes told by professionals to each other.

Mathematical jokes are a form of in-joke, generally designed to be understandable only by insiders.

Ethnic jokes exploit ethnic stereotypes. They are often racist and frequently considered offensive.

For example, the British tell jokes starting "An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman..." which exploit the supposed parsimony of the Scot, stupidity of the Irish, or some combination. The British find humor in poking fun at any race, including their own, although this statement is a gross generalisation. Such jokes exist among numerous peoples.

Additionally, many cultures have Black jokes, which exploit the supposed stupidity and/or supposed incompetence of people of African descent.

Racially offensive humor is increasingly unacceptable, but there are similar jokes based on other stereotypes such as blonde jokes.

Religious jokes fall into several categories:

Jokes based on stereotypes associated with people of religion (e.g. nun jokes, priest jokes, or rabbi jokes)

Jokes on classical religious subjects: crucifixion, Adam and Eve, St. Peter at The Gates, etc.

Jokes that collide different religious denominations: "A rabbi, a medicine man, and a pastor went fishing..."

Letters and addresses to God.

Self-deprecating or self-effacing humor is superficially similar to racial and stereotype jokes, but involves the targets laughing at themselves. It is said to maintain a sense of perspective and to be powerful in defusing confrontations. Probably the best-known and most common example is Jewish humor. The egalitarian tradition was strong among the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe in which the powerful were often mocked subtly. Prominent members of the community were kidded during social gatherings, part a good-natured tradition of humor as a leveling device. A similar situation exists in the Scandinavian "Ole and Lena" joke.

Self-deprecating humor has also been used by politicians, who recognize its ability to acknowledge controversial issues and steal the punch of criticism - for example, when Abraham Lincoln was accused of being two-faced he replied, "If I had two faces, do you think this is the one I’d be wearing?".

Dirty jokes are based on taboo, often sexual, content or vocabulary. Many dirty jokes are also sexist.

Other taboos are challenged by sick jokes and gallows humor; to joke about disability is considered in this group.

Surrealist or minimalist jokes exploit semantic inconsistency, for example: Q: What's red and invisible? A: No tomatoes..

Anti Jokes are jokes that aren't funny in normal sense, and often can be decidedly unfunny, but rely on absurdity, surrealism and abstractness of the joke or situation to provide entertainment.

An elephant joke is a joke, almost always a riddle or conundrum and often a sequence of connected riddles, that involves an elephant.

[edit] Styles

The question / answer joke, sometimes posed as a common riddle, has a supposedly straight question and an answer which is twisted for humorous effect; puns are often employed. Of this type are knock-knock joke, lightbulb joke, the many variations on "why did the chicken cross the road?", and the class of "What's the difference between..." joke, where the punch line is often a pun or a spoonerism linking two apparently entirely unconnected concepts.

Some jokes require a double act, where one respondent (usually the straight man) can be relied on to give the correct response to the person telling the joke. This is more common in performance than informal joke-telling.

A shaggy dog story is an extremely long and involved joke with a weak or completely nonexistent punchline. The humor lies in building up the audience's anticipation and then letting them down completely. The longer the story can continue without the audience realising it is a joke, and not a serious anecdote, the more successful it is. Shaggy jokes appear to date from the 1930s, although there are several competing variants for the "original" shaggy dog story. According to one, an advertisement is placed in a newspaper, searching for the shaggiest dog in the world. The teller of the joke then relates the story of the search for the shaggiest dog in extreme and exaggerated detail (flying around the world, climbing mountains, fending off sabre-toothed tigers, etc); a good teller will be able to stretch the story out to over half an hour. When the winning dog is finally presented, the advertiser takes a look at the dog and states: "I don't think he's so shaggy"Comedy has a classical meaning (comical theatre) and a popular one (the use of humour with an intent to provoke laughter in general). In the theater, its Western origins are in ancient Greece, like tragedy, a genre characterised by a grave fall from grace by a protagonist having high social standing. Comedy, in contrast, portrays a conflict or agon (Classical Greek ἀγών) between a young hero and an older authority, a confrontation described by Northrop Frye as a struggle between a "society of youth" and a "society of the old". A more recent development is to regard this struggle as a mere pretext for disguise, a comical device centered on uncertainties regarding the meaning of social identity. The basis of comedy would then be a plot mechanism conceived to engender misunderstandings either about a hero's identity or about social being in general. [1]

Returning to the popular term comedy, it is known to be difficult to describe. Humor being subjective, one may or may not find something humorous because it is either too offensive or not offensive enough. Comedy is judged according to a person’s taste. Some enjoy cerebral fare such as irony or black comedy; others may prefer scatological humor (e.g. the "fart joke") or slapstick. A common gender stereotype that plays on this convention is that men love the comedy of The Three Stooges, while women do not.[citation needed]

While hard to pin down, it can safely be said that most good comedy, as with a good joke, contains within it variations on the elements of surprise, incongruity, conflict, and the effect of opposite expectations. The audience becomes a part of the experience, if it is to be successful. Sometimes, it is the fulfillment of the expectation which is part of the experience, such as the long "take" of a Jack Benny, resolved, paradoxically, when the expected happens. Comedy is a serious business, and one only knows it when one sees it or hears it.

Comedy is the term applied to theatrical dramas, the chief object of which are to amuse. It is contrasted on the one hand with tragedy and on the other with farce, burlesque, and so on. As compared with tragedy, it is distinguished by having a (the comedies).

[edit] Derivation

The word "comedy" is derived from the Classical Greek κωμῳδία, which is a compound either of κῶμος (revel) or κώμη (village) and ᾠδή (singing): it is possible that κῶμος itself is derived from κώμη, and originally meant a village revel.

In ancient Greece, comedy seems to have originated in bawdy and ribald songs or recitations apropos of fertility festivals or gatherings, or also in poking fun at other people or stereotypes.[2]

Aristotle, in his Poetics, tells us the same: that comedy originated in Phallic songs and the light treatment of the otherwise base and ugly. He also adds that the origins of comedy are obscure because it was not treated seriously.[3]

P.W. Buckham writes that "the lighter sort of Iambic became Comic poets, the graver became Tragic instead of Heroic".[4]

The word comes into modern usage through the Latin comoedia and Italian commedia. It has passed through various shades of meaning. In the middle ages it meant simply a story with a happy ending. Thus some of Chaucer's tales are called comedies, and in this sense Dante used the term in the title of his poem, La Commedia (cf. his Epistola X., in which he speaks of the comic style as "loqutio vulgaris, in qua et mulierculae communicant"; again "comoedia vero remisse et humiliter"; "differt a tragoedia per hoc, quod t. in principio est admirabilis et quieta, in fine sive exitu est foetida et horribilis"). Subsequently the term is applied to mystery plays with a happy ending. The modern usage combines this sense with that in which Renaissance scholars applied it to the ancient comedies.

The adjective "comic" (Greek κωμικός), which strictly means that which relates to comedy, is in modern usage generally confined to the sense of "laughter-provoking": it is distinguished from "humorous" or "witty" inasmuch as it is applied to an incident or remark which provokes spontaneous laughter without a special mental effort. The phenomena connected with laughter and that which provokes it, the comic, have been carefully investigated by psychologists, in contrast with other phenomena connected with the emotions. It is very generally agreed that the predominating characteristics are incongruity or contrast in the object, and shock or emotional seizure on the part of the subject. It has also been held that the feeling of superiority is an essential, if not the essential, factor: thus Hobbes speaks of laughter as a "sudden glory." Physiological explanations have been given by Kant, Spencer and Darwin. Modern investigators have paid much attention to the origin both of laughter and of smiling, the development of the "play instinct" and its emotional expression. Comedy has a classical meaning (comical theatre) and a popular one (the use of humour with an intent to provoke laughter in general). In the theater, its Western origins are in ancient Greece, like tragedy, a genre characterised by a grave fall from grace by a protagonist having high social standing.

Humour (also spelled humor) is the ability or quality of people, objects, or situations to evoke feelings of amusement in other people. The term encompasses a form of entertainment or human communication which evokes such feelings, or which makes people laugh or feel happy. The origin of the term derives from the humoral medicine of the ancient Greeks, which stated that a mix of fluids known as humours (Greek: χυμός, chymos, literally: juice or sap, metaphorically: flavour) controlled human health and emotion.

A sense of humour is the ability to experience humour, a quality which all people share, although the extent to which an individual will personally find something humorous depends on a host of absolute and relative variables, including geographical location, culture, maturity, level of education, and context. For example, young children (of any background) particularly favour slapstick, such as Punch and Judy puppet shows. Satire may rely more on understanding the target of the humour, and thus tends to appeal to more mature audiences.

Figure of speech

Humorous triple and paraprosdokian


Syllepsis (zeugma)



Inherently funny words with sounds that make them amusing in the language of delivery

Irony, where a statement or situation implies both a superficial and a concealed meaning which are at odds with each other.


Adages, often in the form of paradox "laws" of nature, such as Murphy's law or lemon law

Stereotyping, such as blonde jokes, lawyer jokes, racial jokes, viola jokes.

Sick Jokes, arousing humour through grotesque, violent or exceptionally cruel scenarios. Soldiers in the field of battle often use 'trench humour' to keep morale up in appalling circumstances.


Word play





Exaggerated or unexpected gestures and movements

Character driven, deriving humour from the way characters act in specific situations, without punchlines. Exemplified by The Larry Sanders Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Clash of context humour, such "fish out of water"

Comic sounds

Deliberate ambiguity and confusion with reality, often performed by Andy Kaufman

Unintentional humour, that is, making people laugh without intending to (as with Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space)

Funny pictures: Photos or drawings/caricatures that are intentionally or unintentionally humorous.

Sight gags

Visual humour[citation needed]: Similar to the sight gag, but encompassing narrative in theatre or comics, or on film or video.

Understanding humour

Some claim that humour cannot or should not be explained. Author E. B. White once said that "Humour can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind." However, attempts to do just that have been made.

The term "humour" as formerly applied in comedy, referred to the interpretation of the sublime and the ridiculous. In this context, humour is often a subjective experience as it depends on a special mood or perspective from its audience to be effective. Arthur Schopenhauer lamented the misuse of the term (the German loanword from English) to mean any type of comedy.

Language is an approximation of thoughts through symbolic manipulation, and the gap between the expectations inherent in those symbols and the breaking of those expectations leads to laughter (This is true for many emotions, and is not limited to laughter)[citation needed]. Irony is explicitly this form of comedy, whereas slapstick takes more passive social norms relating to physicality and plays with them[citation needed]. In other words, comedy is a sign of a 'bug' in the symbolic make-up of language, as well as a self-correcting mechanism for such bugs[citation needed]. Once the problem in meaning has been described through a joke, people immediately begin correcting their impressions of the symbols that have been mocked. This is one explanation why jokes are often funny only when told the first time.

Another explanation is that humour frequently contains an unexpected, often sudden, shift in perspective. Nearly anything can be the object of this perspective twist. This, however, does not explain why people being humiliated and verbally abused, without it being unexpected or a shift in perspective, is considered funny - ref. The Office.

Another explanation is that the essence of humour lies in two ingredients; the relevance factor and the surprise factor. First, something familiar (or relevant) to the audience is presented. (However, the relevant situation may be so familiar to the audience that it doesn't always have to be presented, as occurs in absurd humour, for example). From there, they may think they know the natural follow-through thoughts or conclusion. The next principal ingredient is the presentation of something different from the audience's expectations, or else the natural result of interpreting the original situation in a different, less common way (see twist or surprise factor). For example:

“ A man speaks to his doctor after an operation. He says, "Doc, now that the surgery is done, will I be able to play the piano?" The doctor replies, "Of course!" The man says, "Good, because I couldn't before!" ”

The Simpsons is noted for using this technique many times to evoke humour. Former show runner David Mirkin often refers to it as the “screw-you-audience” joke. A prime example is in the episode "And Maggie Makes Three", wherein Patty and Selma are about to expose the secret of Marge's pregnancy:

Selma: (Looking at the very beginning of the phonebook) "Hi Mr. Aaronson, I'd like to inform you that Marge Simpson is pregnant."

Selma: (Looking exhausted at the very end of the phonebook) "Just thought you'd like to know, Mr. Zackowski. There! Aaronson and Zackowski are the town's biggest gossips. Within an hour, everyone will know.

Both explanations can be put under the general heading of "failed expectations". In language, or a situation with a relevance factor, or even a sublime setting, an audience has a certain expectation. If these expectations fail in a way that has some credulity, humour results. It has been postulated that the laughter/feel good element of humour is a biological function that helps one deal with the new, expanded point of view: a lawyer thinks differently than a priest or rabbi (below), a banana peel on the floor could be dangerous. This is why some link of credulity is important rather than any random line being a punchline.

For this reason, many jokes work in threes. For instance, a class of jokes exists beginning with the formulaic line "A priest, a rabbi, and a lawyer are sitting in a bar..." (or close variations on this). Typically, the priest will make a remark, the rabbi will continue in the same vein, and then the lawyer will make a third point that forms a sharp break from the established pattern, but nonetheless forms a logical (or at least stereotypical) response. Example of a variation:

“ A gardener, an architect, and a lawyer are discussing which of their vocations is the most ancient. The gardener comments, "My vocation goes back to the Garden of Eden, when God told Adam to tend the garden." The architect comments, "My vocation goes back to the creation, when God created the world itself from primordial chaos." They both look curiously at the lawyer, who asks, "And who do you think created the primordial chaos?" ”

In this vein of thought, knowing a punch line in advance, or some situation which would spoil the delivery of the punchline, can destroy the surprise factor, and in turn destroy the entertainment value or amusement the joke may have otherwise provided. Conversely, a person previously holding the same unexpected conclusions or secret perspectives as a comedian could derive amusement from hearing those same thoughts expressed and elaborated. That there is commonality, unity of thought, and an ability to openly analyse and express these (where secrecy and inhibited exploration was previously thought necessary) can be both the relevance and the surprise factors in these situations. This phenomenon explains much of the success of comedians who deal with same-gender and same-culture audiences on gender conflicts and cultural topics, respectively.

Notable studies of humour have come from the pens of Aristotle in The Poetics (Part V) and of Schopenhauer.

There also exist linguistic and psycholinguistic studies of humour, irony, parody and pretence. Prominent theoreticians in this field include Raymond Gibbs, Herbert Clark, Michael Billig, Willibald Ruch, Victor Raskin, Eliot Oring, and Salvatore Attardo. Although many writers have emphasised the positive or cathartic effects of humour some, notably Billig, have emphasised the potential of humour for cruelty and its involvement with social control and regulation.

A number of science fiction writers have explored the theory of humour. In Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein proposes that humour comes from pain, and that laughter is a mechanism to keep us from crying. Isaac Asimov, on the other hand, proposes (in his first jokebook, Treasury of Humor) that the essence of humour is anticlimax: an abrupt change in point of view, in which trivial matters are suddenly elevated in importance above those that would normally be far more important.

Approaches to a general theory of humour have generally referred to analogy or some kind of analogical process of mapping structure from one domain of experience onto another. An early precursor of this approach would be Arthur Koestler, who identified humour as one of three areas of human creativity (science and art being the other two) that use structure mapping (then termed "bisociation" by Koestler) to create novel meanings[1]. Tony Veale, who is taking a more formalised computational approach than Koestler did, has written on the role of metaphor and metonymy in humour[2][3][4], using inspiration from Koestler as well as from Dedre Gentner´s theory of structure-mapping, George Lakoff´s and Mark Johnson´s theory of conceptual metaphor and Mark Turner´s and Gilles Fauconnier´s theory of conceptual blending.

Humour evolution

As any form of art, humour techniques evolve through time. Perception of humour varies greatly among social demographics and indeed from person to person. Throughout history comedy has been used as a form of entertainment all over the world, whether in the courts of the kings or the villages of the far east. Both a social etiquette and a certain intelligence can be displayed through forms of wit and sarcasm.18th-century German author Georg Lichtenberg said that "the more you know humour, the more you become demanding in fineness".

Humour formula

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This article has been tagged since October 2006.

Root components:

some surprise/misdirection, contradiction, ambiguity or paradox.

appealing to feelings or to emotions.

similar to reality, but not real






Rowan Atkinson explains in his lecture Funny Business, that an object or a person can become funny in three different ways. They are:

By being in an unusual place

By behaving in an unusual way

By being the wrong size

Most sight gags fit into one or more of these categories.

Humour is also sometimes described as an ingredient in spiritual life. Some Masters have added it to their teachings in various forms. A famous figure in spiritual humour is the laughing Buddha, who would answer all questions with a laugh

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♥♥We Love You Michael!!!!♥♥
Reply:Wow Report It

Reply:WOW dat wus da most worthless 2 minutes of mah life . . . . Report It

Reply:waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long!! who would actually take the time to type (or read!) that whole thing?! Report It

Reply:The fact that she said it was a joke, is the joke. Report It

Reply:This was so funny but I think you forgot the joke yourself. but I think you wanted to see how many people would comment on this, yes I did other wise you know what thought about your joke and I was bored. Report It

Reply:WOW! thanks for wasting so much of my time. Report It

Reply:Since you copied this from wikipedia you need to site the source so it is not considered plagiarism you stealing copier
Reply:Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!!

Since your such an expert, you should immediately know where that came from.
Reply:Thank you for your knowledge in this subject, I'll will never forget it.
Reply:Holy moly!
Reply:This was too long and I read the first sentence and decided I wasnt going to read it. Good job on the length though.
Reply:that looks long and boring.
Reply:what on earth made look at this and think "hey i should post this on yahoo!"
Reply:Well, I made it to the word "series"....
Reply:The next time I have 3 hours on my hands, I will read this. Sounds fascinating; I have never truly pondered the psychological implications of human "humor."
Reply:yeah i didnt read it but when i have a day to i will
Reply:No, I do not because there are no jokes in there, I think, and besides, you just copied from Wikipedia 'cause I can see all the [edit] things, which means there isn't much of a joke except info, lots of it.
Reply:Well. You just copy-pasted this from Wikipedia, right? I can tell. It's very obvious.
Reply:thanks. i love it.


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