The 15 Kinds of Funny, Explained
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“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” -Mel Brooks
Got it, Mel Brooks, but what are the other kinds of funny out there?
Psychologists have their take, from nine funny styles that predict relationship compatibility to four types of funny and their relationship to psychological well-being. But since we’re not psychologists, and Mel Brooks is otherwise indisposed raking in Hulu money, we thought it would be useful to categorize the Fifteen Kinds of Funny you’re most likely to encounter in everyday life.
Your buddy, half-cranked up to the moon on whatever cheap garbage he drinks says the absolute perfect hilarious thing at the perfect time in a bar. Everybody laughs their similarly-drunken fool heads off. And he does it regularly. He couldn't possibly replicate being funny on a stage or anywhere else. He's bar funny.
But bar funny, like every other kind of funny, is funny until it isn't. Some bar funny people don't understand economy whatsoever. They love the attention in laughs and try to suck them out of every situation by slathering on too many jokes, which gets old faster than Blue Moon beer.
The comedic lesson for bar funny people here is probably the same with drinking: everything in moderation, but many of them sure never learn it.
Do you have a Don Rickles in your life, the kind of smarty pants who verbally kneecaps an innocent bystander just for the crime of being in the room? This is the stuff of celebrity roasts, where everyone is a target for total and complete annihilation. Ask Sarah Silverman and Jonah Hill what it feels like to have your most vulnerable hiding spots crushed under the heel of a comedy drive-byer.
Drive-By Funny is entertaining as hell -- just as long as you’re not the one in the crosshairs.
Yeah, we’re talking about you, Reader. Come on, you’re not pretty enough to be this stupid.
Lots of athletes want to be funny. Take Blake Griffin -- please. The Brooklyn Nets center is pretty upfront about his comedy jones. He does stand-up, he does celebrity roasts. Is he terrible? No. Is he funny? Well, he’s athlete-funny -- funny for a guy who’s really good at slam dunks, but otherwise, you wouldn’t pay to see him headline your local club.
Are any athletes funny-funny? Charles Barkley probably comes closest. And Peyton Manning will always get credit for taking out little kids with rocket passes.
Your mom breaks her hip. You rearrange your work schedule to take care of her. You get laid off. You sink into depression. Your significant other decides it’s time to move on. Even though you’re vaccinated, you test positive for COVID and have to quarantine for two weeks. You watch helplessly as your car gets towed away. You’re sobbing uncontrollably when a bird crashes through your window.
There’s nothing left to do but laugh.
This is an acquired taste, but Jim Carrey made millions doing it.
Also see also: The Farrelly brothers.
Up Too Late Funny
When you haven’t had enough sleep, so-so jokes become crazy funny, according to science.
“There’ve been quite a few studies demonstrating that the attention areas of the brain, specifically the frontoparietal areas of the brain, are significantly affected with sleep deprivation,” says not-that-funny neurosurgeon, Dr. Paul E. Kaloostian.
When the brain hasn’t had enough rest, it may compensate by jacking up your dopamine levels. “We may feel loopy and laughy as a result of our bodies trying to give us a boost,” says Kaloostian.
Now you kids get back in those sleeping bags, turn off the lights, and go to sleep. Don’t make us come down there.
Most everyone has a friend that's the Chandler of the group.
This generally means someone who finds it necessary to pepper every conversation with ironic asides that fall somewhere between “clever” and “please stop talking.” In its worst versions, Chandler Funny means repeating actual Chandler dialogue as if it were thought up on the spot:
“So it seems like this internet thing is here to stay.”
“I’m not great at the advice. Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?”
“Cheese. It’s milk that you chew.”
Unless your friend is really Chandler-funny, you’ll want to teleport somewhere else, anywhere else. Actually, even if the friend is truly Chandler-funny, you’ll probably still want to disappear.
Aristocrat Funny is a first cousin of Talking Butt Funny, but instead of physical bits, it’s a full-out verbal assault on your sense of decency. Here’s America’s Dad Bob Saget going for it. Trigger warning: Not for you if your funny sensibility doesn’t include just all kinds of super-awful. You've been warned.
This is the man we entrusted with the Olsen twins?
Too Funny to Laugh
Among professional ha-ha people, comedic genius sometimes evokes silence. Why no reaction? It's simple: they don't want to miss a word.
“The way I try to describe that is that it’s too funny to laugh,” says Dana Carvey. “It’s so funny, you can’t laugh while watching it. And it gets funnier the more and more you see it. It’s too brilliant as a concept.”
Specifically, he’s referencing Dana Carvey Show writer Dino Stamatopoulos’s “Grandma the Clown” sketch.
Related: Professional funny people often become desensitized to non-stop joke-telling and no longer have a normal laugh response. In lieu of laughter, they'll nod their heads in appreciation & remark with a straight face, “That’s hilarious" instead. It's like they don't hear or listen to jokes as much as evaluate or grade them.
Hey, what’s that under there?
YOU SAID UNDERWEAR!
What’s brown and sticky?
(Please note the stark similarity between Dad Funny and Kid Funny, both of whom are cribbing bits from The Big Book of Silly Jokes for Kids.)
Ex-Child Star Funny
The trauma of being an ex-child star has been well documented. When early fame ends, tragedy can strike in the form of drug addiction, emotional instability, or in the worst cases, stand-up comedy.
Here’s Dustin “Screech” Diamond declaring his comic independence with a hearty “F*** Zach and Slater!” You know who’s not afraid to say “f***”? Dustin “Screech” Diamond!
Going farther back, Skippy from Family Ties (AKA Marc Price) delivers a treasure trove of material about being a once-famous kid star. “How about that Todd Bridges from Diff’rent Strokes -- he went from shooting a series to a series of shootings!”
Aaaaand here’s a list of all of the ex-child stars that have gone on to successful stand-up careers:
It’s not nice to laugh at people when they say or do stupid things. But let’s do it anyway.
New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra didn’t invent dumb, but he made it an industry. The Hall of Famer's a legend for the insanely moronic things that came out of his mouth. Here are a few beauties:
“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”
“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Berra passed away in 2015, but several celebrities have stepped in to fill the Dumb Funny void.
“Is this chicken or fish? I know it’s tuna but it says ‘Chicken of the Sea.’” - Jessica Simpson
"I've been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No." - Craig T. Nelson
"I’ve never really wanted to go to Japan. Simply because I don’t like eating fish. And I know that’s very popular out there in Africa.” - Britney Spears
Did You Ever Notice? Funny
Oh Seinfeld, what hath thou wrought? Prior to the stand-up comedy boom of the 1990s, Jerry’s “what’s the deal with ?” was an adroit left-turn from tired one-liners about the wife’s lousy cooking or those do-nothing politicians in Washington.
Unfortunately, that joke construction was an easy one for novice stand-ups to appropriate. Now, “what’s the deal with?” is short-hand for hacky, lazy laughs. At least Seinfeld was in on the joke when he hosted SNL back in … gulp, 1992.
Done right -- Demetri Martin, Dave Chappelle, Jim Gaffigan -- Did You Ever Notice? Funny can still deliver the goods. So long as you don’t start with the words “did you ever notice.”
Seriously, I Suck Funny
The inverse of Drive-By Funny. The punches are just as powerful, they’re just aimed at one’s own face. Rodney Dangerfield is the all-time champ, but he doesn’t own self-deprecating humor.
Jennifer Lawrence plays the same cards on talk shows, albeit with fewer punchlines. It’s the comedy of self-defense -- kick yourself in the can before someone else beats you to it.
America’s Home Video Funny
And that’s it -- the only 15 Kinds of Funny in existence. Unless you can think of some other ones.
Top Image: Sammy-Sander, Pixabay