GUYS GUYS GUYS! Heather, the beta reader who’s gone through Dissonance four times (and has let me guest blog for her in the past) has agreed to guest post! I’m so excited because this seems like it ought to have happened ages ago. And the post is awesome. Check it out, comment, and visit her blog! –Mariella
P.S. Tyson appreciates the spotlight! :)
Why does Piglet smell?
Because he plays with Pooh.
What did the blond say when she opened a box of cheerios?
“Oh look, doughnut seeds!”
Owl goes who?
Yes, I know it does.
Thank you, thank you—I’m here ‘til Thursday!
All right, all right—bad jokes, I know. They were of the most sensitive jokes I could find among the compilation collected by my friends and me. Sorry, blondes.
But humor! Laughter! Funny! These are the words we love to hear, no? As my dad likes to point out, the equation is simple: pain + distance = humor. It’s simple, but hard—getting people to laugh is a learned trait, and it can be hard. Just ask my littlest sister on our way home from church:
Dad: It feels really hot in here.
Me: That’s because it’s seventy degrees out.
Sister: It’s so hot the car is sweating!
Me (laughing): That’s windshield wiper fluid.
Sister: I know that, I’m trying to be sarcastic!
Sister: See, I told you I was funnier than you!
My sister has been begging for laughs at the dinner table for several months now, and she constantly has to rework her methodology to get her reward: our laughter. Only recently has her pain become more than just falling down—if you watch little kids watch movies, they don’t laugh at any of the wit screenwriters put in the films; the dialogue is for us older folks. They laugh when characters slip on banana peels, or bang their heads on the ceiling, or slam their thumbs in the door.
Because they have spent much of their life mastering their motor control: falling down, crashing into things, and getting hurt.
However, as we get older our emotional pain elicits a much stronger response, which means we have a greater portfolio of unfortunate incidents to draw from.
Think about it.
Ebola is the most popular joke in the school right now. Yeah, it’s a horrible, horrible disease that has so many people concerned (my parents included) and guess what? NONE OF US HAVE IT! No one in the entire school has Ebola, which means when the intercom comes on a kid can scream “EBOLA OUTBREAK!” and everyone will laugh. We know it’s not real—the mere suggestion becomes ridiculous.
And so we laugh.
Now, let’s think about you. You’re probably reading this, dribbling cereal out of your mouth and staring vacantly at the screen.
“Yup. That’s how laughter works. Oh look, something shiny on the Internet. What could it be?”
And here I am, left talking to myself about laughter. (Bonus points to you if you are still reading.) It’s around this time I reread my opening paragraph, and remember the million dollar question.
How do we get people to laugh?
As an observer and researcher, I have a few ideas.
Pain—as I said before, the pain is the gain. In a kind of sadistic way, we feel better when we see other people go through what we go through. (Even if it’s still parody, you’re still making fun of someone!)
Shared Experiences—in short, you laugh because your brain has gone through all your memories, pinpointed a previous experience, and figured out it’s funny in a tiny fraction of a second. Exploiting experiences everyone is familiar with (online shopping, politics, interviews) is more likely to reach a bigger audience and maximize laughs.
Familiar—if the audience does not know what it is, then they will not laugh. There is a post on Tumblr that says, “Our parents warned us about middle-aged men stalking us on the Internet but oh how the tables have turned.” My dad, who is not a fangirl, doesn’t investigate actors on the Internet, and doesn’t realize I do did not think it was funny.
Unexpected/Irony—the reason Autocowrecks are so funny is because all too often our phones come up with something completely ridiculous that makes no sense in context. It’s funny that in Studio C’s “Once Upon a Time” sketch that the lower class can use diction and reasoning far higher than one would expect of an educated class. GO FOR THE UNEXPECTED. It’s hilarious.
Distance—making fun of Ebola in front of someone who has Ebola is probably not going to amuse them all that much. It’s funny when it’s them. Or, alternately, if it’s something simple, like the kind of conference businesspeople attend daily, a painful situation that doesn’t bite deeply enough to make it hurt—hey, sometimes we can laugh at ourselves.
Rest assured, you can apply this almost anywhere. Take my favorite comment I’ve ever done while beta-reading Dissonance for Mariella. (Ooooohhhh, you’re that Heather!)
“Callum obliterated them.” [he said cheerfully, and they popped along and murdered the coward and set his entrails ablaze, and then had tea and biscuits before it got late. The end. –love, Tyson.]
Yup, the bold is mine.
Pain (obliteration) + Shared Experience (cheerful conversation) + Unexpected (about murdering someone) + Familiar (Tyson, a character we’ll all come to know and love) + Distance (we’re not getting murdered) = humor
[Note: I can neither confirm nor deny that this post was written in a subtle attempt to publicize my favorite silly comment I’ve ever written while beta reading.]
So go out and make people laugh yourselves. You know the best part? Laughter is a bonding activity—it makes you enjoy and appreciate the company of those you laugh with.
What’s made you laugh lately?
Heather is first and foremost a dinosaur, but when she’s not wreaking her revenge on the world, she’s a writer over at Sometimes I’m a Story. When she’s not writing, she loves to beta read, watch movies, and sleep. This is her first time guest posting.