Is Your Funny Worth It?
According to one academic definition, “humor” is “the ability to laugh at or make jokes of things that are absurd or insignificant.” According to another, “humor is a special capacity or faculty whereby the mind becomes capable of appreciating the absurd.” According to a third definition, “humor is subjective.” Thus, while some persons may find in a joke some enjoyment, others may take it as offensive or insulting. Still another definition says that “there is a difference between appreciation and approval.”
All these definitions are valuable in their own way. But, in order for us to understand and apply them we must also learn how to recognize incongruities in our daily lives. Incongruities can be found in a joke that is unfollowed on MySpace or a comedy skit that has no apparent humor to begin with. Also, the very act of laughing or sharing a funny story with a friend, which may not be perceived as funny by others can also be an incongruity.
On this paper, an incongruity is any event or instance when the established social norm is violated. In this paper we will explore the three types of incongruities: Bounded rim, Inconvenience, and Norm Violation. The first type, bounded rim, is the most common form of incongruity in which there is a marked deviation from the established social norm. An example of a bounded rim would be the public rebuking of a politician, movie star, or athlete over a silly or offensive joke, quote, or performance. Typically, in cases where a person or a public authority is criticized for breaking the social norm, the event that upsets the target is an example of a bounded rim violation and is therefore an incongruity.
The second type, Inconvenience, occurs when a joke is created, intended for entertainment, but taken too far. For example, in many stand-up comedy acts, an audience member will give a pointed or rude laughter at the joketer’s joke. This is known as “Inconvenience”. When this happens, it is not necessarily a negative reaction to the joke itself (if the target understands that it is offensive), but rather an attempt to draw attention to the person who is being portrayed or the event that is being judged. This form of incongruity is considered a “norm violation” and is considered funny if a reasonable person could find the event or the person who is being represented to be offensive, irrespective of whether the target understands the humor of the joke.
The third type of incongruity is humor, or a lack of understanding of the humor behind the joke. The most common of these is the nullification of the incongruity – in other words, the target understands that the joke is offensive but finds the event or subject amusing. This type of incongruity, known as ” Comedy Outrage”, is the most dangerous form and often leads to prolonged and severe reactions. The target is often humiliated, and the audience often applauds, in a show of support, and even goes on to taunt and defame the target in subsequent acts.
Some jokes fall into both categories – one that is offensive but understood by the target and one that falls flat and is criticized as unnecessary or boring humor. The first type is satire, which is completely understood by the target, and is presented in such a way as to make them laugh. The second, which is comedy, is not always appreciated by the target. The problem with satire is that it requires a constant stream of invectives delivered with complete regularity, and when that is not there, the audience may simply tune out.