This isn't a complete anthology of every little technicality in humour, that would be a very big book, very big indeed.
"explaining humour" is like "explaining" how everyone looks (when everyone looks differently) so it is that humour is a personal thing, and what makes one smile, makes another laugh and still another scowl.
Attempting to explain humour, jokes or sarcasm is a bit like having a baby, only upside down, and the baby's made out of an anvil and I'm still a man...
Step 1: Where Do You Start?
So i guess I'm just going to start talking about all the different kinds of humour and babble for a while, generally see what comes of this, by the end of it I will either be a joke machine or possibly the most serious man ever, more serious than serious Sam, so serious in fact that people won't be able to take me seriously because I'll be so serious that they'll fall over screaming, 'he's so serious it hurts' then I'll have like nothing at all to do but sit there and be serious so serious I'll explode.
Step 2: Sarcasm, Genius
Wikipedia says: 'Sarcasm is stating the opposite of an intended meaning especially in order to sneeringly, slyly, jest or mock a person, situation or thing. It is strongly associated with irony, with some definitions classifying it as a type of verbal irony intended to insult or wound.'
Isn't that just wonderful kids? Yeah right now that's sarcasm, if you could see me I'd have a sneer or some such on my face. That's like the most basic form of sarcasm, it gets more complicated, especially in text.
Sarcasm is a very easy kind of humour to use, it's the receiving end where it gets complicated, a lot of it falls to gullibility and the better the joke the harder it is to pick up with sarcasm, generally if someone says 'really?' after you're in trouble, you now have a joke to explain, this will kill it unless you decide to make a further joke on top of this, sadly it has the potential to wound as you must make the person fell foolish and alienate them.
Sarcasm is one of those things that is natural in conversation, we barely notice it as we chuckle, but when you write it down it gets harder, take this example from earlier in the conversation that started this, in fact this did start the idea of the instructable, the key points are kept the rest is removed to make more sense of this:
- by the end of this you'll have given me a complex...
- I don't want to give you a complex :-)
- Yeah I was only joking remember Goodhart, all worrying things from a Jackalopes mouth should be ignored (old Chinese proverb)
- Oh I know you were joking, still....well, it is hard to explain :-)
- I know humour is difficult in conversational text, better for stories etc... I hate the term 'lol' but it does its job well...
- Yes, especially sarcasm and such.
The point here is that the humour doesn't always appear correctly... It's usually funny anyway as long as jokes keep coming but sometime you have to give in and use the dreaded 'LOL'
A few examples should help:
I like dogs too. Let's exchange recipes. (this also fits in as "Dark or Black humour)
I majored in liberal arts. Do you want Fries with that and will that be for here or to go?
Suburbia: where they tear out the trees & then name streets after them.
Earth is full. Go home.
Stress is when you wake up screaming & you realize you haven't fallen asleep yet.
Nice perfume. Must you marinate in it?
Ambivalent? Well, yes and no.
Step 3: Being 'funny'
In writing however you only have words and the tone of words, this means that you do have to be a little more explicit with it all and maybe go a little bit closer to over the top to make it make sense, or thereby lack of...
It's being funny by being incredulous, making people laugh through through either statements that are comically unlikely or just very very un-ordinary... God that sounds so bloody boring I may actually finish a 20 deck by the end of this Goodhart. yet again being 'funny' using circumstances, it being odd because I'm writing about being funny and finding it very boring and because it's annoying me...
The art of surprise tends to make something funny also (a 20 deck ? when I looked that up, I got sites on plans for adding to one's home :-).
Surprise, as illustrated in the main photo on this step, will be funny to those that get it immediately. Those that miss it, and need explanation will not be "surprised" and will probably issue a groan in response to finally understanding ( I must give Weissensteinburg credit for pointing this one out to me; which I found incredibly funny).
Step 4: Black Humour...
So this is a kind of humour that I'm well accustomed to because I am dark on the inside (swallowed a magic marker last week). Black or dark humour tends to be used in smaller quantities and for many is an acquired taste, i.e.: not everyone finds it that funny.
As always wiki: 'Black comedy, also known as black humour is a sub-genre of comedy and satire where topics and events that are usually treated seriously (death, mass murder, suicide, domestic violence, disease, insanity, fear, drug abuse, rape, war, terrorism, etc.) are treated in a humorous or satirical manner.'
Generally there's a time and a place for black humour, bad places for it include:
- Schools (some humour discussed anyway)
Zoos (Zookeepers just don't laugh, they are deadly serious people, they don't even laugh at the platypus.)
Some less 'dark' examples of black comedy, are things like when I was speaking about my old cat Boris... he can be described as a furry little rapist, which is quite a funny sounding sentence, it's just so very silly sounding despite calling the cat something awful (which he is). Generally we can all make 'dark' violence jokes, think of every 'imagine if' joke you've ever made, you'll see what i mean or the 'how funny would it be' jokes. Even the first line of this step is black comedy, racism is a terrible thing that is taken seriously, yet I made fun of it in two ways at once, by being light hearted about it while contradicting myself at the same time by being racist towards rednecks (skunk munching, guys going hunting with good ole dingus and a broomstick) Though yet again explaining joke is awful, it's not funny anymore... but I persist in my pointless quest.
A mild example is found in the end of the DVD: Blue Collar Comedy Tour (#1).
In the patter I speak of, they are referring to Momma lying in a casket: "That ain't Momma !
Yeah it is, they just shaved her mustache off."
In the situation and the context of went on before this, it was quite funny, out of context like this, it is less so.
A few other examples are, John F. Kennedy Jr. was reported missing in a plane crash, Saturday July 17, 1999. He was on his way to attend a Kennedy clan wedding...
And the same day, 7:30pm, the Dark Humor website posts a few jokes about it:
JFK Jr. and his father were a lot alike. They both became famous for going down with two women at the same time.
What was JFK Jr drinking at the time of the crash?
- Ocean Spray.
What do Kennedys miss most about Martha's Vineyard?
- The runway.
What will they name the movie about movie JFK, Jr.?
- Three funerals and a wedding.
In the proper light, one finds one's self chuckling or even laughing at some of these, just as a type of pressure or tension release.
Step 5: Being Witty...
I do believe our good friend Goodhart would be one to look to here, he spends much of his time picking out amusing things from instructables and comments and being witty about them, it's not hard either though remember sarcasm is considered the lowest form of wit. Considering it can be described as quickness of fancy, you get the idea that being fanciful or silly is acceptable in wit as long as the actual line is funny.
That brings us on to one of the most common forms of wit: one liners, a short snappy comment or 'tagline' that makes something funny, I suppose you could use the kittypics as an example, you know the ones with kittens and a line that makes them funny (rarely imho).
Wit is not the reserve of the intellectual though (but experience and practice sure help), it's just a subtle humour that is quite unnoticeable day to day.
Step 6: Now I'm Running Out of Steam.
Being silly is a humour reserved for boys much of the time, girls are silly too but in secret...
Being silly can generally be considered as the kind of humour that you avoid on a first date, it's all about being ridiculous or purposely foolish, it's different from being funny in that it's about more 'normal' things made funny by 'acting stupid' generally being silly can include anything like:
- Funny Voices
- Silly walks (John Cleese below is in fact the minister of the ministry of silly walks)
- Doing dumb stuff (Steve Martin comes to mind)
- Acting the maggot (phrase that simply means acting the foolish one)
- Falling over (known as Prat falls)
- strange noises
- anything that is remotely comical, like the word bizzum (scottish term used to describe any female, i.e: the cat pees on the floor I may shout 'you dirty wee bizzum!')
- Anything to do with sex or for some people they just find the word knob funny or yarbles
- If you fall over laughing or shoot milk out your noses and people all really start laughing you know you're being silly.
So being silly is just being silly, we all do this on a daily basis, except for zookeepers and teachers who are the people most likely to say 'stop acting the maggot!'
Step 7: Pfffft I'm Pretty Fed Up Now...
Remember though that humour is a massive topic, were Goodhart and I to write about every technicality of humour it would in fact be a book, biblical in both length and topic...