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What Makes Something Funny?

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It's said that the quickest way to kill a joke is to explain it, but scientists are still interested in finding out just what tickles our brains and makes us find something funny. Hosted by: Brit Garner ---------- Support SciShow by becoming a patron on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/scishow ---------- Dooblydoo thanks go to the following Patreon supporters: Kevin Bealer, Mark Terrio-Cameron, KatieMarie Magnone, Inerri, D.A. Noe, Charles Southerland, Fatima Iqbal, سلطان الخليفي, Nicholas Smith, Tim Curwick, Scott Satovsky Jr, Philippe von Bergen, Bella Nash, Chris Peters, Patrick D. Ashmore, Piya Shedden, Charles George ---------- Looking for SciShow elsewhere on the internet? Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/scishow Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/scishow Tumblr: http://scishow.tumblr.com Instagram: http://instagram.com/thescishow ---------- Sources: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/humor/#SupThe https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/BF03336718 http://leeds-faculty.colorado.edu/mcgrawp/pdf/mcgraw.warren.inpress.pdf http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/features/2014/the_humor_code/what_makes_something_funny_a_bold_new_attempt_at_a_unified_theory_of_comedy.html https://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/69572/mcgrawwarrenwilliamsleonard2012.pdf https://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/69572/mcgrawwarrenwilliamsleonard2012.pdf http://leeds-faculty.colorado.edu/mcgrawp/pdf/mcgraw.williams.warren.2014b.pdf http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2011/05/13/5_leading_theories_for_why_we_laugh_and_the_jokes_that_prove_them_wrong.html
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Text Comments (402)
Amaazing Gamer (5 days ago)
Amaazing Gamer (5 days ago)
So I tried to put a comment on this (scishow psych) video, but it switched to the next one on my watch later list. So it commented the thing on both.
tripplehd #thedragon (1 month ago)
3:27 9/11 jokes
samantha Harris (1 month ago)
..... I never get it
Riedler Musics (1 month ago)
AdlockHungry (2 months ago)
One day we will discover the unified theory of har-de-har, har.
Aysh B (2 months ago)
What about puns?
Shitpost Eloquently (3 months ago)
I think the “benign” part has been thrown out in a few notable circles.
Insanity Cubed (3 months ago)
3:26 But there won't be anyone left to make jokes about WWIII, years later.
Ondrej Henek (3 months ago)
Nobody appreciating 1:20 "something completely different" beach classic from Monty Python? :)
tails1152 (3 months ago)
kingbarneyoflondon (3 months ago)
What means the british are seen as funny because they dont care and other dont care about them
Mike Page (3 months ago)
You lost me at "predictable jokes are funny". That's an American thing. Children like it, too. But in the UK we equate appreciating a joke with solving a puzzle. There's a psychological reward associated with joining the dots. This also explains why you can't tell the same joke twice. Unless you're American.
austin fernando (3 months ago)
"Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog, no one's that interested and the frog dies" If you're a frog that's not funny.
John Johansen (3 months ago)
I don't care who you dad is. Do not walk on the water when we fish!
shivam jaiswal (3 months ago)
*Came here for the puns..*
Last Man Standing (3 months ago)
A welfare mom has 5 sons and names them all Tom, how does she adress them if they are all named Tom?? A: She just calls them by their last name's!
Rdaco (5 months ago)
Ah so that's why 9/11 jokes are everywhere
Joe Baumgart (6 months ago)
That doesn't explàin why dead ba by jokes are hilarious.
Ramon Quiroz (6 months ago)
To be honest. I thought this episode was pretty funny. Too soon?
Patrick McCurry (6 months ago)
Sounds like music. It needs to be somewhat predictable by not being random noise, but too predictable leads to boredom. If you can't get the beat, then it's noise. I literally cannot hear the music dubstep, so it is noise to me, even though I know that many people enjoy it. Jazz sounds like boring horns falling down stairs, so it's not enjoyable to me either.
Vinnie Ramone (6 months ago)
comedy is when tragedy happens to someone else
Cd-iLozytp (6 months ago)
Why are YTP funny? It's an agglomeration of memes, sentence mixing, and chaos, and it's hilarious somehow.
Ike Moon (6 months ago)
Around 2:25 I think the answer you keep dancing around is "if it gets too close to home, it's not funny". Jokes outline a hypothetical reality in our heads and contrasts it with an opposing hypothetical reality; a necessary component of jokes is irony, even though not all irony is funny. Once something has serious implications, it stops being a warning and starts being a threat. For instance, if someone says something sarcastic to you, it's usually meant to jab at your intelligence, character, etc., which is something real and not hypothetical.
Ike Moon (6 months ago)
looking back on it, she's not really dancing around it, just not explaining it fully the way I understand it. Not like anyone should necessarily trust me more than her, of course; I'm just adding my take on it.
Mystical Orbit (6 months ago)
3:28 well that explains Bush did 9/11 jokes. And many other things.
Mystical Orbit (6 months ago)
I like the chemistry pun
Danae Christodoulou (7 months ago)
Why do we complain?
Lewis Massie (7 months ago)
"Cats and really good chemistry puns". Where do I find me a girlfriend like this?
G. Brent Wilson (7 months ago)
I broke my funny bone. It was humerus...
Magical Tony (7 months ago)
personally I've always thought humour exists to incentives shareing how we've fucked up so other people can learn from it
Milagros Díaz Cusi (7 months ago)
I just love her so much! Keep that excelent work! <3
Dash71101 (7 months ago)
My humor is too messed up. What is the difference between Jesus and a picture of Jesus? The picture can be hung with 1 nail
Jesus (8 months ago)
They didn't cover offensive jokes like racist jokes.
Cerulean Skigh (8 months ago)
Jesus Lack of empathy - like with the accidental donation example.
Gilad Gur (8 months ago)
I think all those theories contribute to humor. I would also mention excessive repetition and misunderstanding.
Mr. Boomguy (8 months ago)
There is just something about the human body we will never understand, for now.
Antonio Jiménez Pérez (8 months ago)
You always wear the best t-shirts ever
John Pater (8 months ago)
Her tattoo points to a location in the Atlantic just off of Key West...
Commander Cody (9 months ago)
This is the best comment section every
Bunni Bunns (9 months ago)
The Benign Violation Theory would also explain why racists and sexists see racist and sexist jokes as funny– the jokes don't "hit close to home," or at least not in negative way, to them, because of their place of privilege. While someone who is a minority or woman, is offended, and finds it unfunny, because that is something that they deal with all the time.
Cerulean Skigh (8 months ago)
Bunni Bunns This certainly explains my mid aged white male coworker who mocks women and minorities constantly, yes.
Haseeb (9 months ago)
"Reading scenarios" and hearing a comedian tell a well done, yet offensive joke, are two very different things.
Some Asshole (9 months ago)
Yard sard
David Allen (9 months ago)
Just a thought here: Jokes could also be a way of testing what those we're interacting with find important or not. A weak violation against an important issue will be found funny, as would a big violation about something that isn't cared about. Small violations of unimportant things will be found boring, and big ones of important ones will illicit shock or pain. That's a way one can tie it back to hunter-gatherer days!
oldcowbb (9 months ago)
it's funny because it's meme and randem
Diane Green (9 months ago)
You look like Emma Stone!!
BZAKether (9 months ago)
Stop, stop the video, Do people actually laugh at puns? Really? I want a scientific investigation here.
Cerulean Skigh (8 months ago)
BZAKether I do.
thanrose (9 months ago)
In different languages, some sounds or words or even phrases are funnier. Sometimes they are onomatopoeic like "Splat" or archaic like "hiney" or foreign yet understood as in "Pourquoi?" Regions have their preferences that others speaking the same language may deride: "wicked", "sodapop", "bless her heart." There are trigger words that are not inherently funny, but tickle some people: "Nevermind", "That's what she said", "How about a Hawaiian punch?", "Marshmallow meatballs", "Who ya gonna call?" There may not be one single thing that all humans will find funny. And most jokes will offend someone somewhere, even kindergartener jokes.
Lady.Whatever (9 months ago)
From what I know: • Out of context • Unexpected
Sonny Moon (9 months ago)
that shirt just seems perfect for this video
jinkim96 (9 months ago)
Man, I remember Zogg's video on this
SquidKing (9 months ago)
Guys please watch the TED Talk on the Benign Violation Theory, it compliments this video well.
Elijah (9 months ago)
what are some jokes in bad taste
king james488 (9 months ago)
a silly hat. makes anything funny.
Heather Calun (9 months ago)
So what's funny or in poor taste is determined by your background, and therefore there are more factors at play when someone says a joke is offensive than them just "having thin skin". So... we can stop arguing about Social Justice Warriors ruining comedy now? Please? No? Still going to war over this goddamn pointless feud fueled by the villainization of empathy itself? Ok then...
Nicolai Veliki (9 months ago)
So there's this guy talking to this other guy atthe bar, telling him he just got a foreign girlfriend. The other dude asks if he speaks her labguage and he answers:"No, but that doesn't matter. I don't understand American women either"
epic monkey (9 months ago)
I dare everyone who reads this to tell me the most offensive jokes they know
Ken O (9 months ago)
aNTI-jOKES: (unexpected to the next level) Q: What's worse than finding a worm in your apple? A. The black plague. (Too soon?) Q: What's blue and smells like red paint? 🎨 A: Blue paint. Q: What color was George Washington's white house? 🐎 A: White. Person 1: Knock, Knock. 🚪 Person 2: Who's there? Person 1: Lettuce. Person 2: That's impossible. Yo momma's so fat, that... 👩 we are all extremely concerned for her health. ☤
Ken O (9 months ago)
I remember seeing Johnny Carson (a long time host of NBC's Tonight Show) in his opening monologue tell an Abraham Lincoln joke, and when the audience reaction was less than enthusiastic, he'd respond by saying "What?.. Too soon?" The first joke wasn't memorable, but his comeback was hilarious.
Naughty Hotdog (9 months ago)
Ken O Carson was awesome
Jon S (9 months ago)
HERE is the formula for comedy: T+t/d=GC (Translation: Tragedy plus time [and/or] distance equals Good Comedy)
Wan SN (9 months ago)
Still doesn't explain cats tho
Jimothy (9 months ago)
comedy is objective, and functions through irony. funny is subjective, however
Plumeria Melia λ (9 months ago)
What about people with a dark sense of humor, like me?
Cerulean Skigh (8 months ago)
Plumeria Melia λ Subversion of cultural norms can be amusing. I guess your definition of benign is broader than some people's. Or you're more emotionally detached from the subjects of the dark jokes. Possiblity both.
Lauren (9 months ago)
You know the 20 minute video of the Japanese comedian group absolutely decimating their friend with cream pies, but the guy can't react to the pies? god, I laugh so hard at that. Completely predictable but absolutely hilarious
Jan Gambler (9 months ago)
"Alright, if I study this video hard enough I can be funny too. Come one, let's do this!"
blackclothesblackcat (9 months ago)
your shirt made me laugh
Mark Mathews (9 months ago)
Vsauce did a video about laughter and stated that puns are funny because of novel learning. has there been any research into that idea?
Lovy (9 months ago)
I hate freud with sucha a passion if there was ever a way to rise the dead I would bring him back only so I could kill him again
PandaProductions (9 months ago)
none of these explain why I can just point to a dog, say "he" and end up balling from laughter
DanSlab (9 months ago)
Practical humor: Tasers. Slightly harmful, ends up in a predictable but different result with every person.
Choyi dude (9 months ago)
im from venezuela and we are always laughing at this shitty situation
Ya'ad Meytav (9 months ago)
you're pretty
Clumsy Pearls (9 months ago)
the memery
HK (9 months ago)
0:28 So schadenfreude?
MakeMeThinkAgain (9 months ago)
"There's Something About Mary." That's all i have to say on this topic.
RichGuano (9 months ago)
Why is a joke funny the first time you hear it, but not as funny when you hear the exact same joke again? Why is the same joke suddenly funny again, even to you, when you tell it to somebody who has not yet heard it. My understanding is that it has something to do with connecting unassociated ideas. It really just comes down to chemical reactions in the brain when ideas are first linked together.
Yal Rathol (3 months ago)
RichGuano for the first one, neural fatigue would be part of it. it's the same reason that saying a word over and over makes it sound weird and why junkies always seek bigger and bigger highs. if you've heard the joke and laughed, you react and then need to cool down before the joke becomes funny again. as for retelling a joke, empathy is probably part of it, reliving that first experience vicariously through someone else's reaction.
TheFlacker99 (Flak) (9 months ago)
I laugh hysterically at burnt food. WHY?
scivolanto (9 months ago)
French philosopher Henry Bergson already made the same kind of explanation for laughter, only more elaborate, in his book "Le Rire" (The Laughter) a century ago.
Amonra Elias (9 months ago)
What if humor is a survival trait we are very social creatures and the better we are socializing the better people will agree with us is it not or not eat us
MyHerpes Itch (9 months ago)
Racist jokes are the best
NOVEMBER XBII (9 months ago)
C'mon guys, 9/11 jokes are just plane wrong.
B S (9 months ago)
Do one on the Dunning–Kruger effect!!!!
Sereotype (9 months ago)
What about....... ........ ......timing?
Mr newt (9 months ago)
Too soon.
cataclysmicnothing (9 months ago)
I don't understand why people get offended at some jokes. I guess dark humor is like food. Not everyone gets it.
Cerulean Skigh (8 months ago)
king james488 (9 months ago)
Fandom guy (9 months ago)
Curtis E. (9 months ago)
Benign violation doesn't explain a plethora of jokes that are in-moment shock. When my dad had a acute life threatening heart complication and was rushed to the hospital, the first thing I jokingly said to him when he came to was: If you do that again I'll kill you myself. And we laughed an a tension was broken. While if the timing or anything like that would have been off, it would have come across as very offensive.
Aaron Forbes (9 months ago)
Seems too subjective to try and get an objective truth out of it
Tds Tds (9 months ago)
#suggestion What are the positive and negative effects of a night shift sleep schedule?
Agent00abe (9 months ago)
Just in case anyone is wondering. Dead baby jokes are in my general experience BAD ice breakers. /shrug
TiagoTiago (9 months ago)
Of course Freud would've worked on a theory involving bodily fluids.
Xx Blaineworld xX (9 months ago)
According to me, this definition from Urban Dictionary is hilarious: poop back and forth When someone poops into someone elses butt-hole, and then they poop it back into their butt-hole, with the same poop. Forever.
Sergio Carranza (9 months ago)
I knew the comment section would be this way
Sergio Carranza (9 months ago)
Would you poop for 6500 quadrillion dollars?
Eli Abood (9 months ago)
You guys should make a video about the winner of the Econ Nobel Memorial Prize. Thaler's behavioral Econ work had a very significant impact on our understanding of human psychology as well as economics.
Caleb Kim (9 months ago)
Now we know why Hitler’s legacy became a meme
Ganaram Inukshuk (9 months ago)
Washing the... ...Garbage. I heard that from a vid lately and that's what makes me laugh: mundane instructions applied to the wrong things. Who didn't expect the idea of washing garbage?
vampyresmiles713 (9 months ago)
In reference to the "too soon" factor, I find it funny when someone makes a joke about something that happened a long time ago, and someone else adds "too soon". Probably because that itself is a violation of social norms. Make a joke about the recent hurricanes and someone says that? Yeah you're right, way too soon. Make a joke about the Irish potato famine and someone says that and I will probably die of laughter.
mwalsher (9 months ago)
I find that most jokes tend to have a surprise twist. It seemed suspiciously dismissive that incongruity theory was discredited by nothing more than a single throw-away line about how some people find some predictable jokes funnier than unpredictable ones. You should have gone into some detail on that, at least giving a single example of such. Also, predictable jokes are not necessarily _predictable_ . They usually still have a twist, but it's just so good that even if you can predict it, you spend the entire setup waiting anxiously for it, so when it the punch-line comes, you finally get to laugh (i.e., relief theory).
mansi xavier (9 months ago)
mwalsher +
Jesse Green (9 months ago)
I don't know. I feel like there's a whole category of jokes are funny because they break norms by too much as well. See Anthony Jeselnik.
Benimation (9 months ago)
I've known this for a while it has never helped me come up with a joke..
Trevor Grover (9 months ago)
Everything is meaningless and hilarious
Tyler Witt (9 months ago)
People laugh at puns?
Gryphonzwing (5 months ago)
9Godslayer idk They are very Punny to me. 🤣😎
macmurfy2jka (9 months ago)
What do you get when you mix a snake and a bird or a sheep? A boa!

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