It’s a well known fact that different styles of humor appeal to different types of people. It’s another well known fact that humor is almost never funny once it is dissected, or analyzed – anyone who has ever had to explain a joke knows this to be true. We’re going to try to straddle the line here and not quite examine the anatomy of specific jokes, but rather attempt to at least identify the various styles of humor and the ones that appeal most to you.
On screen I tend to like the absurdist humor that Monty Python employed so cleverly in both their television shows and movies. I’d be hard pressed to name another comedy troupe that created such absurd/bizarre skit situations with such heavy use of gross exaggeration and understatement (the argument clinic, the Crimson Permanent Assurance, knights who say nee, dead parrot skit etc.) so successfully. I enjoy physical comedy too at times (Jim Carrey in ‘Ace Ventura’ comes to mind) but for some reason it never seems to be anywhere near as funny with successive viewings.
In print my favorite humorists would include Garrison Keilor and Mark Twain. Both have/had the quality of telling sometimes painful truths, but their use of humor lessens the sting and help create a situation where one may be more inclined/willing to examine the potential truth behind what they said. For pure release of laughter, though, I’d have to go with Douglas Adams’ and his Hitchhiker series.
Stand up comedy deserves its own special category as the comedian must not only balance effective delivery of their material (correct timing, intonation/emphasis, maintain character etc.) but must also be able to improvise and react to the live audience. Gauging an audience’s reactions to various jokes can be critical in determining which ones to tell or when it’s time to change directions. In terms of material I’d have to give Woody Allen top marks. He wrote jokes for other comedians for years, but was also quite good in his own delivery (e.g. his neurotic stage character says ‘I confess I cheated on my metaphysics exam by peering into the soul of the boy sitting next to me’). George Carlin, however, gets the blue ribbon in the stand up category. Not only did he maintain enormous stage presence but he managed to inject a healthy dose of truth in his stand up act not unlike the way Twain and Keilor do in print. His observational style of humor has been emulated by many following him, but few ever matched him.
Who makes you laugh the hardest?