Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Stratification of Humor – A Proposed Taxonomy

Before I get into this, humor is an individual experience. One person’s wicked funny may not even cause another to smile. Here are the proposed classifications:

That which provokes an authentic smile to where teeth show. This happens all of the time.

Beyond amusing, this actually causes one to emit an audible chuckle and an ever so slight shake that subsides quickly. This also happens all of the time.

Very funny
This causes an outburst of laughter that lasts several seconds. This is the response to a really good joke or something that is indeed hilarious, like the moment in Spaceballs when they go to "ludicrous speed." This is the common experience of something really humorous and happens regularly during the Daily Show, Colbert Report, David Letterman or whatever. If you are not laughing, it does not make this level.

Serious funny
This is significantly less common. What most distinguishes serious funny from very funny is that serious funny introduces the notion of waves of laughter and the embedding of an image into the psyche that persists for a period of time. One wave of laughter is not enough for something that is serious funny. The humorous concept persists for repeat waves interrupted by gasps for air. An example of serious funny is the facial expression of a kitten, having leapt onto a marble table with too much horizontal velocity, this realization slowly registering as claws fail to obtain traction, at the exact instant it sails off the other side of the table. Another example of serious funny is the scene in Borat where the two are naked and Borat’s head is protruding out from under the fat man’s arse. Serious funny causes hysterical laughter that persists and results in loss of breath.

If you share my taste in humor, you can experience serious funny yourself thanks so much to the ThinkRight blogger for posting Colbert with Grijalva, where Colbert asks Grijalva if he could stroke his mustache. Grijalva responded with complete seriousness, "That would make me very uncomfortable."

This created the concept, an abstract image, of someone stroking Grijalva’s mustache.

Haaaaaghh!! Huwaaaaagh!!! (gasp, gasp) Haaaaaghh!! Huwaaaaagh!!!

That is the level of serious funny. Every time I think of Grijalva, seriously stating that Colbert’s stroking his mustache would make him "very uncomfortable" I just lose it. Seriously, watch the video.

The thought of anyone stroking Grijalva’s mustache . . .

Haaaaaghh!! Huwaaaaagh!!! (gasp, gasp) Haaaaaghh!! Huwaaaaagh!!!

Hence the distinction: serious funny.

Wicked Funny
This is rare. This is where funny is so funny it’s not funny, producing INVOLUNTARY painful laughter in waves to where one starts to wonder if it will ever stop. The humorous image or concept firmly embeds itself into the psyche and cannot be switched off. The laughter cannot be controlled and is painful and incapacitating. Those affected experience complete loss of control and may snort, wet themselves, pass gas, or blow something out their noses as they laugh so hard they can neither speak nor function. The wicked funny is remembered for life.

One example of wicked funny also involves a young cat. It was aged nine months, adult like but still having things to learn. Said cat nonchalantly leapt from the kitchen floor directly into a steaming hot skillet of half cooked scrambled eggs. Consider its facial expression as it processed the nature of its predicament while paws, now thoroughly greased with slippery slimy eggs, immediately began to slip, placing its entire body on a downward trajectory into the steaming yellow bath. The next five seconds of frantically flopping feline followed by the violent and very sloppy commingling of cat, pan, eggs, and kitchen floor are wicked funny.

Reading about it here is one thing. Seeing it first hand is another. The semi-omeletized cat’s behavior after hitting the kitchen floor, thoroughly eggified, added to the overall experience.

Probation Wicked Funny
This is a medically significant event unsafe for pregnant women, people with high blood pressure, the elderly, or men on erectile dysfunction medication. Only certain personalities can actually experience this situation. In my entire life, I have experienced this twice. One is described in detail in Something Else. This probation wicked funny event involved the following:

A TV satellite dish
A bird
Two dogs
A swimming pool

The wife and I almost died. You will have the opportunity to read all about it.


Anonymous the doctor said...


Thanks, and the image of that cat in the frying pan, did that really happen?

Grijalva's line about being uncomfortable with someone combing his mustache was truly "serious funny."

6/03/2007 9:50 PM  
Blogger thinkright said...

Gracias for the link on Grijalva. I'd like to read your posts more often, but I'm from the MTV generation and have a case of ADD. Translation - you must be a college prof.

6/06/2007 4:32 PM  

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