Cover of book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny

The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny

by: Peter McGraw, Joel Warner

Check out the book on Amazon | your public library.
13 Highlights | 3 Notes
  • “And remember,” says Dean, as he pulls out a stopwatch,“Be playfully mean.”
    Note: in standup comedy
  • Instead, improvisers are trained to agree with whatever their colleagues say, then use it to further the action: “Yes, and …” “No” is a no-no.
  • “All good comedy talks about what is wrong and what is funny about a situation,” he tells us later. “A lot of times, the approach for both is, what bothers you about this situation, what's truthful about it. ”
  • If you're going to mine your life for comedy material, for benign violations, you're going to start with the violations - relationship struggles and health problems and other topics - that people don't talk about in polite company, but are great for a laugh.
  • The rest of us just aren't as motivated as comedians to share those screw-ups with others in the guise of jokes.
  • Koestler described humor as “the dash oftwo mutually incompatible codes” - the fusion of two frames of reference that for the most part have nothing to do with each other
    Note: #eq, Koestler
  • Puns are the simplest case, since they play with two different meanings of the same word.
  • Maybe that's why Koestler figured creating jokes wasn't as simple as being intelligent and creatively combining different subjects. Successful humor creators also have to be comfortable with “thinking aside,” he wrote. It's not about following rules. It's about breaking them - shifting perspectives,exploring the absurd, and probing the outer limits of what's acceptable.
  • We come away from New York knowing that a killer funny bone isn't necessarily a gift from the gods. But it does take a whole lot of work-and, paradoxically, a whole lot of fun. If you're going to combine esoteric topics in clever and funny ways, you need to live large. Read up on odd topics. Explore new places. Head off on wild adventures. If nothing else, have long, rambling conversations over drinks.
    Just don't offer to foot the bill
  • As Mark Twain wrote, “The secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in Heaven.”
    Note: #eq, Mark Twain
  • Maybe it's because we're too busy clowning around to focus on how miserable we should be. Humor and coping, after all, seem to go hand in hand. Successful humor inspires all sorts of positive feelings and emotions, which can act as a psychological buffer when things go wrong. Not only that, but as we've learned, humor is all about shifting one'sperspective, reassessing situations, and, as Pete would say, transforming violations into benign violations.
  • And if you want to become a world-class humorist, a good formula or two might set you in the right direction &emdash; but it won't get you all the way. To do that, you have to explore new ideas and challenge your assumptions. You have to venture out of your comfort zone.
  • But there's a better way to do it, he says: “Surround yourself with the people and things that make you laugh. Seek out interesting places and interesting people. Focus on the friends who make You laugh, not on the ones who bring you down. Choose as a partners someone with whom you share a sense of humor, someone who helps you see the lighter side of life.”