“So what makes something funny?” This was the simple question that was asked of my journalism class today after we each shared an embarrassing moment from our distant (or not so distant) past this morning, each followed by a round of chuckles from all the students in the room. Two things were quickly pointed out by the professor to be the main trends he noticed, and it got me to wondering… What is it that commonly triggers us to laugh, smile, snort, or whatever we do when something to silly comes along?
1. Alcohol – While this may not apply to younguns, (And I don’t mean high schoolers. Who are you guys fooling?) it seems that any story beginning with the words drunk, drink, beer, alcohol, intoxicated, wasted, hammer, plastered, faded, etc, etc, is not going to be a boring tale of tea with grandma. From the typical falling down stairs to yelling at Hillary Clinton (yes, someone in my class actually did) stories of drunken behavior never seem to be of a dull nature and are always there for a good chuckle. Even better when someone else has to tell the story because the drunken fool can’t even remember his hilarious escapades.
2. Getting hurt– Maybe it’s from watching Wiley Coyote get hit too many times with that anvil, or perhaps the endless montages of falling, slipping, running into things, and so on that we find on America’s Funniest Home Videos, but it seems like whenever someone gets hurt, it’s funny. Sure you want to make sure if your friend is okay after barreling head first into that glass door but (and be honest) your first response was to double over laughing at the sight of him or her come to a quite unexpected stop accompanied perfectly by the thud of various body parts hitting an unmovable object. Misery may love company, but I don’t think this is what it had in mind.
3. the Crotch – I was originally going to stick this in with getting hurt, but it seemed as if it needed a whole section to itself. Besides America’s Funniest Home Videos, it seems like getting hit in the balls is the slapstick joke of choice for numerous television shows and movies. You know it’s coming, there is no anticipation, there is no surprise, and yet the minute that unfortunate guy doubles over so do you. What really puzzles me about this one is how much guys find it hilarious. But then again, we have already established that pain for others can bring so much joy for us.
4. Assumptions – Making an assumption in the wrong place in time could be incredibly embarrassing in the moment, but always seems relate to a hilarious story later. For example, the time one of my relatives mistakenly asked a women when her baby was due. Now I imagine that may not have been so much fun for the women (and it probably still isn’t) but the story continues to get a few laughs out of my family and the culprits face still turns beet red whenever he is within ear shot to hear it.
5. Old vs Young – At both ends of the age scale seems to be plenty of opportunities for hilarious moments. For those who are older, I am sad to say, most of this occurs through senility. They do not know what they are doing/ saying at it often may not coincide with what is going on around them. At times the contrast can be frustrating and requires patience to get them up to speed. But once in a while, the right action or comment is worth the wait. I was once at a wedding where one of the readers had just paused after the phrase “and her lover spoke” when my great uncle pulled himself up from his wheel chair just long enough to yell “here I go!” before calmly sitting back down. At the other end, there are the young children who will do what they want and say exactly what is on their minds, regardless the situation. The beauty of it is it doesn’t always need to make sense!
Well that’s a few things that always seem to make me laugh, but I am sure there are more. What do you count on for a good laugh or even a chuckle now and then?