You know what’s funny to you, but do you recognize successful humor concerning others? It’s more than simple laughter.
Forget the theories that dissect our sense of humor. This is not a PhD thesis, and neither is your book, short story, or email to your overly uptight sister who still hasn’t realized that you replaced her Tic-Tacs with Xanax.
She said I was her only reason for living. I told her not to worry; I’d send flowers.
Is this funny? According to the audiences that heard this line, yes.
- Identification (or recognition) – Aha! I know that.
- Identification with pride – Aha! I figured out the joke.
- Identification with a groan – Aha! I figured out the joke and wish I hadn’t.
- A smile – A mild facial display of amusement.
- A smile with vocalization – A mild facial display with a ‘huh’ (or similar noise).
- A smile with others – A mild facial display while looking at others to see if they also got or figured out the joke.
- A chuckle – A person’s mildest laugh.
- A short laugh – Consider this a mid-range response.
- A hearty laugh – Longer than short, but with modest body engagement.
- A belly laugh – Long laughter with full body engagement.
- A rolling laugh – So forceful that it easily carries over to the next joke, or two, three, four. . .
- A knockdown laugh – So forceful that a person loses control of motor skills, eyes tear, and here, I will intentionally avoid any comments concerning required changes of undergarments.
While writing, you can test your humorous lines on those around you. Choose the joke that gives you the best reaction. If your best reaction is simple identification and you recognize this, you will know that you have written a successful line. If you get a belly laugh, you’re very successful. If someone needs new underwear, be a sport, chip in.
Parting Funny: I asked my mother if I was adopted. She said, “Not yet, but we placed an ad.” –Dana Snow