How to be funny: What Makes People Laugh?

February 24, 2012 · Print This Article

Is it because we need stimulation of all sorts that we want to laugh?

Does telling silly jokes fill a void or act as something to take our mind away from it all?

Below are the six good reasons for telling silly jokes, funny stories and anecdotes:

1. BUST THE TENSION: When I have completed a serious job at the end of a work day, I like to be with others who will ease the tension – naturally and without booze or stimulants – that is – relating some jokes or funny stories. Even at a ‘wake’ I feel there is a time to celebrate, and funny anecdotes about the departed (well selected for respectability) can be appropriate and serve to ease tension – think of the film: “Four Weddings and a Funeral”.

2. SOCIALIZE: I often just want to make another person feel at ease and part of the group, so I tell a silly joke that I think they will all enjoy. This started for me as a grade 9’er in high school. I was invited to Grade 13 parties (my girlfriend was a bit older). At the first party, we were sitting around telling jokes. Being young, inexperienced, and a bit shy and feeling awkward, I had no idea what to say but launched into a joke anyway. Everyone laughed hysterically and I had no idea that it was such a funny story. I thought to myself – ‘These are really nice people to make me feel so welcome’.

3. CHALLENGING AN INSULT: Sometimes, I sense that someone is trying to insult by ‘lording something over another” – and it would be a plus to be able to “put them in their place” – without being equally malicious. My wife loves this following story and tells it often, I think because there have been in her past, a few ‘friends’ who really saw themselves as competitors. – and she has a chance to say a ‘naughty’ word.

At a chance meeting with an old classmate after 20 years, the now beautifully coiffed woman came up to me and started to tell me about her life and how great everything is. She started with, “I have a Mercedes for winter and a Porsche for summer driving.” Trying to be polite, I answered, “That is fantastic!” She continued, “My two children are both honour students and going to the best schools.” I said, “Fantastic!” “And,” she continued, “my husband makes over $300 thousand a year, we live in Forest Hill and we travel all the time.” I said again, “Fantastic!” In a half spirited, somewhat disdainful way, this woman took a breath, looked at me pityingly to ask, “And what have you done in the last 20 years, Dear?” I responded, “I went to finishing school in Switzerland.” She then interrupted with – – – “And what did you learn there, Dear?” . . . After a short pause, I looked at her pleasantly and responded, “Oh . . . I learned to say ‘Fantastic!’ instead of ‘Bullshit’.

4. SIMPLY FEEL GOOD: Every so often, I walk down the hall in the plaza at work and think of a little silly joke to share with my hairdresser who has a business at the end of the hall. She likes jokes that are a little risqué – a little spicy. If I can’t think of one, I turn to a one liner from Born Silly Jokes. So many of her clients have sad stories to tell her and too few people try to brighten her day. I tell the joke so that anyone within earshot can hear. They all get a good laugh and a release from monotony and their own troubles – including me.

5. MAKE A BORING SITUATION TOLERABLE: During my high school days, my Grade 12 Chemistry teacher, Miss Knox, pulled me aside before the first class of the year and said, “Willie, I will allow you three jokes per class but on the fourth – you’re out”. True to her word, I was only ‘thrown out’ of class three times that year because I tried to show some restraint and a lot of respect for a person with understanding and a sense of humour. Another teacher, Miss Kirby, was a little more staid and considerably older, so no jokes allowed. Except once . . . Returning to class after winter break, she told the class of her adventure in the West Indies. Thrilled with her experience, she sang the praises of the special palm tree that she saw. It blooms only once every 100 years and it was her good fortune to see it. Without hesitation (or consequential thinking) I blurted out, “How many times?” After a shocked time lapse, everyone in class, including Miss Kirby had a good laugh. What a good sport she turned out to be.

6. GET CLOSER WITH FRIENDS: What happens when friends get together at a home? Do they watch TV, read their own books, or sit around quietly? – not likely. When I visit, I’m prepared for fun whether the host introduces a game to play, or we are there for a meal, or the evening is just to ‘catch up’ with friends. Think about the days before TV and computers when friends would meet to tell stories, anecdotes, or just random silly jokes. Many were true stories of times shared or of incidents about everyone present. It was a time to laugh WITH others not ABOUT others. Even now, when my group of friends visits, we gather in the living room and tell ‘silly jokes’ for hours. It has taken years of practice, a desire to share, and the will to have and make fun.

When learning how to be funny, it is important to understand the social situations people tell jokes in. Also to understand why people tell jokes… then you can really start to chime in at the right time with your silly jokes.


Got something to say?