An older gentleman, that is to say, a “senior citizen,” was pulled over by a frantic highway patrol officer. Apprehensively he asked the cop what he had done wrong. The cop was obviously very upset and said, “Don’t you know that your wife fell out of the car five miles back?” The old guy seemed relieved and said, “Thank heavens. I thought I was going deaf.”
That joke obviously plays on stereotypes and seems a little misogynistic. My wife doesn’t think it’s funny, but humor comes in all forms.
There’s the self-deprecating humor of Rodney Dangerfield - “I was such an ugly kid that when I played in the sandbox, the cat kept covering me up.” This kind of humor works well, because it is not offensive. The comic is making fun of himself. You can laugh at him with impunity.
Consider the girl who brought her goldfish to the vet and frantically explained that her pet fish had epilepsy. The vet looked at the fish swimming happily in the bowl and said, “He looks normal to me.” The girl said, “Well, duh, I haven’t taken him out of the water yet.” We like to laugh at stupidity in others. This is where you find all the “blond” jokes.
If you analyze a joke you can begin to understand why some hit your “funny bone” while others fall flat. And not everyone finds the same humor funny. Most comics today rely less on creativity and more on profanity and shock. If you read the humor of some of the great comedians from the past, you will find that some had very creative minds and didn’t need to be crude.
Some humor is complex and creative, requiring thought. Profanity and bathroom humor is simplistic and usually devoid of true creativity. I admire the creativity of comics like Jonathan Winters and others, who can spontaneously create humor out of thin air.
Laughter has probably been with us since human beings first noticed they were naked. I’ve blogged on humor and how the brain processes it many moons ago, but by way of review, I’d like to go over it again for new readers. This may only interest me because I taught psychology a long, long time ago - shortly before Freud discovered sex. But, who knows, you may find this process interesting too.
Here’s how the brain works when you laugh at a joke. In less than a half-second an electrical wave moves through the higher brain functions of the cerebral cortex, which is the part of the brain associated with higher cognitive functions.
We all know about the “right brain – left brain” stuff. In the case of humor, the left hemisphere analyzes the words and the structure of a joke or humorous event. Then the right hemisphere “gets” it, so to speak.
The right hemisphere appears to be involved in the interpretation of emotional material presented linguistically and when it “gets it” the process accelerates. The right hemisphere actually determines if something is funny or not.
The visual sensory area of the occipital lobe creates images. The limbic or “emotional” system provides pleasure or happiness and the motor systems make you smile or laugh. Kind of a chain reaction. Simple, eh?
Personally, I think the Corpus Callosum plays a major role. That’s the thick band of nerve fibers that connect the left and right hemispheres of the Cerebrum, facilitating communications between the hemispheres. Incidentally, early music training helps develop this connection.
All you really need to know is that humor engages the whole brain. Consequently creativity is enhanced, intelligence is exercised, and the brain is firing on all cylinders. So laugh and get smarter.
But if you don’t enjoy humor, take the advice of W. C. Fields - “Start every day off with a smile and get it over with.”