Humanity and Humour: A Brief Overview

Humour is an integral part of our lives that helps us to connect with others on a deeper level. Humour isn’t just about making others laugh. Through thousands of years, we have evolved to become social creatures that can pick up nuances and subtleties in language use that allow us to better understand the emotions of others. Through increased knowledge of other humans, we were able to form bonds and eventually communities, thus enhancing our survival in the wild. However, even though humanity has evolved to become a modern and advanced civilisation, the use of humour remains prevalent. Jokes and memes are constantly being shared and posted on the internet. I bet most of us crack jokes when texting our friends online. In other words, it remains as ubiquitous and as important as ever. There are reasons for this and we’ll be detailing them in this article. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter! 


The Brain: Complex Yet Primal

The brain is one of the most powerful objects in the world and it sits on your shoulders.

The human brain is one of the most complex objects in the universe. It is estimated to contain 100 billion neurones, which are connected by roughly a quadrillion synapses. Despite running on a meagre 20 watts, it can outperform computers in many respects. Yet, the brain retains many primitive components which were formed in the earlier years of its evolution. This includes the reptilian brain, which consists of the limbic system which is responsible for emotional regulation. Indeed, we remain social creatures. We are prone to mood swings, urges and require a sense of inclusiveness to survive. This innate need for care and love is the reason why humans constantly search for communities to belong to and seek to bring others to join them. Along with our abilities of speech and hearing, we are also endowed with the ability to understand subtleties in communication which help us to understand the intentions of others. Jokes and anecdotes helped to encapsulate the essence of cultures and conveyed a sense of connection between individuals. In many cases, such jokes and anecdotes were even passed down along many generations, thus cementing a sense of identity which would last centuries to come. The effects of humour are also significant at the neurological level. Humour activates the emotional reward centre of the brain, triggering a release of the pleasure chemicals dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals induce a sense of trust between individuals and serve to strengthen bonds. They tell the brain, “Remember these guys. They seem friendly and are great friends to have.” Though we may not realise it, the constant release of dopamine and other similar chemicals during interaction or laughter strengthens pleasure pathways associated with social interaction in the brain. As such, we begin to crave company when left alone for a while, thus giving rise to the common feeling of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). 


The Rise of Modern Comedy

Joey Tribianni, played by actor Matt Le Blanc, is a character most famous for his delayed reaction, which has since become an internet meme.

In the days before television and film reigned supreme, comedy was mostly borne by paper. Much like how superhero stories were told through comics and graphic novels, comedy was mostly in the form of novels, such as Lewis Caroll’s all-time greats Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, which utilised both senselessness and incoherence to evoke a sense of humour. However, the development of comedy as we know it today began in early 19th century England. It was in the music halls of England where British comedians such as Charlie Chaplin and Dan Leno honed their skills and where slapstick comedy was pioneered. First portrayed by entertainer Joseph Grimaldi, slapstick comedy was eventually expanded and developed upon by Fred Karno, whose ideas last to this very day and can be seen in modern Hollywood. Now let’s fast-forward a few decades. The dawn of the twentieth century and eventually the twenty-first saw a drastic evolution of comedy. While comedy programmes back then, such as that of Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp which began airing as early as 1914, were mostly silent, they were enough to capture the attention of the world. Soon after World War 2, television systems began to modernise. Colour television was eventually fully developed by the Radio Corporation of American (RCA) in 1953. While it certainly took some time for colour television to replace its black-and-white predecessors, by 1970 colour television began to outsell their black-and-white counterparts. (At least in North America) Television, with its sound systems, now offered people an immersive viewing experience from the comfort of their homes. Sitcoms, such as that of the world-famous Friends, became prevalent. Unlike silent programmes of the past, viewers are now able to pick up changes in a character’s tone, which may contribute to the overall comedic effect and impact of his line. With colour filmography now accessible to most people, scriptwriters and directors had more space for creativity. For example, depending on local culture, the colour of a person’s clothes may be perceived as comical. As seen, these allowed story creators to better express long-standing or deep-seated cultural mentalities and relate them to current societal trends.


Humour as an Important Social Skill

Humour helps you to work with others and forge strong bonds.

As mentioned earlier, humour helps to catalyse and strengthen connections between people. Many know this, but fewer still understand it as a social skill in itself. The ability to leverage humour increased one’s chances of establishing weak links and eventually strong links with coworkers, newly-met colleagues and one’s superiors. In the modern world, the power of weak links is immeasurable. Compared to strong links, weak links allow you to reach more people and broaden your network. Think of a spider web. The centre of the web is what is commonly known as one’s inner circle while the outer edges of the web represent one’s acquaintances, casual friends and people who share a common cause or belief – one’s weak links. One’s social reach is determined by the tradeoff between time spent on bonding and the total number of people. It is simply impossible to maintain a close relationship with all of your coworkers at once. Maybe a handful will be selected to be part of your inner circle, but the others are usually delegated as acquaintances and weak links. An inner circle helps you filter essential information from the fuzz and buzz of the outer circle, helping you stay up to date with information most relevant to your circumstances. They also act as a reliable source of help in times of trouble and are the people you mostly spend time with. Humour not only helps to keep ongoing friendships fresh, but also increases your chances of garnering more acquintances and greatly enhances your social presence. In fact a study conducted by Bell Leadership Institute indicates that the two most desirable traits in a leader were a robust work ethic and an outstanding sense of humour. 



Humour is often overlooked as unimportant and trivial. However, the smallest things can often mean the most. I hope that you enjoyed this article. Do follow me if you haven’t done so and stay tuned for my next article.


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I love to review all things music, books, food and tech!

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