Monday, May 24, 2010

What is Humor?

Slapstick. Play-on-words. Situation comedy. Sarcasm. Hyperbole.

The list for humor could go on and on. It penetrates every walk of life, every culture, every time. Some humor deals with actions. Some deals with words. Still other humor touches on attitudes and ideologies. Humor is almost as diverse as humanity itself.

How then can we boil this into a single definition?

Most people say humor is what sparks a laugh. Yet this definition is nebulous at best, and while humor does make us laugh, not all laughter comes from humor.

So what element unites all the different brands of humor?

It’s the unexpected.

Somehow what makes humor humor is the way it tricks the brain into thinking you’re going one way and then wham! You’re yanked into a u-turn through an unusual link, whether through a word’s double meaning or a flip of circumstances. And laughter results.

So what is humor?

In short it is the juxtaposition of two or more unexpected or incongruous elements.

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