14.09.2021 |

Episode #10 of the course Humor: Science of how to be funny by David Urbansky


First off, thank you for reading this course! It was a lot of work to plow through scientific papers, read books about humor, and analyze professionals at work. I hope you find the topic as fascinating as I do and that you have learned to better appreciate humor and be funnier yourself. Let me recap what we’ve learned and where to go from here.


Course Recap

• Humor is an umbrella term for A) someone’s sense of humor, B) comedy, and C) humor appreciation.

• Everybody’s humor is different; you can be the sniper, sweetheart, stand-up, or magnet (test yourself here).

• Humor has tons of benefits, ranging from physical (e.g., a healthier heart) and mental (e.g., better mood, less stress, better coping skills) to social (e.g., happier relationships, more success at work).

• What makes things funny is still a mystery—one of the reasons that computers aren’t good at jokes yet. However, researchers have found a handful of concepts that, when combined correctly, add up to comedy: superiority, surprise, violation, and incongruity.

• Your comedic toolkit is now full of tools for you to explore: irony, observations, character, parody, physical comedy, analogy, hyperbole, shock/dark humor, misplaced focus, degradation, wordplay, satire, and meta-humor.

• You learned how to write a joke!

• Now when you hear something amusing, you not only understand why it’s so hard for your brain to remember it, but you even have a method that can help you hold on to those jokes.

• You have learned a lot of fun facts about jokes and humor in general. This should prepare you for small talk at your next party.


How to Practice Your New Skills

As you know, reading about how to become funny is only the first step. If you stop here, your humor appreciation skills will definitely have improved. If you want to become funnier and be able to make others smile, you might want to get some practice. Here are some ideas for what you can do in your daily life to hone those skills:

• When you’re on vacation, write a funny “out of office” auto-reply message. You certainly can do better than “I’m back on X, please contact Sally for urgent inquiries.” Just because it’s a professional setting doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to be funny! [1].

• Add a PS to your emails—especially in your professional context [1]. Studies show that the end of an email matters a lot; having a light-hearted or funny PS can make all the difference.

• Every week, take part in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.

• Watch stand-up comics. YouTube and Netflix are full of them; you will encounter all of the comedic tools we’ve discussed, that is, if you’re not too busy laughing.

• Practice “Yes, and.” If somebody says something funny, try to build on it by using any of the comedic tools you learned.

• Look at funny memes; Imgur is a good place to find them. Yes, while every other course tells you to stop staring at your phone, I’m giving you a reason to do so with a purpose. When I’m low on energy, I spend time on Imgur. Now that I’ve learned so many comedic tools, I see them everywhere. So basically, being amused hones your humor appreciation skills.

• Spend more time with funny people. These people are perfect sparring partners. Organize a game night and invite those belly-busters.

• Sign up for laughing yoga—that’s a real thing, I’m not even kidding!

Again, I want to thank you for learning about humor with me, as it is such an important part of all our lives. Or as Mark Twain put it, “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.”



Recommended book

Laughter the Best Medicine: A Laugh-Out-Loud Collection of Our Funniest Jokes, Quotes, Stories & Cartoons by Editors of Reader’s Digest


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