What’s So Funny?Posted by Antonia
Has someone ever told you a joke that you don’t get? You ask this person to explain it, so he does. Then, when the punch line comes around, instead of bursting out into mirthful and joyous laughter, you reply “ohhhhh, I understand now”. Somewhere in the explanation, the joke lost its prestige, its soul, and its intrinsic funniness. But why does an explained joke not impart a feeling of “Ha-ha”?
Humour is a strange thing, in that it cannot be explained, broken down and analyzed without losing the essence of its existence: the funny part. I suppose that we can liken a good joke to a magic trick: the moment you discover how the trick was employed, the magic goes poof, and gone is the sense of wonderment and mystery. In the same way, the spontaneity of humour, the twist, the transition from seriousness to playfulness, cannot exist alongside elements such as deconstruction and analysis. Humour then, exists as a reaction to the direct inverse of structure and predictability. So then, begs the question: can humour be systematically taught or learned in a step by step process, with the application of rules and formats, or is it something that can only exist in the way a select few special people communicate perceptions of their environment?
I think that humour, because it falls within the category of mind and consciousness, cannot be completely explained nor understood at this point. There are many theories though, indicating possible reasons and explanations for the existence and manifestation of humour, like the incongruity theory, the ontic-epistemic theory, misattribution theory and the benign violation theory. These are all very analytical and delve into deep psychological and social constructs, but to be honest, they are far from funny, and upon reading about them, have not made me a more amusing person. In fact, researching ideas that explain the inner mechanisms of humour required a bout of comic relief. Comic relief is a break from seriousness.
So, while one cannot exist without the other, the two need to remain as a dichotomy in order for the contrast to be noticed and therefore be funny. My conclusion? The day that we can make a robot with a sense of humour will be the day that we have grasped a method for teaching it. Humour requires not only a solid grasp of the uses of language and concepts, but a deep sensitivity to sociology and environment. So, if people don’t generally laugh at your jokes, I advise you not to try harder, because the more effort that is invested in being funny, the less funny you become. And instead of laughing with you, people might just laugh at you.