LOL: The Flavors of Humor

Kaitlyn Garrett

“Honestly, sometimes I laugh out of shock. But I do think that joking about serious topics can be dangerous but it definitely lightens the mood.” 

I’ll start off this article with a short explanation. Last month, I was gazing off in class one day and I remembered how my friend based their sophomore English project on how we use humor to lighten really heavy subjects or conversations. And then, in my Nonviolence class, we had a Ning post on the subject of whether humor can be a weapon for or against violence. And then of course for the past few weeks we’ve had ample opportunity to look at memes and make jokes about our crazy situation.

I’ve also recently started talking to a lot of students attending Richmond next year from all over the country, and I honestly never really stopped and thought about how important the different types of humor are in conversations.

So, I’ve tried to the best of my ability to arrange the different types of humor into different categories and we’re going to get some thoughtful insight from peers and some facts to understand how the different types of humor “work.”

Group One: Dirty Senses of Humor 

The “That’s what she said’ people and the dirty jokes people. 

Dirty senses of humor absolutely have to be my favorite kinds. Now this is a Lovett issued school newspaper so I can’t exactly list out some of my favorite examples, but obviously a dirty sense of humor probably entails “that’s what she said jokes” and anything sexually based or explicit. In some ways, I feel like dirty senses of humor are like the R-rated versions of potty jokes from lower school. Potty jokes and dirty jokes are both centered around topics that would typically be avoided at the dinner table, and sometimes the taboo nature  of the jokes iswhat make them so appealing.

Hunter Fankhauser (12) says, “Dirty senses of humor are some of the best because they help to ease the tension in literally any situation at all.”

I’d consider myself to have a dirty sense of humor, and I can’t help but wonder if dirty senses of humor have been around since the beginning of time. Like, did cavemen once hear an animal growling and jokingly whisper to their hunting partner “that’s what she said?” 

Group Two:  Dark Humor

“Go play in traffic” 

Best Life Online: “My son, who’s into astronomy, asked me how stars die. ‘Usually an overdose, Son,’ I told him.”

This is sort of what my nonviolence class got into on our Ning post. Does joking about dark/dangerous subjects help alleviate the severity/ scariness of them or does it desensitize a topic that we should be careful around?

I honestly haven’t completely formed my opinion on this topic, but I do think there’s a line on what jokes are too far on the dark side.

But even when I hear a dark joke that I probably shouldn’t be laughing at, sometimes I just can’t keep it in.

Often the topics we joke about with dark humor also aren’t like a halfway milk chocolate, often times they’re full on like dark-dark chocolate. 

So, why do we laugh?

I decided to do some research and look into the history of dark humor, and I found an article  from Psychological Science called “Awfully Funny” that looks into the question of why exactly we find dark humor funny.

Here’s a great excerpt from the article that gets into the psychology of dark humor: “Great thinkers throughout history have recognized this unusual tendency to poke light at dark times. Plato felt humor was the mixture of pleasure and pain; Mark Twain once said, ‘Humor is tragedy plus time.’ What’s become clearer to psychological scientists lately is just why we have the ability to find comedy in tragedy, and just how well humor helps us cope with the various stressors of existence.” 
The article also details how recently two papers were published in Psychological Science that looked into dark humor. 

“The researchers proposed an explanation of humor called the benign-violation theory.” 

This theory echoes around the idea that we, as human beings, are interested in “moral violations-threats to their normal worldviews, for instance, or disparaging statements-but only so long as those violations are harmless.” 

Basically, when jokes are made we feel comfortable enough in safe environments to laugh instead of feeling fearful or sad. 

Sometimes we respond with laughter because how else are you supposed to react to a joke about jumping out of a window? 

John Srouji has a theory about this. “ [People laugh] because it makes people uncomfortable,” he says.  “They think it's funny because they don’t know how to respond. The fact that you’re not supposed to laugh makes you want to laugh even more.”

Emma McHale agrees: “Honestly, sometimes I laugh out of shock. But I do think that joking about serious topics can be dangerous but it definitely lightens the mood.” 

Group Three: Corny Humor

Thought Catalog: Deeply exhaling indicates a negative mood – at least that’s what sighentists say.

I feel like there are honestly so many different personal definitions of what qualifies as “corny humor” so I decided to look it up and ask the internet. The definition of corny according to is “old fashioned, trite, or lacking in subtlety”. 

This makes sense because normally when we, or I at least, hear a really straightforward joke, most of the time I’d classify it as corny. 

There’s honestly not much to say about corny humor other than if it’s your speciality, my guess is that you have a classic sense of humor and you’re an old soul, keep it up. (It also might mean you’re a dad.)

Charlotte Dalke says, “I feel like there honestly aren’t that many people who use corny humor anymore. It’s definitely not as common as like dark or passive aggressive humor.”

Group Four: Sarcastic Humor

Person: *Falls*, Another Person: *Nice One* 
Ahhh sarcasm!  

I feel like sarcasm is so widely used in conversations now that it might not even be considered a sense of humor because it’s so common. But, according to Examples Your Dictionary, Sarcasm is “an ironic or satirical remark tempered by humor.” 

I feel like sarcasm can absolutely be used to help lighten the intensity or frustration of certain situations, Your Dictionary gave the example of sarcastic remarks of a husband coming home after a long day of work and telling his wife that he works “forty hours a week so that we can be this poor.”

That’s just one example of how sarcastic humor is lowkey a pretty great way to kill two birds with one stone because you can convey your frustration with something/someone in a funny way that hopefully isn’t taken too seriously. 

Like, if someone says something really dull you could respond with a “Wow, that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard,” says John Srouji.’ 

Chloe Titelman says that sometimes sarcastic humor can alleviate the stress from certain situations too at school. 

“Like if I fail a test there are so many different sarcastic jokes I can make to like lighten my own mood. I can be like, Oh yeah I decided to try taking it with my eyes closed.” 

Group Five: Self-Deprecating Humor 

Me: I’m gonna be fat and alone in a house of cats. 
“I’m so dumb”

SELF-DEPRECATING HUMOR! SINGLE CAT LADY JOKES! Self-Deprecating jokes are literally everywhere and used all the time. 

While oftentimes when we hear a friend joke about their physical traits or about how they’re going to fail a test and never get into college, we tell them not to say things like that. 

But, interestingly enough, an article from Inc says that some of the best self-aware leaders use self-deprecating humor! 

People that can admit to their failures or shortcomings with a smile are more approachable. Some may think that admitting to failures or faults reveals vulnerability, but really the best leaders must constantly judge their own capabilities, as well as those of others. They must understand when they need help and proactively surround themselves with people that excel where they fall short.” 

Yep, you learned something new today. 

Brea Patel (10) says, “I feel like sometimes when we make self deprecating jokes people sometimes think that we’re fishing for compliments, but I think that joking about things we’re worried about or self conscious about can make them less scary or big in our heads.” 

Who on earth would have thought about all the factors and science that go into humor. At the end of the day, I think the most important thing we can learn about humor is that the doctors were definitely right: laughter is the best medicine!

Joking or laughing about things, situations, or qualities we’re worried about or scared of makes them less tormenting and daunting. Humor has definitely gotten me through some of my not so great moments in high school and I really do hope that we can all relax enough to make a joke and not take things so seriously! 

The Lovett School is an independent, coeducational day school where children from Kindergarten through Grade 12 find the courage to explore and the drive to discover.

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