Funny or Not: A Theory of Joking Relativity


This topic is very interesting for psychologists. There aren’t just national and territorial factors which have a particular influence on accepting jokes and on suitable reacting.

Social psychologists will tell you that age, profession, general knowledge and intelligence (for listeners) and creativity, imagination, behaviour, openness, and sociability (for the person who is a joke-teller)have an impact on the perception of a joke as funny or not.

Igor Kristofovich is a scientist who has twenty years of experience in researching humour phenomena. He has created a formula for laughing:


S (smiling) = (personal engagement of one who tells a joke (PE) + joke complexity (JC)) / time which is necessary to understand the funny thing (t) + general mood of the audience (GM).


I agree that some jokes might be amusing to all people. But, it is necessary to be a really talented joke-teller to produce a wide world effect of your funny stories. That kind of person will use everything to animate his audience: mimics, different rhetorical skills, voice variations, arms, and legs, etc.

Beside Charlie Chaplin, there is another well-known comic person – Mr. Bean, whom I admire. He isn’t funny only on TV, but in his real life, too. Lots of people don’t understand English humour, but it seems that the Bean’s adventures have a universal appeal.

A very funny face on the world comic scene is Borat, whose humour was born as a result of huge differences between two cultures: the American and the Kyrgyzstan ones. The jokes which he uses are typical of his homeland but are not considered normal in North America. That is the thing which makes people laugh to tears throughout the whole world.

I haven’t seen the situation in which an Italian can’t be made laugh by a Turk, but I have had another similar experience.

Last winter I told some jokes to my cousin from Germany. They were up-to-date and very funny. She laughed after I laughed, just because she acknowledged that the situation requested reacting in that way. In fact, the funny thing wasn’t funny for her and my German cousin didn’t enjoy it. Hence, it was solely the result of his politeness.

There are many examples of a special type of humour called “sick humour”. It is also recognized as “black humour” which used to be my favourite type (but I also liked jokes about cops, animals, and fair-haired girls).

In spite of the things I have just mentioned, some of the examples of jokes in, for instance, newspapers, don’t have an influence on my mood and they do not astonish me. In my opinion, lots of them are very monotonous and I do not react to them because I only read them, without hearing them from, for example, my friend’s mouth. Also, the sequence of events in these humorous short stories happened to people I have never met.

All of us usually find it amusing, when somebody in our neighborhood is a part of funny circumstances. It didn’t need to be a very funny situation, but there must be a person whose personal traits we know very well.

When I have told such a story to a little girl, her face was smiling and she was enjoying it. I concluded that this example is a good prototype for children jokes!

Sick (black) humour wasn’t only based on situations like serious accidents or violent death. It is also connected with incurable diseases (such as AIDS, cancer, etc.), body anomalies (for example, a child without legs who wants to play football), below-average intelligence and absentmindedness (a poor guy who always forgets what the parents told him to do…).

To conclude, funny or not – it’s a relative thing because it depends on lots of characteristics of various social situations, people who perceive a particular joke, and those who tell a joke to others.

We can never know what situation will be funny and amusing to the particular person.


Selman Repišti

November 14, 2017


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