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Different Types of Humor: Explained with Examples

Humor is an intricately multifaceted and intricate characteristic of human beings; what one person may find amusing could be perceived as absurd, tedious, or even objectionable to another.

Consider this: Numerous comedians are often subjected to criticism for their controversial jokes, leading to debates about whether they have overstepped the boundaries or if the audience has become too easily offended.

Some forms of humor elicit immediate laughter, while others are more like a fine wine – they require time to be appreciated. You might amuse someone, offend them, or come off as clumsy and clichéd.

Types of Humor

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There’s an assortment of different humor types, and it’s rare for people to adhere strictly to one. Instead, they oscillate between types based on the context, or intermix several types.

Here are a few types of humor and examples you may come across in literature, cinema, or everyday encounters.

Slapstick

This kind of humor emphasizes exaggerated physical actions. Slapstick, which is widespread, often incorporates elements of violence, whether purposeful or inadvertent. The term originates from a device used by theater performers to mimic the sound of a slap during plays. The antics of people slipping on banana peels or becoming entangled in comedic fights might be familiar to you. Icons like Charlie Chaplin and Rowan Atkinson exemplify slapstick style.

Self-deprecating

While nobody enjoys being the butt of someone else’s joke, making fun of oneself is a different story. Experts in self-deprecation humor excel at ridiculing themselves for amusement, doing so in a way that elicits laughter rather than sympathy. This form of humor can help create a comfortable atmosphere, as it makes the comedian seem down-to-earth and relatable. Rodney Dangerfield, known for his catchphrase “I don’t get no respect!”, built his career on self-deprecating humor, often using this phrase as an introduction to his comedic tales.

Deadpan

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Deadpan style is characterized by jokes delivered in a flat, matter-of-fact tone, accompanied by a poker face. This type is more intellectual, necessitating an attentive and engaged audience. It lies in the surprise element due to the lack of visual cues indicating an upcoming joke. Steven Wright, a successful deadpan comedian, uses his lethargic voice to deliver one-liners, often leaving his audience in surprise.

Pranks

Pranks are a form of humor that involves playing practical jokes or engaging in light-hearted mischief to provoke laughter or surprise. These jokes often target unsuspecting individuals, who become the center of attention as the prank unfolds. Pranks can range from simple, harmless gags to more elaborate and sophisticated funny sexy pranks.

Pranks are popular in various contexts, from friends and family pulling tricks on each other to elaborate stunts on television shows or online videos. In recent years, pranking has gained popularity on social media platforms, with numerous content creators and influencers sharing their pranks with large audiences.

Notable examples of prank humor include candid camera shows like “Candid Camera,” “Punk’d,” and “Impractical Jokers.” These shows feature elaborate pranks played on unsuspecting people, often involving hidden cameras to capture their genuine reactions.

Dark

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This style considers dark jests about taboo topics like death, suicide, human sexuality, and slavery. Nothing is considered too sensitive or controversial. It’s the kind of humor that can easily offend and potentially land you in hot water.

Comedians using dark style aim to elicit a reaction from their audience, either to shock them or make them reflect on a specific topic. Frankie Boyle, a Scottish comedian, is notorious for his dark and contentious jokes, which has gotten him into trouble multiple times.

Satire

Satire is a wide-ranging comedic form that critiques human flaws. Its purpose is to prompt individuals and groups to self-improve by highlighting their errors and shortcomings. In this sense, satire can be seen as a form of societal critique.

Satirists employ techniques such as exaggeration, irony, sarcasm, and parody to convey their message. The popular sketch show Saturday Night Live, renowned for its satirical impressions and parodies of well-known figures and pop culture, is a prime example of satirical humor.

Surreal

As the name suggests, surreal style is bizarre and unconventional. It manipulates the audience’s anticipations, turning them on their heads to create unpredictability.

Surrealists use absurd characters, events, and themes to create jokes from the bizarre and unrealistic situations that result from unpredictability. Monty Python is perhaps the most renowned surreal comedy group, known for their unique storylines that often contrasted completely opposite elements, creating an outlandish and nonsensical atmosphere.

Wordplay

Wordplay is a different kind of humor – the clever form that manipulates language, exploring its meanings and ambiguities for comedic effect. Puns, spoonerisms, double entendres, and phonetic mix-ups are all part of this humor category. The ever-popular dad jokes fall squarely within wordplay. They are, in fact, the epitome of this humorous style. Fathers everywhere, celebrate! George Carlin, a social critic and stand-up comedian, was a master of wordplay. His famous routine “The Seven Words” challenged societal norms and played a significant role in shaping decency laws in the United States.

Embracing Humor

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Humor can be a double-edged sword in writing. When executed well, it enhances your work, forging a connection between you and the reader. It serves as a humanizing element that allows the reader to become more deeply immersed in your work.

Conversely, when used poorly, humor can become a hindrance. Since jokes are mostly subjective, there’s a significant risk that your readers may be offended or alienated by your attempts to be a gagman. It’s also possible that your jokes might not resonate with them at all.

Therefore, it’s essential to exercise caution when incorporating humor into your writing. Cultivate a sense of timing and positioning to ensure that your humor is effectively placed. If possible, have beta readers review your work to gain outside perspectives on the impact of your humor.