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The Art of Being Funny

Not everyone was born to be a comedian. Some people are naturally funny and some people have to work at it. If you want to get more laughs, it helps to understand different types of humor and what makes certain things funny, while other bits don’t even get a snicker.

The Different Types Of Comedy

A gifted comic knows that there are different types of comedy that are appropriate for different situations.  Humor can be spontaneous, intentional, or constructed.  

  • Spontaneous humor just happens. It is a type of comedy that arises out of the circumstance. It can’t be rehearsed because it works only in that moment, at that time, with those people, in a particular environment.  The joke here may be direct or indirect.  If you are telling a direct joke, it will be obvious that your intent is to be funny. You may even preface your bit with the words, “Let me tell you a joke.” Indirect humor is something that wasn’t necessarily intended to be funny, but under certain circumstances causes people to laugh. An example of indirect humor could be a brightly lit, flashing road sign that says “Distractions Kill”. It is not intended to be funny, but as you drive by you may notice it and think that it’s quite distracting, and then you laugh at the irony and unintended humor.  
  • Intentional humor doesn’t start with the intent to say something that is funny. Rather, its goal is to be bothersome and it is this annoyance that ends up being very humorous.
  • Constructed humor is part of the basis of stand-up comedy. The comic works to construct a background and framework and the audience has an expectation of humor. Since most humor is based on relationships, the funniest comics are able to go beyond their constructed bits and use quick observations to create humorous relationships and pictures in the minds of their audience.

Get More Laughs With Anchors

No matter which type of humor you use, anchors are a helpful way to get some more laughs.  An anchor is an associated stimulus to a response. For example, we all know the joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Logically there could be an infinite number of answers to that particular question, but everyone knows that the answer is, “To get to the other side.” This is an anchor – it’s an associated, learned response. Although it was funny when you were a child, it’s not funny as an adult but you still laugh because you are associating it with being funny back then.  This is knowledge based humor, carried around culturally, that creates a type of historic laughter.


See Other People’s Perspectives

Part of humor is understanding the appropriateness of the situation. Your material should be context dependent meaning it needs to fit the current culture and social systems.  Even if it’s edgy, it needs to still fit functionally. There’s now a point in stand-up comedy where it doesn’t matter if what you say is funny, the audience expects the extreme and won’t be shocked or bothered. This desensitization creates a shift in the material that is considered funny. The functional fit of content that once was used to provide a comedic shock value has lost its humor because of the expectations of an educated audience.

As you work on your material try not to get stuck in your own perspective. Keep in mind that your point of view on a subject is inherently flawed because it’s limited and partial. This mindset allows you to see other people’s perspectives, creating a comparison for you to make jokes about your perspective. When you open yourself to this awareness it becomes a process of play that is freeing and leads to a decision point within the response mechanism of others allowing them to choose whether they like you for what you have said.

When you add personalization to your humor it can take on an educational, sexual, or political theme. This intention creates a context that frames the story and makes it entertaining. The audience finds these stories humorous because you are talking about yourself in a manner that is true, sincere, and genuine. You need to have an understanding of your material and its context to the discussion, knowing that it might push boundaries. When you have a valid point that is both edgy and humorous, some people will find it hilarious, while others will disapprove.


Get Past Your Sense Of Seriousness

Keep in mind that trying to be funny isn’t particularly funny even when the martial itself is humorous. This creates a loss in the aspect of spontaneity. The best comedians are relaxed in their natural humor. If your bit becomes too constructed, you won’t be relaxed and it will become obvious that you are trying to be funny. To add more humor to your life, you need to get past your sense of seriousness. Humor isn’t about laughing at others, it’s about learning to laugh at yourself by embracing self-deprecation.

Humor is incredibly powerful. It is a tool that should not be used solely so the person sharing can be liked or seen as funny. Use your humor as a service to add joy and light to the lives of others.


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