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1 Humor Theories by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Humor Theories by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Humor Theories by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen


3 Whimsical Don and Alleen 3

4 4


6 6 AN IMPORTANT FEATURE OF HUMOR IS INCONGRUITY AND INCONGRUITY RES0LUTION Consider an umbrella in a severe rain and wind storm. We feel tension until we put things right—at least in our mind’s eye— as with the kitten on the next slide.

7 Machinification: Monorail LOL Cat 7

8 Other Features of Humor Ambiguity Exaggeration Understatement Hostility Incongruity or Irony Situation-Insight Sudden Insight Superiority Surprise or Shock Tension and Relief A Trick or Twist Word Play Visual Imagery 8

9 Metaphor: “Pool Table” Features: Ambiguity Sudden Insight Surprise Visual Imagery Word Play 9

10 Pun: “Eye Pod” Features Ambiguity Incongruity Surprise Visual Imagery Word Play 10

11 11 A century ago, philosopher Thomas Hobbes said that an important feature of humor was laughing at those we feel are inferior to us. This was known as the “Superiority Theory.” Later philosophers, including Frances Hutcheson, argue that what we are really laughing about is incongruity. We do not go to asylums to laugh at the “inferior” beings, nor do we laugh at animals unless they resemble human beings. We laugh at someone who slips on a banana peel not because we feel superior, but because of the incongruity between our expectations and the sudden insight.

12 “The Rule of Three” is another common feature of humor illustrated in this cartoon. 12

13 Another Rule of Three Joke 13

14 Incongruity and Incongruity Resolution 14

15 Dog-Related Incongruity and Incongruity Resulution 15

16 Functions of Humor PSYCHOLOGICAL To amuse To establish superiority To gain control To persuade To save face To test limits To inbond/outbond INTELLECTUAL To amuse To teach To make connections To compare two scripts—one metaphorical, one straight-forward 16

17 17 An Important Literary Function relates to Double Entendre. “The text of a joke is always fully or in part compatible with two distinct scripts and the two scripts are opposed to each other in a special way.” “The punch line triggers the switch from the one script to the other by making the hearer backtrack and realize that a different interpretation [of the joke] was possible from the very beginning.” Attardo and Raskin [1991] 308

18 A Real-Life Example of the Usefulness of Two Scripts 18

19 Accidental humor occurs when the creator and the receiver have different scripts in mind. 19

20 The impossibility in this picture causes tension, until we realize that it is a joke. 20

21 21 The Function of Disparaging Oneself. Self-disparagement humor illustrates how it is not always easy to recognize the functions of humor. On the surface, it appears to be humbling oneself, but oftentimes the mock-humility really puts the speaker in a position of power as in these commercials: Terminex Pest Control: “When you think of pests, think of us.” Twist Lemon-Menthol Cigarettes: “Our new menthol is a lemon.”

22 22 Champion International Trend Carpet: “Eight million people walked all over us. And they don’t even know our name.” Quaker Oats as a diet food: “Quaker Oats: Breakfast of losers.” Simmons bunk beds: “Simmons beds are a lot of bunk.”

23 Educators Use Humor To: Relax Students Teach Facts Argue and Persuade Teach Vocabulary Concepts Teach Careful Observation Model Problem Solving 23

24 This Egg-to-Bird picture first causes tension, followed by a smile of relief as we “catch on.” 24

25 Real vs. Unreal This is an amusing lesson in careful observation. What are the clues that it is a painting? Were such paintings precursors to today’s PhotoShop fun? 25


27 SUBJECTS OF HUMOR The subjects we joke about are the very subjects that we hesitate to talk about in real life. To test out the attitudes of new friends, we often send up “trial balloons” disguised as jokes. –Ethnic Identification –Politics –Sexual Roles and Scatology –Occupations –Religion and Belief Systems 27

28 28 What subjects do the two fish shapes on this car speak to?

29 Jokes Reveal Current Areas of Social Discomfort OLD TABOOS Vulgarities Swear Words Body Parts Sex Religion Obscenities NEW TABOOS Lack of Patriotism GLBTQ Issues Disabilities Ethnicities Old People 29

30 Hot Potato Humor—Based on Metaphors 30

31 The epiphany comes in this political joke with the explanation that the maple leaf design is a silhouette of Jack and Jacque arguing over English vs. French. 31

32 Humor Theory: The Sciences vs. The Humanities 32

33 33

34 Hate Speech Vs. Humor The subject matter that people choose to joke about goes a long ways in determining whether they are using humor as release of moderate levels of discomfort, or whether they are really engaging in “hate-speech” disguised as humor. The important question to ask is whether the humor is used to weaken the target or strengthen the target. 34

35 In conclusion Here are two paradigm Shifts 35

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