Sunday, April 19, 2015

Shtick and Humor

Last time we talked about daydreaming. As from the story of Walter Mitty, we discussed different reasons for daydreaming. It might because it is fun to tell a story in one's head, or maybe it is a great way for people to spend their leisure time when there are not many recreation ways like nowadays. As professor Arvan mentioned about the song "Daydreaming", the reason is romantic feeling for a girl, which is quite different from Walter Mitty's daydreaming. Also, we talked about the relationship between daydreaming and creativity but it is pretty unclear. Personally I feel that daydreaming sometimes could intrigue creativity. But it's not necessarily the way to improve creativity.

Shtick, is the word Professor Arvan mentioned at the last of the discussion. It is a "comic theme or gimmick", according to Wikipedia. Actually, when I think of humorous piece in comedy, I feel a strong sense of culture. It is not necessarily a culture between western or eastern. Rather, it is a smaller range of culture that a specific group could understand. For example, an inside joke may makes the group members laugh while does not seem funny at all for people who are not in the group because they don't know the story behind it. I remember one time during a calculus class, the professor told a joke about "integrals". After he finished the joke, only a couple of students laughed and he was so disappointed and said "I thought it was the best joke I've ever heard of..." The reason can be that some students don't understand the calculus behind it so they don't understand the joke. Or it could be that even they understand the calculus, it doesn't seem funny to them at all. So it's very interesting to observe the different reactions to a same joke.

However, there is a kind of joke that can make majority laugh, which happens a lot in comedy. The comedy series such as Friends, Big Bang, Modern Family, have shticks which could transmit the humor to a lot of people, even across the culture differences. At least in China, these comedy series are extremely popular among young people. So what makes a humor? And why do we love humor?

For me a good humor should be relevant. A really smart person would choose the right, or the relevant humor at the right time. Maybe they're working in a team for group project, the right humor at the right time could refresh people and even increase the efficiency. Just from my own experience, I have two two-hour lecture this semester. One is for language and brain and one is for Cognitive Psychology. While the professor in cognitive psychology course is so humorous that even he's talking about the statistics methods for data analysis I don't feel bored at all. While for another course, I feel so tired and can't pay attention to the content from time to time. When I work in groups, humor could bring the same effect. This Ted Talk about "Humor at Work" by Andrew Tarvin is pretty inspiring about how humor could improve people's happiness as well as working satisfaction at the same time.

In terms of no humor sense, or being solemn all the time. There are actually a lot of possible reasons. First, the person might focus on something else and value jokes as a waste of time. When people is too stressed about the work project, homework or exams, the only thing they care about is how to increase productivity and waste no time. Under that pressure, high attention to the work would decrease people's ability to accept humor. In addition, people may just don't understand the humor and feel bored about it. This might due to the difference culture, understanding and backgrounds. While I believe there is always commons between people that could triggers humor senses. We could definitely talk more about the reasons behind it on Friday.


  1. The professor is in over his head
    "Let's talk about humor," is what he said.
    It's one thing to talk, another to do.
    Now we wait for the drop of the other shoe.

    If learning by doing is the authentic way
    On how to get there he has nothing to say.
    So on this major topic you are completely free
    Because as to what we should do, the joke's on me.

  2. There are certain types of factors in humor I believe. For instance, using someone's failure as a subject works pretty well to make others laugh. I really can't explain exactly, but I really laugh a lot when I hear, or even see someone falling down on slippery ice (of course, when it is not too serious).

    I'm really interested in elements of successful humor, but wasn't really able to list it down. Some abstract thoughts about the subject was all I've been doing up till now.

    I certainly do believe that humor is one of the most frequently used creative activity in our lives. As we have discussed last week, humor is an effective lubricant to ease up our relationships, including the work environment where one has to cooperate with others.

    I'm up for some discussion of humor @ upcoming Friday. Can't find any reason not to :)