Humor. What is it? Humor is different things to different people. One person may find it awfully funny to see somebody trip over a couch and do a pratfall onto the floor. Another person may find it awful or just not funny. One joke may have a crowd of people laughing like crazy in Portland, Oregon, while in Paris, France, the same joke will have no effect at all.
A lot of what we find humorous has to do with where we live, the time we live in and how we were brought up. Even the language we speak has a lot to do with what we find funny. That’s why, as a comic, you have to know your audience. You have to take a look at the city you’re performing in. If you’re doing a stand up routine in a city like New York, you’re probably going to want to do a lot of jokes about how violent and crazy the city is. New York is full of things to make fun of. However, if you’re in a city like Howell, NJ, you’ll probably want to stay away from a routine that pokes fun at the city.
There are many different kinds of humor. There is of course your stand up comedy. This is where a comic gets up on stage and tells a number of stories and jokes to entertain a crowd. This is probably one of the most demanding forms of humor that there is. There is no chance for a retake or re-shoot. You’re live, on stage and all alone. This has to be the scariest type of performing there is.
Then there is what they call slapstick humor. This is where a comic or more commonly a group of comics will engage in a routine that involves physical activity that results in a funny conclusion, such as a pie in the face or hitting somebody over the head with a two by four. Slapstick humor is usually pretty good for getting a laugh out of someone. As a race, we just love to see people get hit. The reasons why are probably best left to psychiatrists to figure out.
Another type of humor, which isn’t as common today as it was years ago, is pantomime humor. This is where an actor or group of actors will perform some kind of skit that involved absolutely no speaking whatsoever. Their actions would tell the story and in turn would make people laugh. This is not easy to pull off. Facial expressions are very important when performing pantomime humor.
More recently, we have the situation comedy. This has been around pretty much since the dawn of the television era. A situation comedy is just that. It’s a show that presents some kind of situation within the time frame of a half hour that will ultimately resolve itself within that half hour. During this time, the dialogue will be presented in such a way as to make jokes out of many of the responses and comments. This is a very difficult form of humor to pull off as it requires both the telling of a story and being funny at the same time.
Of course, there is always humor that takes the printed form as well, such as jokes, comics and humorous stories. The amount of humor that has gone to print is beyond measure. Just take a look at your daily newspaper’s comics section.
In the following articles in this series, we will take a more in depth look at some of the forms of humor and examine them. Hopefully, you may even get a chuckle out of it.