All serious-looking persons are not necessarily wise. All serious-looking persons are also not necessarily duffers. Take, for example, one such person. At a party, everyone else laughed at the joke just cracked except him. The person said to his friend, “The joke was tickling. I didn’t laugh because I don’t like that joker. I will go home and then laugh.” Generally, it is not easy to hold a laugh. This serious-looking man seems an exception to deal with impossible situations. Stephen King said, “You can’t deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.”
We don’t laugh if someone slips on a banana peel and breaks his leg, but we laugh if he slips on a banana peel and gets up immediately. Laugh if you want to get instant relief from hopeless situations. Laughter serves myriad other functions. It is a stress reliever and emotion stabilizer. Some even see therapeutic value in laughter.
Laughter is contagious. It helps in avoiding misunderstandings and facilitates friendliness. It trivializes stressful situations. It helps in overcoming psychologically demanding, circumstances. It is common to use laughter as a friction dampener among warring factions. Laughter can likewise function to mitigate problems or social ambivalence within a group.
Laughter is found in all cultures. It can be one’s mark of identification as each person’s laughter is acoustically distinctive. Laughter promotes social interactions. Social contexts facilitate laughter. The context, frequency, and intensity of laughter vary in different cultures. Laughter follows the norms and customs of society.
Humour has transformative power. Sense of humor is one of the most highly-rated traits when people choose their friends, lovers, or spouses. Humour is generally at the cost of someone. That someone could be the ‘self’ or the ‘others’. There is a difference between “laughing at others” and “laughing at oneself”. Laughing at oneself has therapeutic and pedagogical value. Humour is especially effective when people laugh at themselves. We often become fools to prove ourselves wise. Laughing at others is generally based on malice. Spontaneous humor is more effective in eliciting laughter than deliberate humor. “The most common kind of joke is that in which we expect one thing and another is said; here our disappointed expectation makes us laugh,” said Cicero.
Theorists have classified humor into three categories: (1) The ‘incongruity theory’ sees humor as a response to the ambiguity, logical impossibility, irrelevance, and inappropriateness, (2) The superiority theory recognizes one’s supremacy over others; humor arises from a sudden glory, (3) The relief theory sees humor as a way to release or save energy generated by repression.
Analysis of a joke loses its humor. EB White said, “Analysing humor is like dissecting a frog.