First what is humor? When we find something funny we laugh. It just happened and we have no control over it. In the paper Nature in 1998 there was an article published about laughing. They found an area in the top front left part of the brain by a 16 years old girl that was a wake during the operating. When they did an electric stimulation on this area she started to laugh. In another study in 1999 in the journal brain, they say humor is located in the right frontal lobe. This area is not about laughter but about putting the things you hear together and connect them. Different kind of jokes activate different parts of your brain. Your brain also tells you that laughing is great and you feel happy. Laughing is a social connection, baby’s learn to smile between the first until the third month and to laugh between third and the sixth month. Before there were humans there have been humor. One theory of the reason that we use laughing is to tell the people around us that we are okay. For example when two chimpanzees are wrestling and when your laughing everything is okay, but when you’re not laughing then it is not fun anymore and you did go too far. A lot of animals like rats and dogs have a sound for laughing. Is very different from our laugh but it is a social sound of happiness. This is different than getting jokes and laugh about them. But there are examples with the gorilla Coco that she can make a joke. She knows sign language. One day she tied her trainers shoelaces together and then made the sign for to have him chase her. A possible reason why humor has developed in humans is to be able to live in bigger groups. Bigger brains means better communication and better group interaction. Laughter and humor are a way of signalling to the group that we are all okay and what bounds us. Laughing is good for us it releases neuro chemicals in your body. Dopamine what helps you to calm down, feel good, it helps your heal, increase blood flow, stretches muscles, helps the flow of oxygen reduces blood sugar. Laughing is not the medicine for everything but it helps. Humor is also a way to create social bonds, and most people ask believe that people with a good sense of humor do a better job in work.
In a research to learn an AI system what is funny and was is not funny. They find that humans and animals are more likely sources of humor compared to inanimate objects. Laurel and Hardy are the kings of slapstick. But what is making them so funny? Their timing and how they interact on each other is perfect. Hardy is all the time falling or gets in difficult positions, you laugh about the misfortunes of Hardy because you are glad it is not you. We call this schadenfreude there is not an English word for it. People with a bad self-image laugh more about others so that they feel better. In an American research they find that people who feel a lot of envy also have more schadenfreude, and are less inclined to lend a helping hand to others, especially other groups. Groups find jokes about other groups always funny because we want to belong to a group. To use the connecting power of humor, a joke must refer to something that everyone recognises. For example the tv show Friends. They life in New York a city that everyone knows and is popular all over the world. The problems they have are still there today. Another humor theory is incongruity theory, that’s when two things don’t go together. When something is so absurd, that something does not make sense, that it is weird. This is an example from the comedian Matt Lieberman: you have a bad neighbour who keeps letting their dogs poop in your lawn. Every time the door opens the dogs run right into your long, poop and run right back. And you’re trying to argue with this guy, like hey you got to stop letting them do this. And instead of getting defensive or treating it as something wrong the person is just like, yeah they keep crapping in your garden that’s so funny. You really need to clean up your yard your yard is filthy. Logical impossibility, irrelevance or inappropriateness. If we find the pooping of the dogs in his garden funny, we also will find it funny the next time it will happen. Every time the doors open we now what is going to happen. If the comedy is written well the effects of it are going to be bigger. They’re going to be more and more dogs. This is the mechanical theory you can repeat until it can no longer be realistically. You need time between the reparation for the audience to settle back. Matt also explains how closer you can get to someone’s threshold of tension or fear without going over the side where they’re feel offended or scared. The harder they will laugh when they see that it is benign. When we laugh we relax and we lose our frustrations and feel better.
But when is something not funny? An example from Matt: I don’t think racism or racist jokes are funny. But I think talking about racism and talking about racist is funny and can be really funny. With a joke you can make something less scary or you can expose a truth. You never talk about one particular racist but about the racists. In Nigeria rape is a big problem and they make a lot of jokes about it. Jokes that are a lot of times not really women friendly. The problem is that they are making a joke about a victim in a horrible situation. They are hurting someone. In their culture for the most man it is normal to make jokes about rape and maybe because of that rape is more normal in their society. There is also the too soon rule, if someone dies you need to give a person some time to process their own emotion. There are a lot of jokes about the unknown, we find it scary, like death. We are afraid of the unknown and we make ourselves feel like we have more power over it how more we can laugh. The more we laugh about something the less power it get. Humor is very personal it is about what you accept and what not. For example my classmate she makes jokes about her father that died a few years ago. Like her father, she likes hard humor. For her this feels the right way to talk about him. When she made a joke to a friend that also lost someone, her friends said you will never say this again or I will kill you! In a lot of jokes there is a victim, when the victim is not laughing you now you did go too far. It is also important that the jokes ends well. If someone died it is not funny anymore. Think of all those movies where people fall, you never see or now what really happened. Because then it would not be funny anymore. In a difficult situation we also start laughing. This happens automatically, we try to fulfil the need to control yourself.
Humor is freedom, for a lot of people it is difficult to be comedian and to say everything they want. Jokes about themes as politics, sexuality or religion can mean their death. Ahmed Albasheer, host of the popular Albasheer Show, Iraq’s Daily Show. Was kidnapped in 2005 with around 50 other guys. Someone got killed and they were tortured. They were more easy on Ahmed because of his jokes. From the moment he got there he started to make jokes with them. They laugh one time, two times, three times and he started to feel more safe. Humor did become his way to survive. Humor will always be there. We need some happiness in this world otherwise it is very bleak. When you can laugh about your life you will have more control over it and as with the story of Ahmed, it may also save your life.