The Anatomy of Laughter

I read that scientists discovered what they believe is the evolutionary origin of human laughter. While observing primates hanging around in trees, scientists observed individuals that were startled by a sudden movement of wind in the leaves of the tree. When the animal realized it was just the wind and not a real danger, it made a sound of relief that the scientists found was similar to human laughter. They theorized that laughter has its origins as an expression of relief after having experienced momentary fear. 

I am interested in finding ways to inject more humour into my writing, music and live performance. However, I’m not sure using non-threatening fear to elicit a laugh of relief would be an effective comedic method - I’d need a prop like a roller coaster or zombie costume.  I can’t think of a punch line that works with the U.S. and North Korea nuclear shootout scenario although I could come up with some funny tweets. 

My primary comedic technique has been using humorous insults to generate laughs - the roast approach. I don't think this sustainable. Not all people react well to being insulted, even in what I consider a humorous manner. I also tend to go for one more laugh than I probably should. Family is tolerant but public use of this technique could get me punched in the nose. It can come off as being hurtful and mean. Self deprecating humour can be effective to the point where you want to punch yourself in the nose. 

When trying to write something humorous, how do you even know the reader will laugh? It’s like performing in an empty room. At least with live performance, you can gauge audience reaction building on what works and what doesn't. 

I've performed in some funny places. When I was with the band, a friend got us a gig at his brother's bar. It was a small place that didn't usually have live music and they had to push the pool table out of the way to make room for us. That didn't stop a game from starting so we had to play music and dodge pool cues. When someone fired up the jukebox in the middle of our first set, we knew were in trouble. Another time, we played to the backs of bowlers at a thirty-two lane ten pin bowling alley. It was challenging to time our songs with the beat of the pins falling and we were never sure if the audience was cheering for us or a strike. We did get our shoe rental and a couple games for free. 

It's good to go looking for humour on a regular basis. Where do you find it?

Leave a comment

Add comment