Humor is the affectionate communication of insight.
Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.
Comedy has to be based on truth. You take the truth and you put a little curlicue at the end.
I think comedy is about empathy. I can’t laugh with people I don’t like.
Do you think this is funny? If you do, you'd probably have a few things to talk about with anyone else who finds it funny too (hint: not this gal). Side note: how did Christopher Lloyd get tangled up in this mess?
Ever notice how the people you laugh with the most tend to be the people you have the most in common with? Our sense of humor stems from how we view the world– our values, beliefs, assumptions, culture… pretty much everything. It’s also a lens through which we see that world. When we laugh, we acknowledge the same perspective on an issue or observation. Humor can bond us together.
Because there are so many different kinds of people, not everyone finds the same things funny. The more personally specific a joke is, the narrower its appeal. But how rewarding is it when we encounter someone else who finds the same obscure thing amusing? That’s basically the definition of an inside joke. Think of all the inside jokes you have with your siblings and closest friends. For me it’s one of the most rewarding kinds of personal connection. I know that when I reference Jiggy Nye, Merrylegs or Ken V., there’s only a handful of people in this world who will know what I’m talking about, and that makes it special.
But beyond the concept of inside jokes which stem from overlapping experience, when people find the same thing funny (for the same reasons) it means that everyone involved has the same framework of perceptions/evaluations/knowledge about the world (or at least finds them reasonable and/or relatable). Consider the Ricky Gervais quote from above. If comedy is about empathy, that necessarily means comedy is about “the ability to understand and share feelings with another.” The common ground is necessary for the joke to appeal to a group. This is why some people are offended by certain jokes: because they don’t agree with the principles behind it, they can’t allow themselves to empathize with the humorist’s perspective, ergo they don’t find it funny. Because of this, sense of humor can be an excellent barometer of how much you have in common with another person.
Consider a scene from season five of 30 Rock. Surprised to hear Liz plans on breaking up with her longterm boyfriend Carol, Jack exclaims, “You two seemed so happy. The other day I saw you in the lobby laughing together..” to which she explains, “A guy on crutches bit it in the revolving door and he was so scared…” The primary characteristic of Liz and Carol’s relationship is that they’re extremely similar, hence why they laugh at the same things even if it is a bit cruel.
This leads me to my next topic: a dark sense of humor. I know I have it, and most of the company I keep has it. Some of the best comedians have it, too. But unfortunately I see a lot of people confuse this brand of comedy with just being negative. If a sense of humor is a manifestation of a person’s worldview, then a dark sense of humor which confronts the undeniable and abundant darkness in the world is the most in touch with reality. According to the most reliable source on the internet, Wikipedia, black humor is an offshoot of “gallows humor.” Gallows humor is defined as:
…the type of humor that still manages to be funny in the face of, and in response to, a perfectly hopeless situation. It arises from stressful, traumatic, or life-threatening situations, often in circumstances such that death is perceived as impending and unavoidable. (source)
Thus, it seems that a dark sense of humor follows from the acknowledgment and acceptance of the uncontrollable things in life i.e. our own mortality. Personally I think that’s beautiful, and I’ll be laughing at my own decaying body all the way to the grave.
Black humor is also a great genre of film/TV. For excellent examples, see stuff by the Coen brothers, Wes Anderson, Tarantino, Simon Pegg/Nick Frost collaborations, I ❤ Huckabees, Beetlejuice, Trainspotting, Dr. Strangelove, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Little Miss Sunshine, and lotsmore.