What is humor?

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carol-davis's profile pic

carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The great American writer E. B. White wrote: Some claim that humor cannot or should not be explained.  Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to anything but the pure scientific mind.

Humor is hard to define. One dictionary defined humor as recreational drollery. In fact, there is no general theory of humor or even an agreed definition.

In research, this is what has been determined.  Humor encompasses three components: wit, merriment, and laughter. Wit is the cognitive component of the experience of humor.  Merriment is the emotional experience; and laughter is the physiological experience.

Sigmund Freud considered humor an outlet for discharging pent up psychic energy and diminishing the importance of potentially damaging events.

Laughter is often equated with humor.  There are many instances of laughter which do not come from humor, i.e., tickling, nervousness.  There are instances of humor that do not result in laughter. 

People often assume that in order for something to be thought of as humorous, it should evoke laughter.  While comedians may use that as a measure of success, this is not the case fo humor at work.  Anything that relaxes the body, gets people to smile, or elicits happiness is humor.  The most important thing to remember is humor should be beneficial to work and life. 

One definition that makes sense is that humor is the quality of perception that enables a person to experience joy often times when faced with adversity. To further extend the understanding of humor is that it is intended to induce amusement. Humor may also be the ability to perceive, enjoy, or express what is amusing, comical, or absurd.

It is impossible to feel stress, anger, depression, anxiety, guilt, and experience humor at the same time.  Like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, humor is in the funny bone of  the receiver of the experience.




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anjali989's profile pic

anjali989 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Honors

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humor can be compared with a place of crisis in society i.e. that humour discovers the long lasting disorders that people would feel uncomfortable in facing. Writers indicate insufficiencies through humour. Thus, their criticism is ambiguous.Carlyle refers to the meaning of humour being integral in the empathy and in the compassion of all kinds of existence, wheras Thackeray goes further in saying that humour is joking with love. Perhaps the latter is nearer the truth. Humour is a feature of the heart. There are people who do not know how to love. Perhaps, those are the ones who have no sense of humour.The main presumption for good humour is the absence of cynicism, malice, or pretense & Aristotle even advocates humour as an expression of health i.e. "Be joyful so that you can be serious".humor fits into most areas of art and entertainment, it fits into literature “where it brings pleasure, eases pain, and makes the world a better place.”And although many of us speak of humor as if it were a genre, “it’s really an element—actually—make that an assortment of elements.”smiling can imply a sense of humour and a state of amusement

hope it helps :D