A man walks into a bar ….
We all love a funny pal. All social situations and interactions are made more easygoing, less awkward and definitely more fun when someone cracks jokes. And while we may laugh at the moment, there are certainly instances where we second guess and think of the underlying motives behind someone’s jokes.
If the joke is directed towards us, we may think they’re hinting at something. If the joke is targeting a stranger but we relate to them, we may still think they’re hinting at something – just in a less obvious way.
All about that wit
Like many other things throughout history, jokes are said to have originated in Ancient Greece. The first ever joke is said to have been told by Palamedes, a Greek hero, whose line of few words had outwitted Odysseus at the Trojan War.
This legendary person has also been credited for having invented the alphabet, numbers, dice, and even the routine of food consumption at regular intervals. The first comedian’s club was also firstly created in Athens, whose members called themselves the Group of Sixty and engaged in conversations with witty comebacks. Philip of Macedon had requested the jokes to be written down and documented, but a volume of these writings has never been found or quite possibly lost.
The one book which has managed to sustain all these years and has been found by anthropologists, the Philogelos – translated to “Laughter-Lover”. Hiercoles and Philagrius are joint authors of the 264 jokes in the book, although co-authorship was rather rare during the fifth century A.D. when the book was written, and some of the books appear twice.
The jokes – as imagined – pertain to a different kind of humor, irony rather. An example of one of the items in the book is as follows: The talkative barber asks “How shall I cut your hair?”, to which the person replies “In silence”. While this may still make some of us think it’s funny, we’re all sure the barber wouldn’t appreciate the reply.
A Dose of My Own Medicine
Jokes targeting the self are a whole other level of humor. It is not uncommon to think that people who engage in such self-depreciating conversations are doing so as a defense mechanism.
They’re either insecure about a physical feature or a personality trait and will make fun of themselves before somebody else makes fun of them and gives them a kick in their confidence. Such behavior displays low confidence in the first place, as they’re clearly not 100% okay with themselves.
…that’s not quite what science says. A recent study has correlated greater psychological well-being with self-deprecating humor. Researchers of the Mind, Brain, and Behavior Research Center (CIMCYC) from the University of Granada have surveyed over 1000 respondents from Spain, aged between 18-65, in order to test the relationship between humor and anger.
Their main focus was to see whether a higher level of comedy could be associated with how the person copes with anger. The psychometric analysis study was conducted by using a self-report questionnaire which lists 32 questions, a Spanish version of the Humor Styles Questionnaire.
The questionnaire developed by Patricia Doris and Rob Martin helped the researchers come to interesting conclusions. It was revealed that more jokes geared towards the self, do not mean the individual is concealing insecurities, but in fact, shows signs of greater self-assurance and most importantly higher levels of happiness.
This study is taking the negative connotations which come with self-depreciating humor and throwing them out the window, emphasizing the increased levels of sociability and greater psychological well being as a result of it. Another dimension of the study included the style of the humor, allowing the researchers to come to conclusions about other kinds of humor and their implications too.
The best style found to enhance and strengthen social bonding and social relationships is affiliative humor or jokes which the average person would find funny and giggle or laugh.
On the other hand, self-enhancing humor allows people to put a bigger weight on the positive aspects of situations and avoid feeling uncomfortable in social situations. This leaves room for an ability to hide away negative feelings, and indeed his style was associated with a higher ability to reduce anger as well as engage in behavior which expresses it. The styles which were found to most likely bring about anger expression were self-defeating and aggressive humor styles.
While the questionnaire was found to be valid for this study, more studies would be required to give validity to the styles in different cultural contexts.