Humour or humorous behaviour is the prevailing tendency of encounters to elicit humorous and give pleasure. The word derives from the ancient Greek humoral medicine, which taught that humour controlled emotion and human well being, influenced by the presence of harmonious fluids in the body. The belief was that some people were born with natural gifts of wit and humour, while others developed through repeated exposure to foolishness and maliciousness. Humorous behaviour in individuals appears to be stronger and more frequent than in groups, suggesting that a social situation adds power and influence to the action, which then becomes funny. When a joke is delivered to a group, it gives them an added energy to share the fun, whereas when it is delivered to an individual it creates a feeling of camaraderie and fun within the group.
There are certain key characteristics of a funny routine to make people laugh. Funny jokes need to be delivered in a tasteful and sensible manner, which avoids offence and provokes no response in the most primitive, instinctive responses. Gagging and loud-mouthed laughter is one of the easiest ways to create an audience reaction, and often provides the most hilarious punch lines. Rude gestures, biting and stamping are other ways to increase the popularity of a joke. When a joke involves use of language that is inappropriate for the age or level of maturity of the audience, the offence is certain to be taken, both by the joke itself and by those who may be listening or observing the performance.
Humor is not exclusive to the realm of adults. Children can derive great enjoyment from a funny performance. It is said that a child’s ability to appreciate or even enjoy humor will advance quicker than his verbal or written abilities. In a recent survey, three-quarters of school children admitted that they found it amusing when adults made use of colourful language, dramatic irony or sarcasm to make jokes. Similarly, seventy percent of adults agreed that it was funny when someone else’s behavior was counteracted by wit or creativity.
It is possible to observe funny human beings from a distance, such as when walking down a street or waiting in line at the grocery store. It is hard to gauge exactly how much humor is added to a situation by an observer. Some people report that when in a public place, laughter adds to the experience because the feeling of embarrassment or stress is lessened. Laughter, in itself, can also reduce the negative effects of stress. However, in real-life examples, the direct opposite of laughter is not only constructive but can also have beneficial consequences.
Researchers have proven that smiling is a natural response to others’ happiness or sadness, as well as to social interaction. Similarly, laughter has been shown to alleviate many of the symptoms and discomforts associated with minor illnesses. A simple smile, regardless of whether one is aware of having laughed or not, is a powerful self-therapy technique that can eliminate much of the stress and anxiety that people associate with feeling sick and has been used for years to treat such ailments as sore throat, indigestion, heartburn, colds and coughs.
When practicing the act of humor, it is important to choose the right jokes. One’s humor should be based on personal experience or observation and should not be assumed to be funny. In addition, one should use appropriate language and stay away from using offensive language. The deputy director of the UN has stated that “laughter is the best medicine” and I would have to agree, laughing at oneself is a great way to release tension and boost one’s self-esteem. So, if you find yourself getting the “good laugh,” don’t let it go wasted.