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Originally posted on Write about what?:
? Once I heard a bit of advice spoken by one adolescent boy to another. “Do you want to know if a girl likes you? Tell a really stupid joke, the stupider the better. If she…
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.
Having a fondness for satire, I savor that kind of humor. But, many readers stumble over it. I introduced my children to the pleasure of reading satire when they were young. While in grade school, my daughter delighted in the annotated versions of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. These “children’s” classics gave her insight into Lewis Carroll’s ironic views on education that many people miss. But, these books still had humor that a child could understand.
Satire takes more intelligence and a deeper than average exposure to culture to comprehend. The extra work to understand unspoken meaning behind spoken sarcasm actually seems to make us smarter. In a study in Israel, college students listening to complaints on a customer service line were able to come up with more creative solutions to problem if the complaint was delivered in a sarcastic tone of voice. University of Haifa psychologist, Simone Shamay-Tsoory noted that people’s ability to understand sarcasm is related their level of social cognition. She found the area of the brain responding to comments that means the opposite of what one is saying also enables us to recognize emotions and social issues. When people suffered damage to the prefrontal lobe, which controls executive processing, they have a harder time picking up sarcasm. The loss of ability to “get” a sarcastic remark may be the beginning of a brain disease.
The best tactic is to have a mix of levels of humor. Include an average intelligence character that the others have to talk to and deal with to make it easier for your less erudite readers. If you expect people to understand allusions as part of the humor, the very act of having to look up the name will reduce the instant humor. Include annotations in the sidebar (footnotes if that is not possible) to explain the real or fictional people, places and events. Even a very educated person from another culture in another country may not understand your allusions. And, why should we deny anyone the pleasure of comprehending satire?