Have you ever finished someone else’s sentence? We predict what people are going to say well before they finish a sentence. If they say something that you do not expect, something we did not anticipate, it can be humorous. As a comedian knows all too well, it is also about timing. The unexpected part has to arrive in people’s mind at the exact same time as they arrive at a prediction of what they expected you to say. You have to pause to allow them to work out what you might say, then say the unexpected thing. Hence why it is not just timing that is so crucial, but why jokes you hear before don’t create much laughter, as you know what is coming and can foresee it.

Priming helps but jokes out of the blue can be as comical. We use tomfoolery to aid the bonding process between people in our group. It has been suggested that the tickle reflex is a mechanism to aid parents to bond with their children even though extensive tickling is known to be torturous. You can be aroused and more receptive to humour in larger audiences because of the contagious nature of it. Laughing at someone when they fall or spill something on themselves is stoked by our competitive spirit.

When we whisper on purpose people notice the drop in level and want to know what the secrecy is all about. Fake laughter has a similar effect as it draws attention. You can bug people by laughing to yourself whether intentional or not, sometimes because your mind is wandering and falls upon an amusing event in the past unrelated to what is going on around you at the time. Laughter in any form is therapeutic and causing it plays a part in our social status. People warm to those that smile or can make them laugh. We also use it as an inclusive mechanism and will laugh even when we don’t get the joke so that we do not feel left out. Having a nonplussed face soon after someone has reached the punchline sours the occasion, so many will laugh anyway as it improves friendships significantly.

Farting might be seen as disgusting by some, but it can cross boundaries in its ability to make people smirk. Jokes do not always translate very well because there is not always the same ambiguity and potential to play on words. Nevertheless, there can be a lot of reliance upon unexpected ways of saying things. That person with the floral dress and long wavy hair is pretty…..ugly.

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