A while back, I was watching one of my favorite internet reviewers, SFDebris, who is known for having a good combination of serious analysis and silly behavior. He was reviewing “Blade Runner” at the time, when he got to a scene where Decker gets drunk playing a piano and has a dream about a unicorn running through a field.
SFDebris decides this is a good place for a joke. In a drunk voice he provides narration for Decker (played by Harrison Ford), talking about how while playing piano he can't quite remember the tune to the Indiana Jones theme.
Then he gets to the unicorn dream, still with the drunk narration, and says, "Ah screw it, I'm going to go fantasize about my favorite girl. *cuts to unicorn* Oh yeah, Rarity! You are one naughty little pony, aren't you?"
Rarity is not amused.
I was lost in laughter when I saw this. To me, that was hysterical. One of the funniest things I had seen in a long time.
Later that same day, I read Richard Roeper's review of “Movie 43,” in which he didn't necessarily review the film as much as describe what some of the events were in the film.
As I was reading them, I couldn't help but scream, "Oh my god! How could anyone find this funny?"
At the end of the day, I realized that I experienced two instances that were both intended for comedic purposes. One made my laugh incredibly hard, and the other one made me cringe at how disgusting and disturbing it sounded.
This got me thinking, how does my sense of humor work anyway? Why does something make me laugh, when something else doesn't? Why do I find certain things funny, but not other things?
Ever since then, I've been jotting down examples of the funniest things I could think of. Some of those examples included Charlie Chaplin, “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and broadcasting news fail bloopers. As well as several different kinds of Let's Players on Youtube, people who will play through a video game and provide funny commentary during the process, like Game Grumps, Two Best Friends Play, Rooster Teeth and Josh Jepson. Movies, such as “Hot Fuzz” and “The Hangover.” And of course, “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.”
So if I had to describe what makes something funny for me, I think there are few different things to doing it well.
1. Being creative and/or imaginative in a comedic fashion - The best example of this would be MLP. Each episode has found some new way of adding to its already creative and imaginative world that it puts me in a state where I'm willing to accept that I'm apart of this world. From the funny puns given to the names of their pony cities to the many different side characters with their own unique talent and personality, MLP is never short on creativity. In that state, the creative moments become all the more hilarious.
2. Being unexpected, yet still witty or bizarre - The SFDebris joke I mentioned earlier is a good example of that. He found a way to make something that one would normally not associate with comedy (yet still strange) and add his own comedic touch to it, which I would have never seen coming.
Another would be news fails. Fails on their own are sometimes funny but I always crack up at news fails, because you really don't expect them in that line of business. They are professionals and must exude an air of competence. Yet they always find ways to screw up and take you by surprise. They come out of no where, yet they make me laugh.
3. Being clever - This one is kind of a combination of the last two, but I still feel that it should be its own category. Charlie Chaplin in the best example of this, as well as Lets Players. They take what is given to them, but find a way to make it their own thing. The Tramp boxes, but boxes in his own unique way where he could minimize getting hurt. It's a coward's strategy, but an effective one nonetheless.
Let’s Players find jokes out of video games and, in the case of Rooster Teeth, they’ll find a way to create their own little games within the game itself. Then its all a matter of the personalities sinking in and watching the madness unfold.
4. The Logic Loop - This is one that I've recently discovered, but can really be applied to anything. There isn't any great example that comes to mind, so I'll just describe my own scenario. Let's say your father is in the kitchen, making a sandwich. You ask him what he's up to, and he responds, "I'm making a sandwich, because I'm hungry." Not particularly funny, right? Well, let's do the same thing, but what if your father responded with, "I'm making a sandwich, because I need ants for my date with your mom tonight. The bread is there because it's called ‘presentation.'" Now, some might brush off what he said as insane, but I feel that there's a certain note of logic in what he said. He's making a sandwich. Why? He wants ants. Why a sandwich then? Because he wants to make it look presentable to the ants. Insane, yet it makes sense in a very strange way. That's why I think it's funny. It's both logical and illogical at the same time.
5. When it comes to insult comedy, respect - This is a big one. This is what sets great insult comedy, like “Mystery Science Theater 3000” from bad insult comedy, like “TOSH.0”. When it comes to insult comedy, where you are cracking jokes at actual people rather than scenarios of life that anyone can experience, it is all about respecting the people who you are insulting. That, even if you're bashing someone over the stupidest and pointless stuff, whether they deserve being bashed or not, respect is key. Otherwise, you just come off like some assholes who feel like picking on someone just because they're different from others.
I'm sorry...but that's not funny to me. Nor is it entertaining. Every time I watch an episode of MST3K, I notice that Mike, Joel, Kevin, Trace and Bill all have the utmost respect for those they're riffing. That they're riffs are directed at the movies, not the people making the movies. They understand the hardships and process one must go through when making a movie. They respected the filmmakers and for that I respect them. If you're going to use insult comedy as a way to prove how someone or something is flawed or messed up, show some respect for those you're about to rip apart. Treat them like you would want to be treated, not as some moron or non-human, even if they do stupid things from time to time. Show the positives as much as the negatives.
Shows like “South Park” and “Family Guy” often come across like they see others on a pedestal that is higher than their own and either want to knock those people off their pedestal or put themselves on a higher pedestal. To me, that’s not respectful, so I have no respect for them.
Another possibility I've heard is there really is no explanation for why I (or anyone else) think something is funny. Either something is or isn't funny, no real explanation necessary. There is a valid point to that comment, since comedy is entirely subjective. It will vary from person to person. For example, I know most people laughed out loud at “This Is The End,” but I hardly laughed during the film. That style of rude and crude humor just doesn't appeal to me. While I’m sure there are some people who will watch the clips I’ve provided and not laugh at all. Such is the dilemma of comedy.
However, I'm the kind of guy who likes to have reasons for liking something, even if it is entirely subjective like comedy. The simple answer would just be, "I think this is funny." I always feel there is more to it than that. That I'm just not thinking hard enough about my own feelings.
Which is why I compiled this list of why certain things are funny to me. To better understand my own feelings and why some comedy appeals to me and why others do not.
Even though the topic might be subjective, there can be a great deal of enlightenment from understanding your own feelings and opinions. It could reveal some hidden meaning to your tastes and appreciation for comedy that you were unaware of.
What kind of comedy appeals to you? What's your favorite kind of laughs? Why do you think that kind of comedy is funny? Are there any styles of comedy you don't like? If so, what? Tell me about how you feel about comedy. I’m curious to hear your responses.