Understanding Humor – Just a Little More


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Hi SEers. John with you again. The last time I posted, the subject was humor and how to do it. If you missed it and want to review HERE is the link.

The title gives you some indication of where we are going today. We are to explore the nature of humor and perhaps be able to understand it a little better. So what makes us laugh anyway?

To you, humor may be one thing, and it may be entirely different to someone else. In any case, humor should elicit a response much akin to pleasure. It could be a chuckle, smile, or outright laugh. But, of course, there are times when humor is so obscure or subtle that the best response possible is a groan.

In an article published by Emily Blatchford on July 19th, 2017, in the HuffPost on humor, it was reported that behavioral scientists working for E-Harmony isolated nine types of humor. The following is a list of the nine and how we, as authors, can use them

Physical – Broad slapstick typified by the physical involvement of the object of ridicule. This was the most practical kind of humor in silent films since it was more visual and required no verbal explanation. Writers Can describe a scene where a character takes a pratfall or other obvious moves for a laugh

Self-deprecating – Making oneself the object of ridicule. This form is used widely by stand-up comics. In writing, this type is probably best in dialogue. However, a scene could also show something humorous someone said in a self-deprecating way.

Surreal – Using humor to make a broader statement unrelated to real-world actions. Monte Python used this form almost exclusively. Regarding use in writing, I think it would be hard to do surreal humor in a book without sounding silly. Therefore, this humor type may be only suitable for movies.

Improvisational – Unplanned situational events aimed at causing laughter. The TV show “Who’s Line Is It Anyway is a good example. The only way I can envision using improvisational in writing is by describing an impromptu skit. Of course, I could be wrong here, and if so would love to hear in the comments where this type of humor would fit in a book.

Wit-Wordplay – Using language to create humor out of a set of words. Puns fall under this category. In writing, wordplay fits in dialogue and scenes where a narrator is telling a story.

Topical – Using current events to create humor. Political cartoons are apparent examples, as are Saturday Night Live skits. As to writing, any story of a topical nature can have an infusion of humor. Narration and dialogue both work.

Observational – Being able to take everyday life and highlight humorous aspects. Most TV sitcoms use this type of humor. In writing, the best use is usually in scenes of dialogue back and forth but works in narration too.

Bodily – This is the one favored by kids. It is a matter of using bodily function as the point of humor. In writing, the narration is the best use, but the overall effect benefits from dialogue.

Dark – A humorous spin on an unappealing or depressing subject. Writing dark humor can be done in dialogue and narration.

Next time I hope to have an example of each type of humor. What would be swell is if I could find them in books that we may know. Until then, what opinions do you have about the different types of humor? Should we, as authors, not worry about the kind and just go for it? Let me know in the comments.


71 thoughts on “Understanding Humor – Just a Little More

  1. Pingback: Final Examples of Types of Humor | Story Empire

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  4. As you say humor is peculiarly individual and I do not consider myself a particularly humorous person though I enjoy a laugh as most people do. Literary enjoyment of humor for me came in the shape of “Terry Pratchett”, (one of my short tales, “Mistress Freya’s home for distasteful deities” is included in the tribute Anthology to Terry). “Michael Moorcock” though a dramatist as well and “Oscar Wilde”. It is rare that I would consider myself a humorous writer, but I know that occasionally I can do it. Lol but very rarely.


  5. I wondered about specific examples as you were outlining each! -And what about examples specific to the genre one is writing? It’s far easier to slip in one of these if the author is writing non-fiction; just add an anecdote or fictional situation. In fiction, I’ve been thinking the only way is through a character’s dialogue -like, one of the protagonist’s friends is into making puns.

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  6. I would say, ‘Just go for it.’ If it’s funny, it’s funny. It doesn’t really matter what kind of humour it is.
    But the different kinds of humour are interesting as an academic study, though. I enjoyed reading your post, John.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love to laugh. It’s one of the things that continuously improves my day or mood. My favorite kind of humor are the idiosyncracies of humans and all of the quirky little things that others can identify with. (e.g., taking a glance at ourselves when we walk by a mirror while making sure not to stop too long, so we don’t appear egotistical.)

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  8. I’ve never seem humor broken down so neatly. I love to laugh but can’t say I’m good at writing it. I think my least favorite is physical because I think of the getting hurt possibility. Great post and insight into humor. I’m enjoying this series.

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  9. I think humor is hard. My friend writes Regency and has a dry wit that always makes me chuckle. But humor is so subjective. I love Woody Allen movies, but my friend despises them. My grandsons love The Simpsons, but not me. Dorothy Cannell wrote mysteries that made me laugh out loud, but she was on a panel and said she cried when she wrote scenes that made readers laugh. And then there was Stephanie Plum, and I loved her humor until it got repetitive for me. I think humor’s hard to pull off consistently.

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  10. I’m so glad you’re covering humor, John, because it doesn’t come naturally to me. I have two books where I tried to use humor and thinking back, I probably relied mostly on wit in dialogue. I had one character who made up ridiculous and colorful curse words. And in another book, it was a combination of exaggerated self-deprecation in dialog and self-talk. In both cases, getting into character and having a strong character voice were essential. I have a character I’m working on now who I’d like to lighten up. Thanks for the list of ideas to consider. 🙂


  11. This is a most interesting list, John. I can see where some might only work in movies, but also can see where almost all can be adapted to writing. I think great examples of dark humor can be found in most of C.S. Boyack’s books, but especially The Hat Series. I am looking forward to the examples you find. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. It was interesting to see all these various types of humor. Some I love, others not so much. I don’t write a lot of humorous stories, but when I do, I don’t stop to think about the type. I guess it comes down to whatever the scene or story demands.
    This is a fun series, John! 🙂

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  13. Great post, John. I look forward to the next one! For me, I feel the characters and situation will lead the writer into the humour naturally without worrying too much about the type. And, an awareness of the options is an invaluable addition to our creative toolkit. Thanks for sharing! 💕🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Another great post, John. Humor is always appreciated, and when it’s unexpected, what a delight. Playful romance or serious suspense, laughter is a gift — and you offer it so well. 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  15. However you can add humor to life, I think it’s a welcome thing. If your writing is about life, I’d go for it. Thanks for explaining the types of humor. I had never considered the subject from different angles. That was interesting,

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  16. I hadn’t thought about the different kinds of humour before, but I agree with you on what can work in a book and what is pretty much impossible. Humour is one of those things like music – not all of it appeals to the same audience. It’s observational humour that I perhaps love most and which is one of those things that writers, who spend a lot of time studying others! – often excel at!

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