What is the difference between satire and humour?

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mvcdc | Student, Graduate | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Humor is something that provokes laughter and provides amusement.  Common example here would be the normal/day-to-day jokes that one might hear from a friend (hence, we say that that person has a sense of humor).

Satire, on the other hand, is a genre of literature in which vices, abuses, or shortcomings are ridiculed, usually through sarcasm. 

While both of these usually provoke laughter, their goals, and sometimes means, are different. Humor such as most comedy shows, simply aim to elicit laughter. When someone gets the joke, or someone laughs, humor succeeds. On the other hand, this is merely an extra for satires. The main goal of satire, while ridiculing shortcomings or certain mistakes in a particular society or group, is improvement (and hence, the sarcasm towards particular behavior). 

While humor will necessarily fail when it is not funny, satires aren't necessarily funny. Satires make people think (again, by attacking a particular behavior in a particular society). Satire attacks something and has themes usually ranging from religion to politics to collective human behavior, with strong characteristics of irony and sarcasm. 

Mr. Bean can mostly be classified as humor. It simply makes fun of the main character, with no particular behavior that is to be corrected (though probably sometimes this is not the case) -- and the main goal is simply to lighten up the room through laughter. On the other hand, South Park, after deeper thinking and analysis, might be considered by some as a social satire.