the definition of humor

July 31st, 2003

What occured to me today was how humor is all about acting younger than your actual age. When you're being funny, you're being juvenile. Because only a juvenile person would make fun of something instead of being serious. Children will mock the most stupid things because they don't know better. And people who make jokes sink to a lower level, trying to entertain other people. And that's why there's a risk there, if the person doesn't think you're funny, he/she automatically sends you a message saying "I am not as childish as you are, this is not funny, I take this seriously". All the way from the lowest level, like South Park, up to the dizzy heights of Frasier, it holds true. The main difference is what exactly you base the comedy on. As such it's very easy to understand how South Park would appeal to the masses, the material is hard not to understand. More sophisticated humor, however, is much higher quality but also demands a lot more from the recipient. Watching Frasier, you have to know something about courtesy, about art, culture, language, human relations etc to understand the flow, otherwise you'll switch back to South Park. But to draw the concept further, humor is also analogous to programming. When you're a kid, you make silly jokes based on observations that you make. If someone is short, you'll make fun of them for that, if someone is chubby, that's another good reason, maybe one of your friends has a father who's a garbage man, yet another fine pretext. And that's sort of like low level programming, you don't know that much and you just use what you know to put something together. You send messages to the monitor, you write to the hard drive, you play with the components.

Once you grow up a little, hit the puberty, there's a whole other platform of humor on a platter. Now it's largely about sex but good portions of that juvenile toilet humor made it through in one piece, you still have that at hand. Now you're also one step forward in the programming hierarchy, you know have an operating system, a larger base of functions to use. But since you can still access the toilet humor, you still have a window into that past of yours, sort of like the old dos games when programmers would use dos system calls for some stuff but they would also hardcode for specific hardware in special cases.

When/if you grow up, you learn more about life, and there's a lot more material out there for potential jokes. Just have a look at the sections at those jokes sites, you have law, government, police, taxes, computers, human relations, marketing, dating, politics, sports, medicine and more. Now obviously, if you're not familiar with these concepts, if you don't have an understanding of them, even a basic one, there is no shock in discovering you don't get the jokes, because those jokes are aimed at people who do have that understanding. In programming terms, that's like having an IDE to code in, you have a framework as a spring board for your own material but you have to understand the framework to be able to create anything meaningful.

Gradually, as you climb these steps, the comedy becomes more and more specific, suitable for a rapidly decreasing public. Because it takes a considerable amount of base material to understand the comedy, few people will be able to get it, because we all go our separate ways and no human being can master every field. In programming terms, the more specific and advanced a program becomes, the fewer people will find use for it.

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2 Responses to "the definition of humor"

  1. You know who says:

    Good stuff but leave the programming bit out next time - some people aren't as intelligent

  2. Torkel says:

    Some good points, except the Frasier bit. Frasier can be funny, but is often humour in a childish, slapstick like form, and not very mature at all.

    So there