What is funny?

This is a question worth a bit of lively contest. And it gets renewed every so often all around the place. When it comes to humour,  just what is truly funny? What can you laugh about?

These questions should share the same answer; everything and nothing. Unfortunately the questions are split and the first is made subject to the tyranny of the second. Taboo subjects are judged by the collective consciousness to be beyond the comedians scope. But that is not to say they aren’t funny.

Irony and the absurd are the twisting of norms to produce such a chaos in the mind of the beholder so as to provoke an unintentional display of mirth. That’s a very roundabout way of  saying that good humor plays on the fringe of what is normally acceptable. Thus the truly funny things are often ones that you shouldn’t laugh about. To drive this point home I appeal to the genius of George Carlin, who in the late 90s explored the comic potential of rape.

Ricky Gervais has said many times that there is in fact nothing you can’t make a joke about,  it depends what the joke is. How you put it together is what’s important, and only that is the measure of what is funny.

2 thoughts on “What is funny?

  1. ObjectiveReality

    Patton Oswalt (I’m pretty sure it was him, but can’t be bothered doing the googling) said something similar to the Ricky Gervais bit you quoted – his version was that how funny the joke was was the measure of what you could get away with. That means if you want to joke about the worst stuff, your jokes had better be the best jokes, or it’s not worth it.


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