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Understanding the Definition of Humor

Understanding The Definition of Humor


So exactly what is humor? It is a surprise ending applied to a normal situation the more unusual the ending, the more powerful the humor will be.

Or more simply put, humor, or a joke, is anything that makes people laugh. Whether that humor/joke involves a number of words, a look, a shrug of your shoulders, even silence possibly -- if it makes people laugh, it's humor!

The humor has to be believable though (even if its veracity is a real stretch) and also one with which the audience can relate. For example, few people who have never fished would fully appreciate jokes about fishing

NEVER EVER FORGET that genuine humor is a true partnership, a meeting of the minds, between the humorist/writer and the audience. The audience is present because they wish to be entertained and you are there because you want to entertain them – a possible win-win situation.


What's okay and what's not (i.e. off limits)

These days its well near impossible to really know where "the line" is as far as humor goes. People's values and morals have definitely changed, becoming so convoluted and inconsistent that something that could be incredibly humorous for someone, even a whole section of a community, could practically get you lynched somewhere else and by someone else – just by simply adding or changing a few words.

Possible & Believable + Surprise ending

Good humor is, and should be, basically truthful. What is meant by this is that the subject of the humor must be possible (even if loosely and vaguely so) and (to some extent anyway) believable. Then to top it off, the truth needs to have that wonderful surprise ending.

I read somewhere that the memorable Phyllis Diller once said to one of her top writers when reviewing some of the material he had sent to her, "Honey, if it's not true, don't bother sending it to me". Get the point?

Of course those truths obviously need to be tampered with by the writer to highlight and exaggerate the meaning, therefore throwing the light on the humor of the situation.

A tip for you to remember and utilize -- in exaggerating a point with humor you are often stating the case much more powerfully and impactfully than with just straight words (no matter how beautifully put the words are).
Your audience must relate
Want to learn more? Take an online course in Humor Writing.

Who is the most important person or group to consider when you are humor writing?

Does the answer seem as obvious to you as it does to me? I'm sure it does (or hope it does) but many people don't seem to get the point at all, taking the approach that what they write for their own pleasure and enjoyment will be just the thing for others as well.

Just in case you have any doubts -- you must write for your prospective audience, acknowledging the audience's importance to your writing. They are the ultimate judge of your comedy. They are the ones you need to please if you wish to ultimately become successful.

So you need to estimate rather than just guestimate, what will please your chosen audience. Some (amateurs and the pros) are better guessers than others. You need to do better than simply crossing your fingers and hoping that the audience responds favorably.

So how does someone become a good "estimator"? Practice, patience and experience makes perfect!

Comedy is not an exact science. In other words, you can't estimate exactly how long a pause needs to be or precisely how to use voice inflection in order for it to have the desired impact, thereby producing the laughter you want. There's certain things you need to be ready, and able, to do by the-seat-of-your-pants and these are some of them.

Some advice from a truly legendary comedian, Bob Hope, who has these few comments to make on the subject:

"I tailor my material to whichever crowd I'm working to. You have to. You have to give the people what they want to hear, what they're thinking and talking about."

"Basically, I think people are people. When the Queen laughs, she sounds pretty much like someone at the state fair with her kids holding her hands. All people love to laugh"

Self-directed humor

Laughing, or poking fun, at yourself, including comments that make light of either your personal problems or inadequacies. However, carefully consider avoiding the inclusion of particular humorous but personal remarks in conversation -- if there is any possibility of those remarks being translated into assumptions.

Teasing is another type of humor that you need to be very careful of (unless you are close friends with the person or people you direct the humor at and are sure they will fully accept the remarks are only intended to be teasing and nothing else).

The type of humor that can leave you feeling most vulnerable would be self-directed humor. Be well aware that self-directed humor can be taken by some people as a confession, therefore you need to consider the wisdom of preceding any such humor with either presentational material, such as a humorous context, exaggeration or intent
The Skills You'll Need


First up, it's better if you have a sense of humor.

Well not completely, and the fact is that you don't always have to be an expert in something or even really know about it to write about it either.

Defining senses of humor

While it's clear that "a sense of humor" varies widely among people and groups, it is the common (worldwide) characteristics of humor that make events more likely to be perceived as funny by the observer.

Among the characteristics that produce recurring humorous responses are the following:

J Incongruity,

J Absurdity, ludicrousness, or ridiculousness,

J A pleasant surprise,

J Being startled,

J Emotional chaos remembered in calmer times.

A sense of humor relates to the ability to recognize one or more of these common characteristics in a pun, joke, story etc. A sense of humor involves the capacity to appreciate incongruity, absurdity, an unexpected future, a pleasant surprise, being startled, or possibly the recall (in later and calmer times) of an issue of emotional chaos.

The preparation and practice required

Believe me, the quickest way to get something done is not to rush in, even if you are feeling near to a state of panic, with either a deadline fast approaching or (even worse) past!

You need to stop and dedicate time to planning and organizing. I can guarantee you that time spent in that way will make the task, whatever it is, that much easier and the results more productive. Rushed jobs end up costing more time than saved.

You will develop and build upon the skills mentioned in this section, finding over time that almost unwittingly, you have seemingly automatically taken in whatever it was you needed to learn.

Mental processes involved

There are a number of mental processes involved in writing, the two main ones being: A rapid and almost imperceptible process occurs with the rolling of different ideas through our brains, and the simultaneous and instantaneous examination of those ideas for any relevant connection with other thoughts.

Think about it carefully, don't you find that generally a joke comprises at least two separate ideas coming together to form one piece of humor or joke?

A woman is walking in the park when she sees a man playing chess with his cat. She says to the man "I can't believe what I'm seeing, a cat that plays chess, what a clever animal!" The man replied "Nah lady this cats not clever at all I'm beating it 6 games to 1"

The two ideas here are the chess and the bizarre practice of an animal doing something unexpected, or are they?

You need to utilize a second process to help prepare your mind for ensuring that the prime process operates most efficiently. Let's look at the second process that ensures the smooth running of the prime process.

Start with analyzing and preparing, i.e. the finding of words, phrases, events, people, things, facts, symbols, etc. that are either the same or opposite to a main topic. You also need to develop an ability to go way beyond the obvious.

When you visualize something or hear a word or sentence description of something, you are firstly aware of its standard meaning. Without a great deal of effort however, you can extend past (in some cases way past) an ordinary meaning and come up with something quite different – sometimes quite a bizarre one. Well, it is that 'out of the ordinary' and often 'bizarre' meaning that leads to the humor you are searching for.

This ability to visualize and correlate ideas, seeing non-standard meanings, is part of that secondary process, as is your ability to both scan and utilize ideas quickly, helping to speed up and improve the results of the prime process.

This concept is simple but not easy. Yet, it works. All you need to do is practice a little patience and perseverance, and it will really work for you.

Handling rejection

As referred to previously, rejection is part of a writer's life. A part which every writer, including you, needs to not only accept but understand.

For example, realize that any publishing house only produces so many books per year, and say you've sent your humor book to one who has arrived at or passed its quota (say 18 per year) of your kind of book. In total, they probably receive twenty, thirty or one hundred times that many submissions – so if yours is rejected there is certainly no reason for you to feel crushed (although you may momentarily) or that your book is worthless!

It is crucial in the beginning that a writer learns not to take rejection personally. I repeat -- DON'T TAKE REJECTION PERSONALLY (even more important at the beginning of your writing career)

Learning how to fight the tendency to quit too soon

Yes, it's true that some people have a natural ability to write humor, some much more than others, but the truth is that MOST OF US have more humor inside us than we realize.

What most people don't have however is the willingness to take a risk, or more particularly to take the risk of failing –they give up way too soon! Most of us had it drummed into us, as we were growing up, not to let others see you fail. We were repeatedly told that people abhor failures – so in the end many avoided risk of failure by failing to even try at all!

The reality is that if we are not willing to take the risk of failure we won't accomplish anything, will we? So one of your very first tasks, as a budding writer, is to boost your wiliness to take risks – risk failure, risk looking foolish even

Two steps you can start to take which will help you fight the tendency to quit your writing dreams too soon are; (i) to eradicate false thinking, and (ii) kill off (or at the very least limit) that vicious internal critic that lurks within all of us.

i. Eradicate
(a) False thinking includes such things as false assumptions andfaulty associations. For example stop assuming things such as "it won't work" or "it's not funny" etc. Maybe it won't work but then again maybe it will. It certainly won't if you don't try, will it.

(b) False association comes in when we foolishly think if people don't like our jokes, our routines, that they also might not like us. What a stupid assumption that would be.

ii. Kill off your internal critic! Okay, an internal critic can sometimes be good, keeping us from doing stupid or dangerous things. But it can easily jump to false conclusions and it doesn't always act in your best interests, often downgrading your chances for success.

So how do you know when to listen and when not to? At the beginning it's going to be almost impossible to tell the difference at times, so we're making it easier for you. Don't concern yourself at all with deciding at the beginning -- simply silence that internal critic completely (it's just for a while).

You will learn the right time to draw your internal critic out and use it to your best interests.

The most common weaknesses and how to cure them

Let's start off this segment with a fabulous quote from Robert Benchley, a humorist of the early 1900s. He said "It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up then because by that time I was far too famous".

Love this quote because it contains a real truth and sends a strong message that if we tend not to dwell too much on our weaknesses that they will not overpower us and take over our future.

Whatever your personal feelings about concepts such as the Law of Attraction (and others such as, What you think about comes about) the fact is that whatever we dwell on tends to expand. If we dwell on what we can do, that expands. If we dwell too much on our weaknesses, they expand.

One writer I know never thought she could write, but when she couldn't continue on in her previous profession as a lawyer, she had to turn to writing to keep the wolf from the door. After she had been writing (because she had to, not because she could, as she kept telling us) for about 3 years, she found not only that she could write but was doing so at an extremely successful level – amassing a huge number of happy clients and a very healthy income.

There will be particular types of humor writing that you will do exceptionally well and some you will fight to finish. That means usually that some of your work will be excellent and some very ordinary. Only by doing will you discover which is which.

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