What Makes Us Laugh

The study of humor and what makes something "funny" is a subject that has been asked by many throughout the ages.
"Human beings appear to laugh at pain and suffering, at their own discomfort and frailty and weaknesses," according to Bernie Allen, a long-time professional comedian.
Another professional comedian, Alan King, once attempted to answer that question by citing Freud and pseudo-intellectualizing about the nature of comedy.

But I believe that Bernie is correct, if you add one more part and that is all good jokes have a hook and a twist

First, you bring the listener along a mental road that leads them to develop one set of expectations for what is going to happen next. Then at the key moment, you throw them a twist that denies them that expectation and carries them in an entirely different direction. I believe that most jokes can be analyzed and will conform to that theory.

I believe the following story is an example of that kind of humor:


An elderly man lay dying in his bed. In death's agony, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite chocolate chip cookies wafting up the stairs.

Cookie Picture

He gathered his remaining strength, and lifted himself from the bed. Leaning against the wall, he slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and with even greater effort forced himself down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands. With labored breath, he leaned against the door-frame, gazing into the kitchen.

Spread out upon newspapers on the kitchen table were literally hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies.

Cookie Picture

Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself toward the table. His parched lips parted; the wondrous taste of the cookie was already in his mouth; seemingly bringing him back to life. The aged and withered hand, shakingly made its way to a cookie at the edge of the table, when it was suddenly smacked with a spatula by his wife.

"Stay out of those," she said, "they're for the funeral."

Picture of
Story received from different sources via e-mail, author not known


I disagree, humor has more to it than a hook and a twist. The best humor is not questionable that it is funny, but makes you start laughing. The cookie joke could be very sad to some, and not at all funny. When humor is done right even people who don't like jokes laugh.

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