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How science can improve your April Fools' jokes

funny child kid

Photo by Lotus Carroll via Flickr Creative Commons

Your jokes may have your friends rolling in laughter, but could you take your humor on the road?

Laughter may be universal, but often times it doesn't translate over seas or over time. Authors Peter McGraw and Joel Warner delved into the science of what makes things funny in their new book, "The Humor Code." It boils down to an idea: the Benign Violation theory.

"Humor develops when something appears to be a violation of something, while simultaneously seems benign or somehow just OK," Joel Warner said on Take Two. 

 

Here's an example: When a friend starts tickling you, you start to laugh. Being tickled is seemingly a violation of your personal space, but because you're familiar with the person, it's benign.

But "you probably wouldn't laugh if some creepy stranger ran up to you on the street and tried to tickle you, because nothing about that is benign," says Warner.

Knowing the science can better help you understand how humor works around the world, although there are limits in it being able to make you the funniest person in the world.

"The biggest predictor of success in the world of comedy is how hard you work," says Warner, "So you need to create a lot of material. You have to start with a lot of violations and a lot of things that are benign that you can mine, tweak, polish and refine over weeks and months."

Joel Warner and Peter McGraw will offer more insights into comedy on April 15 at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre so you can learn more in person.


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