Some Interesting Reddit Threads On Comedy

I found some cool threads over the past several days. The first one is called What comedian do you find terribly unfunny? and it’s pretty funny to hear what people tend to say. It reminds me of the article I wrote about how people can find very different things funny or not. It’s always interesting to see which names come up more often and hilarious to see how angry people get trying to argue who isn’t funny. It isn’t that serious…

I also saw this other thread: ELI5: What makes our brains go “that was funny, now let’s laugh”? which is pretty damn interesting. The guy who wrote the top answer actually wrote a book on what makes people laugh and he also shared a great podcast episode about it. He gives an explanation of his thesis and there are a lot of comments filled with speculation. Which, to me, shows how ridiculous humor research can be. Through my experiences, everyone has a slightly different explanation for laughter. It’s caused by surprise or the unexpected. It’s a social relationship thing. It’s something to do with pain. Whatever. In my opinion it just is what it is. Interesting to think about, though, maybe.

Contagious Laughter

Have you ever been with a bunch of friends when one of them starts to laugh? And then she keeps laughing and laughing…and laughing. Until someone else begins to laugh at how ridiculous she is…and then suddenly everyone is starting to laugh uncontrollably?

Well that’s what happened in Tanzania in 1962, but it wasn’t just a group of friends. It was entire towns. And it didn’t stop for several months. I’m serious.

You might have heard about the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic (yes, epidemic) before, but you might not know that outbreaks of “mass hysteria” still happen there today. In fact, Radiolab did a story on contagious laughter that detailed another more recent outbreak, where one girl was actually hospitalized and repeatedly administered Valium until she finally stopped laughing when she woke up.

I first heard about contagious laughter when I was doing humor research on puns and I was like “No wayy – that’s impossible.” But, It’ real! Check it out.

I think it’s a fascinating concept and it kind of explains why stand up comedy works. If you ever ask a comic to tell you a joke one-on-one, he probably won’t do it. Why? Well, no one says, “Oh, you’re a dentist?! Pull out someone’s tooth right here at this dinner party!” Also, it’s just different performing to one person than it is performing to a crowd. Have you ever had a creepy girlfriend or boyfriend who sang love ballads to you one-on-one? It’s awkward! It’s like singing a love ballad, but with humor. Which sounds funny, but in person not so much.

Besides that, it’s just too risky. Telling a joke one-on-one, anything can happen. But I’ll tell you what usually happens: nothing. People just stand there and don’t say anything. Or worse, they say, “That was funny.” Rarely do they actually laugh, even if it’s your best joke that kills every time on stage.

Why? Well, there’s no other people around to laugh at the thing together! I think contagious laughter definitely comes into play when you’re doing a set for a crowd. And, the very best crowds are the ones who are laughing uncontrollably…one might say “bordering on mass hysteria.” Maybe I just need to play some venues in Tanzania and then I’ll be really funny.