Jokes vs Life: What Makes People Laugh More?
There is a consensus that humor is a complex phenomenon subsuming external social context, interior emotional response and the human capabilities of perception, memory and judgement.”
Dr. Daniel Herwitz
There is also a consensus that it’s funny when a dude gets whacked in the nuts with a whiffle ball… or an old lady says “penis.”
Dr. Jon H. Hotchkiss, Ed.D.
Scientists who study laughter are certain of three things:
- Laughter is universal. Everyone around the globe… throughout human history is born with the ability to laugh. If you don’t count a handful of Republican Senators from the deep South. (Note: even children who are deaf can laugh).
- Everyone laughs the same. One “ha” = 1/15 of a second, repeated every 1/5 of a second.
- No one has ever left a Whole Foods without a tub of hummos and being asked to sign a petition.
Remarkably, laughter is one of the few human activities that occurs unconsciously, like breathing. And hating sitcoms on NBC. In addition, it’s nearly impossible to laugh on command without it sounding fake. Go ahead. Try it.
Scientists have determined that historically laughter serves an important social function: it cements the cohesiveness of groups, while also being a great indication to the reporters on FOX News that they’re not doing enough to scare the shit out of people.
In the early 1870s, Charles Darwin studied tickling. Yup. Tickling. That’s what Darwin did as his follow up to “evolution.” That’s like if Michaelangelo, after painting the Sistine Chapel, then spent a few years at the salon putting nail polish on Italy’s aristocracy while gossiping about what a bitch so-and-so Cardinal is.
Anyway – Darwin sought to reveal why we can’t tickle ourselves. After much theorizing, his conclusion? Tickling lacks the crucial component of… surprise.
So — what do you think we laugh at more? Jokes we hear from comedians? Or just stuff we hear in our life… that usually isn’t even a joke at all? According to Robert Provine a doctor of Neuroscience at University of Maryland, nearly 80% of what people laugh at is… just ordinary stuff from their lives.
A friend says: “Your mom’s coming over this weekend, right?’ And that makes you laugh. Why? Because you know she’s a pain in the ass.
At Whole Foods, the guy in the parking lot with the birkenstocks, hemp shirt & petition asks if he can taste some of your hummus. And that makes you laugh. Even though it’s clearly not a joke.
So, when it comes to laughter… and This vs That…. comedians vs life… we laugh more at…
And now you know the truth.
Jon Hotchkiss is the creator, EP, Director & Writer of This vs That. He also created: The Truth About Sex (Playboy TV), Invasion of the X-Mas Lights (TLC), My Dad is Better Than Your Dad (NBC), and Punkin Chunkin (Science). Jon also ran the series Bullshit with Penn & Teller and was one of the original writers on Politically Incorrect. You can reach him here.
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