How to Develop a Good Sense of Humor and Make Others Laugh

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What Is a Dry Sense of Humor?

Dry humor also goes by the term deadpan humor because people deliver dry jokes without any added emotion.

Their tone of voice is normal, and they do not display any emotional cues that invite laughter. A dry joke is literally told with a straight face as if making an ordinary comment.

When it comes to getting the humor of a dry joke, intelligence matters. The audience needs to understand the wordplay or witty interpretation of the situation. Dry humor is the polar opposite of low-brow or slapstick humor that uses physical comedy, disgusting things, or shock to produce a response.

Use a Character Switch

When we tell a story, there are usually multiple characters in that story. More often than not, those characters have very distinct personas that people will make assumptions about. For example, Little Red Riding Hood is the vulnerable one, and the Big Bad Wolf is the dangerous one. But what if you switch personas around and the Big Bad Wolf suddenly is vulnerable? That’s when people’s assumptions are overturned and things become really interesting and funny.

Obviously, Ellen was talking about Sofia’s English since Sofia is the foreigner with the thick accent here. But Sofia just pretended that Ellen wasn’t talking about her, but about Reese. This unexpected character switch is funny.

In the story of Jennifer Lawrence getting into a bar fight in Budapest, two characters are involved: Jennifer and the aggressor.

Seth implied that Budapest was a dangerous place for Jennifer to get into a fight. But Jennifer pretended that Seth was not referring to her, but the other character in the story — the aggressor.

A ‘How to Be Funny’ Tip: If you and your friends are talking about an experience or a story where at least two characters are involved (that’s just about any story isn’t it?), then it could be your chance to be funny. Switch the character traits for an unexpected twist.

Bonus Example: Fifty Shades Freed

In the movie Fifty Shades Freed, Ana asked Christian, “If you are not coming with me to the forest, what if I run into a bear?”

“Too bad for the bear!” quips Christian.

Christian substituted Ana with the other character in the story — the bear.

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What to avoid

  • Being sarcastic or derogatory when trying to be jovial.
  • Using jokes that the audience may have difficulty in understanding due to cultural or other differences.
  • Criticizing the audience if they do not laugh.
  • Laughing at your own jokes or announcing in advance that you are about to tell a joke.

Use real-life stories, not jokes

Ever since the 1960s, exceptionally funny people have relied upon what’s called “observational humor” to make people laugh. The classic examples of this are Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, whose experiences led them not just to do stand-up comedy, but also to create two award-winning comedy shows (NBC’s Seinfeld and HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm). The beauty of using personal experiences as fodder for humor is that your life experience is unique, and, therefore, stories based on it are guaranteed to be original.

Jon Acuff does this really well:

The easiest way to be funny is highlighting actual funny things that happen in your everyday life. This is much easier than trying to come up with jokes on the spot. Exceptionally funny people track everything they find funny and then practice sharing it. In the olden days, great comedians carried notebooks to jot down funny thoughts or observations, and scrapbooks for news clippings that struck them as funny. 

Today, you can do that easily with your phone. If you have a funny thought, record it as an audio note. If you read a funny article, save the link in your bookmarks. The world is a funny place, and your existence within it is probably funnier. Accepting that fact is a blessing that gives you everything you need to see humor and to craft stories on a daily basis. All you have to do is document the stories and then tell someone.

A ‘How to Be Funny’ Tip: Tell Stories not Jokes

You might think that the story of you tripping and falling at the grocery store doesn’t qualify as a joke. Actually, jokes are harder to tell in real life than stories. A joke is a fake story that sets up for a punchline. If the punchline falls flat, you end up looking like a fool. Rather than tell jokes, exceptionally funny people tell relevant stories that have humorous elements. If people don’t find a story funny, no big deal, because the story has a point beyond just being funny. If people laugh, then all the better.

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A word of Caution

You are sure to be surrounded by people when you become known as a person with a sense of humor. But you need to exercise the utmost care to ensure that it is not at the expense of others. Poking fun at someone’s physical disability or bad situation is the least desirable.

It is always better to know the place and occasion. For example, it is in bad taste to crack adult jokes in the presence of children. A good sense of humor is that ability to make everyone enjoy and not exclude some people.

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Conclusion

There are multiple studies going on to predict the factors which trigger humor among different age, gender, and cultures. There might be many reasons for a thing to be funny or not. But developing a good sense of humor will always help you to reach out to people with different mental processes and strengths.

What Are Some Examples of Dry Humor?

Dry humor can happen anytime in daily life if you’re with someone who has a dry wit. 

But filmmakers and authors also use dry humor sometimes, providing many excellent examples. 

The 1964 classic film directed by Stanley Kubrick, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” draws on many forms of humor, including dark humor and parody. But many scenes in the film lean on dry humor. 

For example, when the U.S. president and military leaders confer on an imminent nuclear holocaust with an advisor, they discuss selecting people to survive in deep mine shafts. But they worry that the Soviet Union may have more mine shafts than the United States and will gain an advantage in the post-nuclear war world. 

Their discussion is serious and earnest, without any hint that the participants recognize the absurdity of the topic. The joke is that the Americans and the Soviets are so concerned about their rivalry that they can’t grasp the impending annihilation.

Oscar Wilde’s Dry Humor

When the subject of dry humor comes up, it’s hard to avoid thinking of Oscar Wilde. The Irish poet and author is a titan among dry humorists. His wordplay draws upon common phrases while giving them a memorable twist. 

His fame endures because of his talent for sounding serious while eviscerating the subject with funny criticism.

Examples of Oscar Wilde dry humor:

“A true friend stabs you in the front.”

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”

“I can resist anything except temptation.”

More recent examples of dry humor come from the popular television show “The Office.” The actors deliver much of the humor in a deadpan style. Almost any conversation when the character Oscar tries to explain something to Michael Scott is dry humor. 

When Oscar calmly says that declaring bankruptcy requires more than shouting it out to the world, the actor uses dry humor.

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