Step One: Understanding Comedy

With January now over, and February dominating everyone’s life, there are a few questions on everyone’s mind here in Burlington, VT: What’s an Honors College? What constitutes a joke, hilarious situation, or anything funny? How can I hone my crude sense of humor into money making potential? Lasagna buffet for breakfast again? Instead of dismissing these questions as ‘idiotic’, ‘foolish’, and ‘provincial’, I have taken it upon myself to address questions like these. Let’s begin with understanding exactly what is funny. Although there are perhaps thousands of different variations of humor, all humor/comedy basically falls into five categories:I’m-laughing-at-you humor This is the foundation of almost all contemporary humor. It features a clear subject-object relationship, for example: You and your friends are coming back from Radio Shack, when Tommy Lawrence comes walking by and makes fun of your biking hat and jean shorts. You are the object, or more accurately, your jean shorts (very tight) and biking hat (with elastic band), are the object of Tommy Lawrence’s “good time”. Ease of detection: EasyI’ve-disguised-my-laughing-at-you-so-you-think-I’m-laughing-at-something-else humor “Disguised” humor is one of the hardest to identify and isolate. Its victims are usually unaware that this type of humor is being employed in their presence even though the laughter around them is unusually loud and in no way obeys the “laughter fits joke” rule. You might hear a joke about an ice cream cone that doesn’t warrant a lot of laughter, but the laughter is there nonetheless. This is a pretty good indication that you are the “object” or “butt” of “Disguised” humor.Ease of detection: Very difficultStaggered-humor Think of Roseanne singing the National Anthem. It wasn’t funny to anyone at the time, the one exception being the Roseanne fan that happened to catch it while channel surfing through middle age life, but after seeing and hearing it over and over again, and knowing how mad everyone at that game was, the situation becomes much funnier. Her rendition of the National Anthem became even funnier after she made a public apology. Its hilarity only grew once we learned she apologized to save her career! This can now be understood as the funniest moment of whatever year she did that in.Ease of detection: ModerateI’m-in-a-higher-socio-economic-bracket-than-you humor This type of humor should be seen as the ideal in any humorous situation. This might be my Social Darwinism showing through, but there are a few people made for funny situations; they are those people in any group without “social mobility”. They constantly leave themselves open for ridicule, mockery, and, any joke with an awkward punch line, as the punch line can be easily redirected to make fun of them. Socio-economic humor is the most universal of the “Five Categories” and can be adapted to fit many different circumstances, especially when it involves close friends and an excuse (I was wasted man, I can’t even remember what I said.).Ease of detection: Very easyYou’ve-just-been-publicly-humiliated humor Labeled the “easiest humor” by critics, humor involving public humiliation has been a mainstay of American life ever since the first Pilgrim tried to negotiate with Native Americans, only to then have the Native Americans come back and try to retrieve what they had sold, and consequently looked foolish in the Pilgrim community. Public humiliation has become the bedrock of American comedy. America’s Funniest Home Videos is the seminal example of “public-humiliation” humor, although there exists a debate in the academic world that would have A.F.V. categorized as “crotch-hit” humor or, that humor which features crotches in conjunction with violent action.Ease of detection: Easy Since we have now effectively isolated the five most important types of humor/comedy, we must now examine the counterpoint: Everything Not Funny. Because this subject is so large, I will list only the most important examples Everything Not Funny:-Jokes that rely on facial expressions and/or noises-Repeating ‘funny’ parts of movies till they are no longer funny-Tim Allen-The guy from That 70’s show with his own movie-The Handicapped-Ross Perot-Gwen Steffani-Recent SNL -Carrot Top-Austin Powers (see Jokes that rely…) So if you happen to see or hear any of these examples on a bus, in a classroom, or even an occasional bathroom, don’t hesitate to point out to whoever delivered such an unfunny joke/situation/anything else, that they shouldn’t be engaged in such activities. Explain to them, that there are many categories of humor that ‘work’. You can then explain the five categories. After you’re done, place your hands on their shoulders, hit record, and extend your knee through their “groin plane”.