Some of us might assume that being funny is a quality people either have, or don’t have, and that it’s not something that can be learned. Well, great news for those who hope to increase their comedic skills — there are scientific ways to be funnier that you can start practicing immediately to get you some hearty laughs. It’s not as hard as you might think to be funny, so let’s talk about some tricks you can use to better your skills.
We all have that friend, right? The one who can say nearly anything and somehow it’s funny — even if they weren’t trying to be funny at all. I always strive to be like this, but somehow find that the things I say often end up falling flat. Despite my best efforts, I never feel as though I have it in me to be really funny. Recently it dawned on me that perhaps science might have something to say about bettering this skill. Low and behold — science has looked into it, and come up with some great suggestions on what works and what simply does not. As we’ll get to in this article, there are even some theories about what makes things funny. After looking into some of these theories and tips, I’m going to get to practicing ASAP. If you’re trying to get a little funnier, too, check them out. Here are 11 ways to be funnier, according to science.
1. Try To Include An Element Of Truth
Did you ever notice that you find yourself laughing at jokes that you can relate to? Chances are it’s because you find there to be an element of truth to them. According to Timothy Moore, PhD, a humor researcher and chair of the psychology department at York University in Toronto who spoke to the American Psychological Association on the topic, if the audience can’t agree with the truth you’ve revealed, it’ll be a hard sell to get them to laugh. That said, make sure you gauge where your audience might stand of topics before you hit them with the jokes, if possible.
2. Watch Funny Movies & Shows
According to Psychology Today, studies have shown that watching movie and TV comedies and/or standup comedy routines could help you become funnier. Why? The outlet noted watching these types of funny entertainment can boost creativity and make you smarter, thereby enhancing your comedic skills.
3. Match Up Things That Do Necessarily Go Together
According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Incongruity Theory is one of the traditional theories of laughter and humor, and it goes a little something like this: When you’re telling a joke, the first part should be the set-up, and the second part should be the punch line. According to this theory, the ending of the joke will be incongruous — or out of place/mismatched — from the first part.
4. Hit Them With The Unexpected
I spoke to behavioral investigator, founder of ScienceofPeople.com, and Udemy.com instructor Vanessa Van Edwards, who offered her expert insight into ways to be funnier. Van Edwards says using the element of surprise can boost how funny we are. “Our brains love surprises,” Van Edwards says to Bustle over email. “In fact, when something unexpected happens our brain can produce dopamine—which is the chemical that makes us feel pleasure.” Van Edwards recommends taking something typical and adding something unexpected in order to get the best laughs (much like we just talked about with incongruity theory — matching up things that don’t necessarily go together).
5. Only Use Bodily Function When It Comes To Kids
Another theory of humor is that of Benign Violation. New Hampshire Public Radio explained this theory as such: Something funny will contain two parts — a part that is a violation (i.e. something that might make you say, “Oh, that’s so wrong of them to say”) and a part that is benign (i.e something that is harmless). By Benign Violation’s mathematics, things like those fake fart noises will only be funny to children. If you’re trying to make your baby cousin laugh, break out the silly bodily function noises. If not, steer clear.
6. Study Comedy
“Study?” you might be asking. Yes, study. However, it doesn’t have to be a terrible experience — rather just take time and figure out what it is about certain things that makes them funny to you. Psychology Today cited a study by psychologists who found the ability to explain why something was funny was directly correlated with the ability to be funny. So pay attention and examine closely.
7. Use The Rule Of Three
Van Edwards suggests using the “Rule Of Three” as a means of being funnier. This is because we enjoy hearing or seeing three things together, Van Edwards explains. “When you want to be funny think in threes,” Van Edwards says. “And always save the odd one for last. For example, when someone asks you, ‘How was your day?’ you could say, ‘It was great, I went to work, took out the trash and then questioned my existence for a few minutes.’”
8. Laugh At Least Once A Day
This one sounds right up my alley. Jeanne Robertson, humor expert and author, spoke to Reader’s Digest, and suggested that to be funnier you should try to fund humor in things — as simple as that. She recommended adding to your to-do list every day a note to laugh about something, and marking it off only once you genuinely do it.
9. Try Combining Cute & Scary
By the rules of Benign Violation, finding a meeting point between something cute and scary can make your joke funny. Men’s Health featured an infographic explaining the theory, and noted combining cute and scary with an element of surprise, too, can help you ace that joke.
10. Tell Your Joke To A Female Vs. A Male
Want to come across as funny without much effort? Try telling your joke to a woman instead of a man. According to a recent study on the topic, females laugh much more than males — in fact, they do so 126 percent as much. Direct your joke to the woman and the odds will be highly in your favor.
11. When All Else Fails, Knock Them Dead With The Puns
I guess I’m not the only one who finds puns to be downright hilarious. By the theory of Benign Violation, puns and other one-liners can be ultra successful if they’re also incredibly literal, according to the Men’s Health infographic. So keep that in mind when you’re hitting them with the puns.
Next time you’re trying to give those around you a few laughs, try out some of the techniques discussed here. You might not get overnight comedian status, but you’re bound to get at least some knee-slapping laughs out of your friends.