What makes funny things funny

August 22 2014

I'm interested in what makes funny things funny. If you know, email me. Here's what I've got so far:

The root of all humor is "the swerve". This is an element of surprise built into the structure of a joke which pulls the audience off of the implied path into a punchline. The strength of a joke is related to how strongly the implied path is set and then how well you can craft a swerve that people can follow.

The simplest joke I know of to use a swerve is a form of comic triple: a to-do list joke ("my weekend projects: 1- fix door, 2- sweep garage, 3- kill my wife"). The first two items establish a straight line to follow and the third swerves from it in a surprising way.

Jokes can also intentionally not swerve, and exploit an audience's expectation of a swerve to form the surprise element.

One of my favorite types of jokes is latvian joke which as far as I can tell was invented by a guy named Chris Connolly, so (congratulate/get mad at) him for it, not me:

"Joke: Man is hungry. He steal bread to feed family. Get home, find all family have sent Siberia! 'More bread for me,' man think. But bread have worm."

The end.

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