Humor is one of the most complex things that humans have created, and it’s also one of the funniest. But what does a joke have to do with humor? A lot more than you might think! Imagine if someone said “I’m going to tell you a joke” and then proceeded to recite Hamlet. Would anyone laugh at this? Probably not because jokes are funny. Humor, on the other hand, can be funny as well as serious, confusing or scary–just like life!
What Is Humor?
Humor can be funny, serious, confusing or scary but the bottom line is that people are usually entertained by it. It makes them laugh or smile–it amuses them in some way. So humor has two main ingredients: comedy and amusement; jokes have only one of these qualities. But there are other aspects to what we might think of as “humorous.” Consider a movie like Young Frankenstein where there are so many things going on at once (comedy + horror) that you can’t help but find something amusing! Or consider all those hilarious videos making fun of Justin Bieber out there–chances are you’ll find something to laugh at in those.
The joke is a form of humor, but it lacks one important ingredient: amusement or comedy.
A good way to think about what makes this distinction between jokes and humor is that all jokes are humorous–but not all humorous material is funny! So if someone says they have an amazing sense of humor because they can crack up anytime, ask them how often they make others laugh with their wit or observational skills rather than just telling lame jokes. And if your friends say “they’re not laughing” when you tell some really corny jokes, do yourself a favor by going out on Saturday night and watching The Office instead (that show is hilarious).
The humor world is a huge one in and of itself, but jokes are usually seen as the lowest form of funny. They’re entertaining for those who tell them–but to everyone else they might be more annoying than amusing. There’s nothing worse than being at dinner with someone telling terrible joke after terrible joke when all you want to do is have an engaging conversation (and enjoy your food!). If you don’t know what kind of humor will make people laugh or just need some new material, try reading this article on comedy writing first!
What makes something humorous? Jokes fall into this category, but not every piece that we find funniest is a joke. Sometimes it’s just the timing of an otherwise dumb, but inconsequential comment that makes us laugh. Or what about when we get to watch someone fumble on their words and say something awkward?
Jokes are usually considered to be a short-lived form of humor. They’re often created for one person–the joke teller–or they’re recycled from previous generations and told over and over again by the same family members (aka “that awful, unfunny story that has been going around since before we were born”).
Humor is less finite than jokes; it can span any length of time or even different mediums. Humorous writing might last longer in history because there’s no need to keep telling the same type of thing over and over again when you can simply write about something else instead. We all know what kind of humor appeals more to us personally: maybe you like watching someone try not to laugh after getting hit in the crotch, or you like watching a cat get scared by cucumbers.
A common misconception is that there’s only one type of humor: comedy. But what about darkly-toned “black” comedy? What if instead of laughter from something funny happening, it leaves us feeling anxious and uncomfortable with its content? There are so many types of humor out there for different kinds of people–we need to be more careful not to pigeonhole ourselves into thinking we can’t enjoy anything other than what our minds associate as being humorous.