Question of the Week: What’s So Funny?

“Humor is subjective.”

You’ve probably heard or said that when a joke falls flat, but it’s still true. Movies that send my wife into convulsions of laughter sometimes leave me cold, and vice versa. Fortunately, we have a lot of middle ground, like Community.

Community is a great example of a brilliant, hilarious show that doesn’t work for everyone. Some consider it too weird, and I think the jokes come too fast for some viewers. Also, it’s so full of references to popular culture that you might not get a joke because you don’t know the reference.

Community’s alternate-universe twin is The Big Bang Theory, fantastically more popular but deeply hated by a vocal segment of the geek tribe. Some resent the way it caricatures geeks, while others despise laugh tracks. Why is it that this show gets all the ratings, while Community enjoys the critical acclaim?

Puns make some groan, but others love them. Irony is a spectrum, and not everyone appreciates the nastiest sarcasm (the root words of which mean “to tear the flesh”). High snark can be a thing of beauty, but too often it falls into stupid “mean girl” territory. And maybe the quickest way to divide the average audience comes in two words: fart joke.

Whether it’s on TV, in movies, or in books, what kind of humor do you love? And what kind of humor turns you off? Have you encountered an instance in which a joke you’d usually hate turned out to be funny because of the way it was told? Do you prefer gags, character humor, pratfalls, “joke grenades”?

In short, what makes you laugh?

Come back on Wednesday for an interview with one of the funniest guys I know, Jeff Grubb. Wednesday is also the last day to enter the Crossing the Streams multi-author book giveaway.

2 thoughts on “Question of the Week: What’s So Funny?

  1. I avoid many TV sitcoms because they rely on what I call “stupid funny”. When I see a character that I sympathize with making an embarrassing mistake, I wince for them–I don’t laugh.

  2. I think humour, like horror is deeply personal business. Here’s what I’ve realized over the years about what makes me laugh and what doesn’t. I generally don’t watch comedies because they don’t make me laugh; I’ll laugh more at a funny line in a drama than a comedy. When I do watch comedies, though, I prefer something along the lines of Monty Python humour wheareas I detest the likes of American Pie. Also, I have found out that I have absolutely no problem watching Greek comedy series; which also tells me humour is a cultural business as well as a personal one. What I do always enjoy, however, is witty dialogue. But not dialogue deliberately written to make you laugh; just dialogue that appears completely normal and believable. I guess that’s one of the things I love so much about Joss Whedon.
    Now when it comes to geek humour, I think the key ingredient is respect. I haven’t watched Community, though many people tell me I should, but I am one of those who don’t particularly like The Big Bang Theory. I know, however, what it is I like about movies such as The Gamers and it’s the fact that they respect their audience. They don’t make fun of us but for us and I’m certain every single person who has played even one RPG session in their lives can recognize their love for the RPG community.

Care to comment?