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  1. #11
    Senior Member 6sticks's Avatar
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    Feb 2008


    Quote Originally Posted by meanlittlechimp
    Can anyone think of any humor that doesn't have the element of surprise as the basis of the humor?
    Watching a person absent-mindedly walk into a pole is funny. There's not really an element of surprise in that as you know it's going to happen... but it's still funny.

  2. #12


    Quote Originally Posted by GZA View Post
    You seem to be talking about creating jokes. What about funny things in everyday speach?

    There is still the element of suprise to some degree, in that it isn't very funny when you know what someone is going to say. Funny in everyday conversation is a lot different from creating comedy, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
    Well the original thread at INTPc was elements in good humor writing. I guess one could laugh at a platypus for simply existing, or because someone has an Chinese accent - that doesn't apply.

  3. #13


    On second thought, one could argue that one is surprised the platypus exists at all or surprised someone is speaking your language incorrectly.

  4. #14
    ish red no longer *sad* nightning's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007


    What about dry humor? Well I suppose there's element of unexpectancy in them as well...

  5. #15
    Resident Snot-Nose GZA's Avatar
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    Aug 2007


    Quote Originally Posted by meanlittlechimp View Post
    Well the original thread at INTPc was elements in good humor writing. I guess one could laugh at a platypus for simply existing, or because someone has an Chinese accent - that doesn't apply.
    I mean... like when you are speaking to someone and someone says soemthing funny. Its spontaneous, its different from written humour. Itsd engaging humour into the spontaneous flow of conversation. This is the kind of humour where if you retell it to someone they usually don't find it funny because they were not engaged in the conversation so you say " had to be there" because they don't get it.

  6. #16


    Quote Originally Posted by 6sticks View Post
    Watching a person absent-mindedly walk into a pole is funny. There's not really an element of surprise in that as you know it's going to happen... but it's still funny.
    You only know it's going to happen AFTER the fact.

    If a friend of yours was walking down the street, and it actually happened, it would surprise you and make you laugh. Well as long as they weren't seriously injured. Or they were seriously injured but you didn't realize it at the time you were lauhging, and then feel bad for laughing AFTER you realized their missing an eye or suffered a concussion.

    If you expect it to happen in a joke because that's how unoriginal the joke was, then it's no longer a surprise and thus, unfunny. For those that aren't as clever as you, and didn't see the pole coming, laugh because it is a surprise to them.

  7. #17
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Jul 2007


    Quote Originally Posted by meanlittlechimp View Post
    Can anyone think of any humor that doesn't have the element of surprise as the basis of the humor?

    ALL comedy, written or verbal, has to do with deception (setting up the joke) and surprise (the punchline). GOOD comedy requires timing and assessing your audience (they have to get the joke).

    "A rabbi, a priest and a journalist walk into a bar...." The punchline is always going to be what you didn't expect. The more surprising or unexpected the funnier (it doesn't even have to make sense, it just needs to catch you off guard). Hate the kind of humor you might find in a joke book, but it's just to illustrate a point. Taking seemingly unrelated things and connecting them in a new way is also surprising. This framework is necessary for anything that is funny. Narrative humor, cartoons, or any kind of humor, works using the same idea.

    Woody Allen isn't funny because of self mockery but its' the way he does it. One of his lines was "with a body of mine you don't get jealous." The self mockery isn't funny in itself, it's the implication (the surprise) that he has a great body. If he said, "with a body like mine, I rarely get dates." That isn't funny - even if it's self mocking.

    This also applies to slapstick. A guy is walking down the street minding his own business and then "BLAM!" a safe drops on him, or he gets a pie in the face.... Surprise you weren't expecting that! Whether you find this funny or not is another question, but plenty of other people do.

    When I was high school I used to have this habit of calling random people squirrel, squirrel-boy, ferret face, rat-boy, weasel hair, whatever. It made no sense whatsoever, but made people laugh anyways because it was completely unexpected.
    There are a lot of things that make up good comedy, but let's just focus on this one element: surprise. I don't think surprise is the necessary factor in comedy, as much as I think that boredom destroys comedy. In order for something to be funny and yet not surprising it needs to have another element that holds the laughing person's attention.

    Running gags are an example of something that can be funny, but not necessarily surprising. I remember once GMing a role-playing game where I told a player that he was being pursued by zombies, but there was one zombie that was missing a foot, so he walked even slower than the already slow zombies. We referred to this one as patheto-zombie. Every round I would predictably move the zombies, and show their placement on the map, and every round patheto-zombie would move slower than the rest, and every round we continued to laugh. As it continued it became more predictable, but it stayed funny beyond the point where it became predictable. It was more the absurdity of the situation in this case that made it funny. The absurdity held our attention long after the surprise faded and made the running gag continue to be funny.

    Speaking of patheto-zombie, mockery is another type of comedy that doesn't need surprise to be funny. It holds a person's attention mostly because they lothe the thing that they are mocking. While adding surprise can make the situation funnier, a person can still consider a predictable joke funny if they loathe the subject enough. (I won't give an example, because I don't find mockery in itself to be funny personally, but there are others that do.)

    So what makes a good joke is removing boredom and apathy and surprise is a really effective technique in doing that. The purpose is to find a way to make the person emotional. They are excited enough to evoke emotion and (in the case of a joke) hopefully laughter. Good jokes are an effective combination of the intellectual and emotional and surprise plays toward the emotional aspect.
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  8. #18


    What about inside/practical jokes?

    When people set-up a friend in weird situations, and the joke goes exactly as planed, it is often still funny to the practical jokers. Thought not always to the one the joke is on, who may be the only one surprised.

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  9. #19


    Laser, you make some good points. I'll have to think some more on the mockery (you're fat, you suck) and absurdity as a repeated or running gag (laughing at the slow zombie repeatedly). You might have gotten me on those. I'll need some more time to reflect. Maybe my only defense is that it's not good comedy; but it would still ruin my unifying grand principle of comedy theory.

    Ygolo, I think most practical jokes fall under the surprise category. Like putting someone's hand in a warm glass of water (which has never worked for me, btw) or shaving their eyebrows.

    Nightning, I think most dry humor applies too but I would need a specific example to make me reconsider that category. Most dry humor a la Steven Wright, Seinfeld etc falls under my model I think.

  10. #20


    This might be a stretch but here goes.

    When you mock someone and call them names, it is surprise that someone is that rude and direct. Some people witnessing it are shocked and they laugh. The initial idea of thinking of a slower zombie (aren't they all supposed to be the same) might make some laugh. Going to the well again, makes you remember the funny moment so you re-live the memory of it (even if it's no longer a surprise).

    If one gets sexually turned on because they remember a hot chick licking the back of their neck, they might still pop a woody. But does it mean that something else is causing the reaction other than the original experience?

    Which reminds of the old standby that makes ALL babies laugh - the peekaboo game. You put your hands over your eyes, and pull them away "surprise!" your eyes are there again. They never tire of that one. Eventually as they get older most do tire of it, because it's no longer a surprise. Some don't. I still coo and chortle to this very day, when people do it to me.

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