I give a talk called, “Comedy Isn’t Funny”, an exploration of what makes us laugh as opposed to what is the art of comedy. Comedy lives without expectations of laughter, rather it celebrates the absurdity of misguided, human striving. Sure, we may have a not-so-secret desire that people laugh but that result is completely out of our control.
That said, Robert R. Provine, a neuroscientist and Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland, conducted a series of experiments about laughter in our everyday worlds.
“Contrary to folk wisdom, most laughter is not about humor; it is about relationships between people. To find out when and why people laugh, I and several undergraduate research assistants went to local malls and city sidewalks and recorded what happened just before people laughed. Over a 10-year period, we studied over 2,000 cases of naturally occurring laughter.
We found that most laughter does not follow jokes. People laugh after a variety of statements such as “Hey John, where ya been?” “Here comes Mary,” “How did you do on the test?” and “Do you have a rubber band?”. These certainly aren’t jokes. We don’t decide to laugh at these moments. Our brain makes the decision for us. These curious “ha ha ha’s” are bits of social glue that bond relationships.”
So people don’t even laugh at what’s funny! Strange world.