Some people are funnier than others. It’s just a fact of life.
But is there a specific reason for this? Turns out there may be a few.
Researchers have found scientific justification to back a person’s sense of humor. And these traits are often what set comedians who get hired to be funny apart.
But this is not to say that people cannot become funny. Some are simply born with the ability to make others laugh.
Before we dive in though, it’s important to look at what humor is. And what becomes funny and why?
See Related: Who Invented Stand-up Comedy?
What is humor?
Researchers Peter McGraw and Joel Warner explored this very question. They wrote article after article, then finally turned their findings into a book.
But they managed to discover that the heart of humor is a contradiction. They found that something funny is both wrong and right.
McGraw describes this as the Benign violation theory. He likens it to tickling as the act itself violates one’s personal space but still elicits a laugh.
In this way, the brain plays with a kind of tug and pull when it comes to humor. Some might say this is the very balance that makes comedy so hard.
But with enough practice, that balance becomes an art form. Additionally, social context plays a big role in what you find funny.
Some jokes that were once funny no longer tickle your funny bone. They may have been appropriate for the time but are no longer regarded as respectful.
Collectively, our sense of humor is constantly changing. But there are some key traits and skills that funny people tend to have.
Below are just a couple of those traits. Keep reading this article to find out how the comedians in your life do it.
What makes a person funny?
Humor is subjective. But there are certain traits that seem to elevate a person’s capacity to be funny.
#1. Funny people have a higher IQ
Researchers Gil Greengross and Geoffrey Miller from the University of New Mexico studied humor and psychology. Their research ultimately linked a person’s humor to their cognitive ability and fitness.
A study from the 1970s found similar results. They tested the IQ of a group of comedians.
All of them tested with a significantly high IQ score. These results posit interesting revelations about comedians and laughter.
The average IQ score of the general population is between 90 and 110. But male comics scored on average 138.
And women comics scored on average 126. It is significant to note that these results are from the 1970s.
But they still reveal one truth. Comics have long benefitted from their above-average IQ when crafting their careers.
Some people think comedians simply make a joke. But science tells us that humor requires more intelligence than we think.
#2. They are more creative
Comedy is much more than a string of joke after joke. In fact, the very structure of a bit is often what makes a joke so successful.
Humor and its delivery require the ultimate brainpower. And with practice, comedians are able to hone those creative skills.
Anyone can tell a story about a funny thing that happened. But a comedian can tell the story in a way that is funny in and of itself.
They turn the act of talking into an art form of self-deprecation or humorous query. And as jokes straddle the line between wrong and right, comedians are able to get a laugh.
Research from Bucknell University found that humor was linked to creativity and intelligence. In this way, a person must not only possess humor.
They must also be creative in their delivery. And the story itself must be intelligent.
Stand-up comedy seems like a fun gig. And it is.
But there is also a science to back up a successful set. It turns out that there’s more to being funny than just making people laugh.
#3. They have excellent cognitive abilities
Psychology students at the University of New Mexico participated in a study. They were told to write captions for a series of New Yorker cartoons.
Those with higher cognitive ability produced more hilarious captions. But then the study was carried out by a group of comedians.
In comparison, their captions were funnier. And they tested higher on verbal intelligence and wit.
In the brain, there are specific areas that relate to humor. And these networks are most activated when you think about what things mean and how they relate to one another.
This fits the comedic bill perfectly. Funny stories are more than just a fun time.
They make you think about things in a different way. Comics have a way of introducing new concepts.
But because they’re introduced in a comedic way, others don’t feel threatened. In this way, jokes are a perfect example of how the brain reacts to humor.
It reacts with openness. And it does not judge.
Instead, it seeks to listen. A serious talk does not elicit the same brain networks as humor does.
Seriousness can cause some to become defensive. But comics know how to both create and diffuse tension.
And this is all thanks to their cognitive abilities.
#4. They can make friends easily
You already know by now that people who are funny have a quick way with words. But did you know that this gives them an advantage socially too?
People who tell jokes tend to make friends more easily. Some people are comfortable being an audience to those with a fun attitude.
So it may be that humorous people attract others through their jokes. But jokes and humor also require a person’s vulnerability.
Putting out a punchline can be risky. But when that line is delivered effectively, the risk can pay off.
Humor is not necessarily about pleasing people. It’s about making people think.
Some jokes can be rooted in a sad moment. Heck, many comedians base their humor on depressing circumstances.
But their willingness to put it all out there is what draws them apart from someone else. They talk about the self in a way that seems funny.
And they can lighten the mood by infusing humor into the situation at hand. Being funny is not just a character trait.
Being funny can be a tool. Making people laugh is like having a superpower.
But maybe comedy isn’t your strong suit. Luckily, below are some tips to help you step up your jokes.
Keep reading to learn how to transform into a funny person. You might just become the next most popular person in your circle.
How to be funny
Not all of us were blessed with the comedic gene. But below are some tips to help you infuse more humor into your everyday life.
#1. Focus on the story, not the joke
Jokes can sometimes feel like a structure. And there is the typical setup and punchline involved.
But good jokes make you focus on the story. The humor doesn’t come from the structure.
It is reinforced by it. But you get a laugh from the funny circumstances involved.
In this way, the joke itself plays a trick on the brain. There is a strategy involved in telling jokes.
But when the strategy is visible, a joke seems fake. The fun of a bit is making a genuine storyline throughout.
#2. Give the opposite answer to a yes-or-no question
This is a really simple trick that can get you some laughs. When someone asks you a question, they’re already expecting your answer.
But you can flip the answer they’re expecting on its head. And when you do, they’ll be left with a fun experience.
This seems like it’s too simple to actually work. But the brain works in mysterious ways.
Laughter comes out in unexpected ways. So when you experience something unexpected, the brain responds by laughing.
Watch videos of interviews where celebrities use this trick. It’s an easy way of keeping the audience on their toes.
#3. Draw from your real-life experiences
You could tell a joke about something that never happened to you. But others might not believe your punchline in the end.
That’s because good comic genius comes from something personal. Humor craves something to relate to.
So if you repeat something funny and say it happened to you, it feels disingenuous. Say something that is personal to you.
But just because it’s personal doesn’t mean it has to be emotional. Speak from your own experience.
And others will surely recognize the relatability of your tale. Additionally, your unique stories make for original material.
Everyone has heard the same schtick twenty times over. Say something new and give them a different thing to laugh about.
#4. Play with numbers
Numbers are a great way to play with people’s expectations. If you’re describing the number of attendees at an event, lead them in the opposite direction.
Say it wasn’t too big of an event. Then casually reveal that over 300 people were actually in attendance.
Numbers are concrete examples for others to hold on to. And you’re sure to have a different understanding of how much is too much, how little is too little.
Comedy is all about taking the unexpected route. It’s a game for the brain to outwit itself.
Additionally, numbers play with the psychology of those listening. Say you had a huge party.
Then shyly or boldly admit that there were five attendees there. Say you went to an intimate gathering or small wedding.
Then state that you were on page 85 of the guest list. There are plenty of ways to trick the brain into believing one outcome, then serving out another.
Use numbers to your advantage. And play around with those expectations.
#5. Get to the point
Timing is everything. And taking too much time can ruin your chances of winning someone over.
In standup, there is a reason why beginners start out with five-minute sets. They need to practice getting to the point.
Five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time. But when you have full reign of the mic, even a minute can start to drag.
The same goes for interpersonal interaction. Don’t spend your time telling someone about the boring details.
Get to the funny bit as soon as you can. Immediate gratification is something we all crave.
And comedic practices help us to experience that. So be cognizant of how much time you’re taking up when talking.
If you’re trying to be funny, keep it short. And others will surely appreciate you packing a punch.
#6. The rule of 3
Being funny has a lot to do with timing. And the rule of 3 can help you on that front.
The rule of 3 establishes a pattern. Then it ends with something unexpected.
Below are some examples to give you an idea:
- I like cheese, potatoes, and good honest work.
- It is so wonderful, exciting, and horrifying to be here!
- By the time we’re through, you’ll be cool, calm, and kinda okay with anything else.
The pattern is normal, normal, unexpected. And it’s a simple way of elevating your attitude.
Coming up with original lines will also enhance your creativity. So try your hand at this pattern the next time you want to prove yourself as funny.
The bottom line
Being funny has a lot more scientific backing than others think. And those scientific explanations can help us understand comics through a different lens.
But ultimately, being funny is about being genuine. As previously discussed, what folks find funny changes over time.
Some may have unique advantages tied to their cognitive abilities. But others develop their comic prowess over time.
There is no one answer to why some folks are funny. At the end of the day, everyone charts their own course.
So don’t worry too much about holding yourself up to others’ standards. Find what’s funny to you and focus on what brings you joy.
So long as you’re happy, others will join in. And you’ll find community through those comedic moments. That’s what comedy is all about.
Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a corporate entertainer, magician, and virtual speakers.