Humor can help you connect with other people and make unpleasant situations a little more bearable. Being funny might seem like it takes a lot of work, but it’s actually not that hard once you tap into your inner sense of humor. Even if you don’t think you’re naturally funny, there are things you can do to make yourself and other people laugh.
2. Learn to laugh in boring or unfunny circumstances. It’s good to know that the less funny a place is, the easier it becomes to add the element of humorous surprise. It might be easier to get people to laugh about in an office workplace than to get people to laugh in a comedy club.
3. Learn to appreciate witty wordplay and puns. A lot of the time, comedy comes from linguistic confusion (unintentional) or linguistic playfulness (intentional). We sometimes find things humorous when there’s a gap between our words and our meanings.
4. ppreciate irony. There’s perhaps nothing in comedy more widely cited but more thoroughly misunderstood than irony. Irony occurs when there is a gap between our expectations of a statement, situation, or image and the actual experience of it.
Comedian Jackie Mason illustrates irony with a joke: “My grandfather always said, ‘Don’t watch your money; watch your health.’ So one day while I was watching my health, someone stole my money. It was my grandfather.”
This joke messes with one of our fundamental expectations: that grandparents are nice, friendly people who are utterly harmless, and that the advice they offer should be sincere.The joke is funny because, in it, we are presented with a grandparent who is rascally, thievish, and double-crossing.
5. Trust in your inner sense of humor. Being funny doesn’t come in a “one-size-fits-all” package. What makes you funny is unique to you and the way you observe the world. Trust that you do have a funny bone; as babies we laugh from 4 months of age, and all children express humor naturally from kindergarten age, using humor to entertain themselves and others. It’s already in you – you just need to bring it out!
2. Put yourself under the spotlight. Tell self-depracating jokes rather than making jokes at the expense of others. More people will be more willing to laugh. Rodney Dangerfield made fun of both his sanity and his looks with this one: “I went to the psychiatrist, and he says ‘You’re crazy.’ I tell him I want a second opinion. He says, ‘Okay, you’re ugly too!'”
3. Know your audience. Different things make different people laugh. Some people find that sensationalism causes them to laugh; others find that satire does the trick. Learn which is which, and deliver your jokes and anecdotes so that they apply to many different categories of humor and emotion at once.
4. Mislead the mind. Misleading the mind is what we referred to earlier as surprise. This is when you create a difference between what someone expects to happen and what actually happens. Verbal jokes use this element to the greatest level possible, trying to misdirect your attention in the same that magic tricks do.
5. Strike while the iron is hot. Good timing is really important, because if you give the brain too much time to work out a situation or joke, the funny moment will pass by. This is probably why jokes people have heard before don’t work, as recognition dulls the humor because the brain is already primed by experience. React quickly and strike while the humorous moment exists.
One liners, or comebacks, can be good fun. Someone says something that, by itself, isn’t funny. And you whip back with something that makes what they said really funny. Timing is crucial here. Your humorous statement needs to come out quickly and fully-formed. For example, your friend is thinking about hair, for some reason, and he says: “Isn’t it weird that we only have hair on our heads and in our pubic areas?” The friend is not really even expecting a response. You say: “Speak for yourself.”
If the timing is all wrong, don’t mess with the joke. The worst you can do as a funny person is try to deliver a joke after your window of opportunity has passed. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to crack through the silence with your whip of a wit.
6. Know when not to be funny. Be especially careful about cracking jokes or pulling pranks during funerals and weddings, places of worship (or religious events), and whenever your humor could be mistaken for harassment or discrimination, or if your humor might physically harm somebody, as in a physical prank.
7 . Be observant. Jerry Seinfeld and other comedians have made millions of dollars deploying a basic style of comedy known as “observational” humor, making observations about everyday occurrences and experiences. While knowing a lot can increase your capacity for humor, there’s no substitute for seeing a lot. In fact, many very knowledgeable people fail to see the humor in things. Look for the humor in everyday situations, and see what others don’t. Often, the unnoticed humor that is standing right in front of our eyes has the most impact.
8. Memorize some one-liners. One liners can steal the show. Dorothy Parker was brilliant with one-liners; for example, when told that Calvin Coolidge had died, she replied: “How can they tell?”
You’ll need quick wit and readiness for delivering good one-liners but studying other people’s can inspire your own. Or think of Calvin Coolidge himself; a woman came to him and said: “Mr. Coolidge, I made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you.” Coolidge replied, “You lose.”
Watch funny shows. There are many, many TV shows and movies packed with excellent comedy. The British, for example, have a very dry, witty sense of humor that concerns itself primarily with cultural matters, whereas Americans have more of a slapstick, physical humor that often involves issues of sex and race. Getting a good helping of both will help you understand different cultural attitudes towards humor.
3. Broaden your factual knowledge for joke material. It is much easier to find funny moments in material you know well – your workplace attitudes, your amazing knowledge of 17th century poetry, your familiarity with fishing trips that went wrong, etc. Whatever the material, though, it also needs to resonate with your audience, meaning that your concise ability to deconstruct a 17th century poem might not hit its mark with somebody not familiar with the piece!
4. Read, read, read. Get your hands on anything and everything that is funny, and consume it like your mom told you not to. Chemists become chemists by reading and practicing chemistry; sports writers become sports writers by reading and writing about sports; you’re going to become a funnier person by reading and practicing jokes.
5 . Be an active listener and learn everything you can about comedy. Listen carefully to others, really hear them, and understand what they’re about. There’s nothing more humble than admitting that you can always learn to be funnier from other people. When you’re busy focused on people other than yourself, you’ll get a better sense of how to help others through humor. It will also enable you to observe and relate the small joys of life too – making your funny self more believable and empathetic.
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