Traits that are found in people who are considered humorous include: adaptability in communication, desire to make a positive impressions, orientation towards feeling/emotions, and being able to see the irony in a situation. There are advantages to being considered humorous; you are seen as socially attractive, a competent communicators, and you are probably less lonely. Students feel that teachers who appropriately use humor are more in touch with them, and workers view bosses who crack a few jokes as having a great immediacy. When others laugh spontaneously at your jokes you can be assured that you have a sense of humor.
Before you broadcast your collection of puns and one-liners remember that believing you are funny doesn’t necessarily make you so. There is a skill involved here. So how do you know if you are funny? The Humor Orientation Scale has been developed by a pair of West Virginia University researchers so you can rate your Humor Orientation or HO. Actually others rate it for you. Humor is not just the content of what you say, but also the manner of delivery. People who have high HO scores are perceived as being funnier than those with low HO scores, even when delivering the same jokes.
Finally, understanding the language and culture of your audience is crucial for being funny. One time I listened to an educational speaker who sprinkled his presentation with humor as a way of keeping audience attention. He bemoaned the time he presented in China. “I was using the same jokes and puns that always get a laugh, but the people just sat there, deadpan,” he complained. “So I asked the translator if she was translating me word for word or restating the meaning in her own words. She admitted she was restating the meaning. That’s why it wasn’t funny.”
He failed to comprehend that jokes and puns don’t translate well and sometimes not at all. If the woman had repeated his speech word for word in Mandarin, it still wouldn’t have been funny. His Chinese audience might have thought his presentation full of nonsense. However, as he continued to whine about how the translator ruined his humor, he got a chuckle out of me.