how to develop a good sense of humor
August 14, 2012 7:12 AM   Subscribe

how to develop a good sense of humor?

I always felt that I was reserved and saw life too serious. I want to loosen up a little and live life as much as possible. I know this it is going to take time, but I know that I will able to look at life as a fun way to live, not the serious way. But my question is what are your recommendations that will help me develop a good sense of humor? I'm not sure where to start.
posted by soul24rage to Human Relations (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
A sense of humor is so subjective that I think you're first going to have to figure out what your sense of humor is. Do you think jokes are funny? Do you like stand-up comedy? Benny Hill/Mr. Bean? Cutting satire?

After you figure out your style of humor, seek out things that embrace it. If you love stand-up, then watch specials of your favorite comedians and see if you can work on telling jokes that are similar in style to what they talk about. If you like silly movies, see if there are groups of people who like to watch them.

For me, taking an improv class was really freeing in terms of figuring out my style of humor. Being with like-minded people whose sole purpose of getting together was to make people laugh took away some of the social pressures and allowed me to just learn how I like to be funny.
posted by xingcat at 7:17 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can be a pretty dry piece of toast myself, and I find word play to be extremely enjoyable. Start with crossword puzzles. That'll get you thinking in the right direction for word play. Then toy around with some puns, some homonyms, double entendre and some other tricky bits of language. Then take it to the next level by sliding something into conversation! Bingo! You have a sense of humor!
posted by jph at 7:50 AM on August 14, 2012

Start by smiling more.

Laugh at yourself before you laugh at others. I don't mean laugh at your own jokes, I mean see your frustrations or shortcomings as foibles to be laughed at rather than problems to be fixed. Don't mock yourself, just start to notice that your habits and your seriousness are in fact pretty humorous.

For a lot of people it's about giving yourself permission to laugh. Nobody's watching, you get no points for comportment anyway. Sometimes laughing is the most dignified response.

Are you familiar with Buster Keaton? He kept this grim face while doing hilarious stuff, because he knew how to laugh at himself. Next time you lose your hat to the wind, or drop an umbrella, or send a table of papers flying, think, What Would Buster Do?

Make faces at yourself in the mirror for a few minutes every day. Stick your tongue out, flap your ears, roll your eyes around, until you think this is silly. There, you have it! It's silly, indeed!

Have fun, you're starting something great.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:56 AM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding the advice to take an improv class. I recommend it not because it will magically make you funny, but because it will help with the other part of your question: loosening up and living life a little. One of the first lessons you'll learn in an improv class is "yes, and" - acknowledge and accept what your partner said, and add more information. As I've taken more improv, I've found that I'm trying to say yes in the rest of my life more as well. I'm taking more chances and more open to trying new things.

I see you've gotten the "take an improv class!" advice a couple of times over your past questions. If you took one already, what happened? If you haven't, why not?
posted by booksherpa at 8:12 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't feel like you have to be funny yourself. Don't be the obnoxious uncle who tells awful jokes. Be open to laughing at other people's humor. I loved to laugh at my mom. She always said I was her best audience. Be that audience.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:14 AM on August 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

I think the realization that life is full of humorous moments goes a long way. Everything that happens to us can be perceived as serious or humorous...the only separator that should remain is tact in picking on how to react around others and how you feel personally about the gravity of what you're dealing with. So the next time you run out of gas, stub your toe, fail an exam, lose a lot of money, drop something expensive in front of others....think of the things that led up to that, and instead of beating yourself up over it, smile...even laugh, even if it's in a "hah, figures this would happen to me" kind of tone. Much of today's comedy centers around life's more unpleasant experiences and making light of them.

When you approach these things with a more lighthearted attitude, the entire paradigm of what's serious and what is not will shift around you. Instead of prolonged stress and worry over everything, you'll feel that you've gotten things off your shoulders and can move'll have a sense of freedom from worry. Other people may find you more pleasant and humorous as well with the stories you tell about all of these potentially stressful situations and your upbeat approach to them. I suppose many of us laugh because the alternative can be quite depressing. So in a way, humor is a coping strategy. There will always be times where you'll still want to take things seriously...but for the bulk of things, I think humor is the winning strategy. It's good that you're already seeing the benefit....and it'll take some time, just keep at it.
posted by samsara at 8:26 AM on August 14, 2012

The key to having a sense of humor is to find what makes you laugh. What jokes, books, movies, TV shows, or comics do you find laugh-out-loud funny? What do you find quietly clever? Stupid and unfunny? Offensive? Over your head? If you don't know off the top of your head, start looking.

However, if you've watched and read a wide variety of comedy and nothing has made you laugh in recent memory, something else is up.

Looking back over your question history, there's a common theme of blankness, of lack of interest - a concern that you're neither interested or interesting. Sometimes I get this way, too, and what almost always helps is finding something new for me to be interested in, even if it's something minor and silly. When I can't find anything interesting, or when I can't bring myself to look for things to be interested in, that's a surefire sign of depression.

I strongly suspect you have depression, and that you will benefit enormously from treatment. When it's treated, you'll find more things in the world that are funny, fun, and interesting, and it'll be easier to find those qualities in yourself.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:26 AM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Things are not always funny when you look at them in the most obvious sense. Humor is really about creativity. You take things really seriously, perhaps because you can't think of any other perspective on the situation. While you're sitting off being reserved, look around, see people, watch how they interact. Imagine all the ways in which the things they're doing could be absolutely ridiculous.

It's okay to think somebody's hair looks funny. It's okay to imagine them in the mirror that morning going to a lot of trouble to make it look just like that. Maybe your sense of fair play (rightly) precludes telling them it's ridiculous, but maybe imagining that conversation is funny.
posted by aimedwander at 8:43 AM on August 14, 2012

Smile lots, and don't take yourself or other things too seriously. :)
posted by Hello Darling at 8:46 AM on August 14, 2012

What do you think about when you think of serious stuff? Has anyone ever joked about those topics in a way you could relate to? e.g., for politics, see late night shows; for death, destruction, and general melancholy, well, that's what dark comedy is for...

I'm not sure you can develop a sense of humor - you just have to find what hits the spot, I think. When I was young & depressive, I turned to kurt vonnegut, douglas adams, monty python, life in hell, and various other kinds of comedy that made me feel normal for feeling alienated. (There are zillions of other examples too, of course - depends what you like.)

There are a bunch of quizzes out there that are meant to tell you what kind of sense of humor you have, if you want to get some direction...
posted by mdn at 9:09 AM on August 14, 2012

Although 'sense of humor' makes a convenient shorthand, it's maybe being taken too literally here, since your primary goal is not so much 'make and understand jokes', but rather 'stop taking life overly seriously'. Plenty of people treat the world as overly weighty, while simultaneously enjoying irony, sarcasm, etc.; I've had such tendencies myself, and although it's embarrassingly clichéed, part of what helped me recover was re-reading Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It features characters who take things lightly and characters who treat things heavily, and reveals nuances of their behavior and reactions in an instructive and motivating fashion.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:53 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look, sense of humour is very personal, yes, what's funny to one person is cringeworthy to the next. And that's personal preference. Others have spoken to that side of things. Let me bring up two other aspects - cultural reference points and language. Because a lot of humour relies heavily on both.

I lived in the UK for over 10 years and even though, being German, I am not supposed to have a sense of humour I was told regularly, by a range of people and in a range of situations, that I had a good sense of humour. Great, because I love to laugh, both at myself, at situations and with others.

Almost two years ago I moved to Switzerland. And on moving I suffered a distinct sense of humour failure, in the literal sense.

Turns out that my sense of humour relies heavily on word play. The English language lends itself particularly well to that kind of thing and it literally doesn't translate well to German, be it high or the Swiss variety.

Turns out that my sense of humour also relies heavily on quick, dry retorts. Quick doesn't work if you're translating things before saying them and dry only works if you can find the right words in the other language fast enough and don't phrase things oddly because the right words won't present themselves..

Fast forward to now and things have improved as my brain has adjusted to thinking in German again, as I've learned Swiss German and have managed to surround myself with people who are light hearted and do not take things too seriously. But the latter was key because even allowing for overcoming language based 'humour' barriers I still find that my particular brand of humour does not always match well with a lot of Swiss sensibilities.

On the other hand I am learning different kinds of humour and relishing whenever I find somebody I can really laugh with. I hear you say I'm not moving anywhere. But both come into play in your own language and may explain why your sense of humour is not compatible with that of some of the people you may encounter.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:25 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The key to humor-- as in normal people who are charming and funny, not necessarily as in professional comedians-- is empathy. Humor comes naturally out of people's ability to recognize and share in the commonalities of their foibles.
posted by threeants at 1:56 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, empathy leads to a greater ability to observe (and thus take note of) the absurdities of human behavior.
posted by threeants at 1:58 PM on August 14, 2012

DON'T TRY TO BE FUNNY. People who TRY to be funny almost never are.

DON'T trust your inner voice that thinks something is funny but too geeky or dorky to share. Share it!

Don't try to be anyone or anything other than who and what you are. There is no magic formula to humor. Consider Bill Murray. Why in the hell is THAT GUY funny? I don't know, but he sure is. Deadpan can be funny. Zany can be funny. Quirky can be funny. Witty can be funny. Embrace your inner dork and let him or her out to play. Be who you are and you'll find humor there.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:31 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Laugh. A lot.

I have a friend who would belly laugh at all kinds of jokes, even if the rest of us would just smile or snicker. I always found that I thought the joke was funnier around him. Laughter is contagious, and it just feels good laughing out loud, even if it's marginally funny.

Also, expose yourself to funny things. TV shows, blogs, movies, articles, stand-up comedians. You need to develop your own preferences for what you find funny. Then make jokes or make comments that would make you laugh.

When i was younger, I might somehow try to force jokes, or make comments that weren't very funny. I then went through a period where I was a bit depressed, and I spent a lot of time on various websites, and I was naturally drawn to things that I could laugh at and made me feel good. Once I emerged from my depression and started to make friends, I felt like a stand-up comedian. A number of them told me I was one of the funniest people they had ever met, and now whenever I make a comment, it's almost guaranteed that someone will laugh. And if no one laughs, I just move on, whereas before I might have taken it as a blow to the ego. Now, the people I choose to hang around with and the friends I have are also hilarious, so we can have hilarious banter, and they also help me refine my own sense of humour.

Expose yourself to things you find funny, and then make comments that you find funny. Not everyone will laugh, but not everyone shares your sense of humour either.
posted by marcusesses at 4:31 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

For me, humour comes out of science. The universe is just too ridiculously odd to take any of it too seriously.
posted by ead at 5:39 PM on August 14, 2012

I think the best humor is a form of play with another person. I don't know what it is that makes some of my relationships full of silliness and shared jokes while some are far more serious.

However, a lot of my in-person humor is fed by absorbing and sharing other funny videos, songs, comics, essays, jokes, etc. So ... feed yourself a lot of humor. See what you really like, and see what makes you bust a gut. Then something will happen in real life that will remind you of a joke, and you'll repeat the joke - or just laugh.

Trying to understand what makes something funny by picking it apart is sort of like trying to figure out how a butterfly flies by dissecting it. So ... just look at the things you find funny, absorb more of those things, and go from there.

Improv class sounds like a good idea for you, too.

A sense of humor is an excellent life tool.
posted by bunderful at 9:25 PM on August 14, 2012

Response by poster: HI thanks so much for your responses. It means so much you took the time and effort to help me so again thank you. For me, I feel that wordplay is my best option. After looking at your responses, I think that I'm the type of person who likes to twist the meaning of a phrase or words. I want to be a witty person with good comebacks and the thing is, I'm funny when I'm in the mood and I think I have the potential to be that person. Right now I'm looking at lots of funny variety shows and I impressed of how the people at the show are very witty and I want to be like them. It's a bit stupid of me to say that I want to be like them, but if I'm 10% of what they can do then I'm satisfied. But the thing is, I'm not sure how and where they get this creativity from, which is like godsend gift to me.

where i live, the closest improv class is far away and since I'm in college, I don't have time or the money to take an improv class, but i'll see what i can do. As for the depression part, I don't have the money to go to a therapy, but I'm taking 5-htp which helps my mood to be better.

@threeants what do you mean by empathy? I'm not sure I quite understand the relationship between empathy and humor.

Again thank you so much of trying to help me. I'll do my best to try to live my life to the fullest!
posted by soul24rage at 5:23 AM on August 15, 2012

Does your college not have an improv group? Check and see if you don't know - most of them do.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:59 AM on August 15, 2012

what do you mean by empathy? I'm not sure I quite understand the relationship between empathy and humor.

Ultimately humor is about connecting with other people, so interacting empathetically with them will get you a good ways there. While mean-spirited humor is common in media, humor that comes from a kind (though perhaps still dark) place is what tends to resonate with people in real life, in my opinion.
posted by threeants at 6:46 AM on August 16, 2012

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