laughing manWhat IS Funny

(pdf version What is Funny?)

These table topic questions below accompanied my speech: Philosophy of Humor

According to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's, Philosophy of Humor, 'When people are asked what’s important in their lives, they often mention humor. Couples listing the traits they prize in their spouses usually put “sense of humor” at or near the top.

Philosophers claim to be concerned with what is important in life, so what's the beef they have about humor?

From ancient times to the 20th century the most that appears in writing by notable philosophers is a few paragraphs and one essay. The first book on humor was “Laughter,” by Henri Bergson, philosopher in 1900.

Given this lack of coverage or concern by our “great thinkers,” a Martian anthropologist might deduce that humor is not a necessary function to humans.

Most ancient philosophers look down their noses at laughter. Plato considered laughter as an emotion that overrides rational self-control. He believed that in the ideal state, comedy should be tightly controlled. “We shall enjoin that such representations be left to slaves or hired aliens, and that they receive no serious consideration whatsoever. No free person, whether woman or man, shall be found taking lessons in them.” Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus advises “Let not your laughter be loud, frequent, or unrestrained.”

How sad for them! But again, how sad for us! We've been guided into civilization by a gang of grumps!

Some Types of Humor

  • Sarcasm – covers a spectrum of wit, ridicule, irony, sarcasm, cynicism, the sardonic and invective
  • Wit - clever comments, engage in banter, say funny things, tell jokes
  • Parody - act like someone, poke fun at something – The movie Repossessed parodies The Exorcist
  • Slapstick - Foolish, silly or stupid, the Three Stooges, Charlie Chaplain, I Love Lucy
  • Mimicry - to mock someone or something, make an exaggeration of a walk, facial expression, a product
  • Self-deprecating – recognize own weaknesses and shortcomings and not afraid to joking about them.
  • Self-deprecation is a good trait, and shows a wry sense of humor. Less amusing if taken to self-loathing and self-sabotaging forms of putting yourself down.
  • Aggressive humor - sarcasm, humiliation, ridicule, teasing, derision, put downs or disparagement.
  • Self Defeating - to allow self to be butt of other people's jokes. Less amusing if allowed to be taken to aggressive humor, humiliation and degradation levels.
  • Teasing - light and affectionate parody, good-humored mockery, simple one-dimensional poking fun, and benign spoofs.

Table Topic Questions

Baby Boomers have the Beetles, Rolling Stones, what will Generation Z (current gen) be nostalgic for in 40 years?

From the highest brow of humor, to the absurd, what make you laugh most?

Has your sense of humor changed for better or worse over time?

What is the funniest thing you have seen a person do?

What is your most useless talent?

What movie sequel do you wish you could erase from history?

What scenes should be included in the gag reel of your life?

Would you rather burp every time you kiss someone or drool every time you talk?