As a retired teacher, I know that there’s a connection between good humor and good relationships in the classroom, which studies have shown to support student academic retention and learning. So while humor is a desired tactic, it’s not such an easy one to utilize effectively, that is, particularly when kids are included.
Humor is difficult, especially when kids are involved. This is because it has to be tailored for kids, otherwise it’s over their heads or too mature. This personal nature of humor also means real connections have to be made with the intended audience, regardless of age, for it to be funny.
I’ve often relied on humor as a go to tactic to reach kids, whether in the classroom or at home with my own children and grandchildren. It’s also useful for relationship building, de-escalating arguments, and to alleviate uncomfortable situations, even minor ones. So given all that, it’s no wonder humor is a sought after vice.
However, it’s not so simple to incorporate it.
I’m going to address what makes humor difficult and how to overcome those barriers, especially when it comes to kids. And along the way, I’ll add some tips and tricks for you regarding using humor, and some examples to help make it clearer.
Why Writing Humor Is Difficult
One way to build humor with your kids is to use it strategically through routines or regular activities. For instance, our Fun Jokes For Kids Coloring Book is a great tool for embedding humor through kid-friendly activity.
When teaching anything, I often used written expression in my student learning activities. This, however, can be particularly problematic for humor though.
Writing humor is difficult because you aren’t able to utilize many of the features of comedy like tone, delivery, and body language. With written humor, it’s often about plays on words (puns) and direct analogies. But given that, written humor works well with simple, structured comedy.
I once heard a bit from comedian Jerry Seinfeld about how when he comes up with a joke, he often writes it down first as it goes through his comedic process.
In fact, I believe this was included in an episode of his 90s hit show, Seinfeld.
He was staying in a hotel, woke in the middle of the night with a ‘perfect joke’ and scribbled it down on a napkin by his bedside. Unfortunately, it was later tossed by the housekeeper, and naturally this dilemma became central to the episode.
I know, from my years as an educator, that the act of writing something down can actually help one learn it; it’s called kinesthetic learning, and is a tool that is frequently used. Not to mention, being proficient in writing is crucial to our lifestyle and work force, so again, teaching it takes up a significant amount of time in education.
Teaching the practice of ‘writing humor’ pairs many skills, so this is why it’s a difficult or complex process.
It’s not just the process of writing that is used here, either, which any teacher (and just about all students) will tell you is a feat in and of itself! But no, it’s also about teaching the skill of comedy. This adds a whole other level of difficulty!
So for teaching writing, I most incorporated a writer’s workshop model (you can learn more about this by clicking the Amazon link to a resource I used back in the day). During workshop, you teach the mechanics of writing (the grammar, syntax, organization and such) within teaching writing style as a whole (the composition and story of what you want to say).
But this article isn’t going to focus on that. No, let’s say we have that down and now we’re looking at how to write humorously.
As explained already, comedy often relies on one’s tone- your voice level and expression, or how you say something. This is key to a good comedian.
Comedy also depends upon one’s body language. From shuffling feet to flailing hands to the myriad of ways you can say something with just a look, a comedian can get his joke across with body language, and very few actual words.
And then, there’s delivery. Timing, pacing, and grouping words and phrases together can make all difference in humor.
But, the hard part is that when you’re writing humor, those devices are not possible. You really have to get your comedy across without those methods of helping you do it. This is why it’s so dang difficult!
- With young kids, I’d actually teach them to write jokes out one by one. A very popular joke style with children is knock-knock jokes, so it’s often what I’d start with. With teaching about knock-knock jokes, the structure helps a lot. Once kids understand the structure, then you can help them improve on how to make it funny (the analogies; puns; and so on).
- With older kids, I’d teach about writing humor through narratives and story telling. Kids love to tell personal stories, and if something funny or silly happened to them I’d have them retell it verbally, and then in writing (if you ask them directly, they’ll usually all be able to come up with ‘a time something funny happened’). Retelling verbally helps them put their story together, kind of like an outline or first draft before putting it to paper.
So as you can see, writing humor is not so simple and takes time. Again, this is due to the myriad of skills it takes, from writing in general to adding comedic elements.
You might enjoy these other articles from Fun Jokes For Kids like this one:
- Humor Is Contagious (Explained)
- All About Bad Humor for Kids (Teacher Explained)
- Should You Be Concerned About A Dry Personality For Kids?
- How to Teach Finding Humor: Kids Edition
Humor Is Difficult For Kids- Explained
So why exactly is humor difficult for kids to get?
Humor is difficult for kids due to their mental limitations and lack of experience. Kids don’t have the mental capacity to grasp sarcasm, satire, irony, and complex analogies and associations. They also lack background knowledge that’s often needed for comedy.
As kids age, though, their abilities to understand humor improves, in general. Keep in mind, of course, there is a variation in each person’s individual ability for humor, too.
This is why humor has to be gradual. For your youngest kids, slapstick works best and comedy that in totally out of the norm or nonsensical like dad wearing mom’s shoes or speaking in gibberish talk. Kids will find that very funny.
The more vocabulary kids have the better their take on humor is as well. This is simply due to vocabulary needed to understand the joke-what’s actually being relayed or told for laughs, in other words.
To help your child with humor, you can actually teach the joke. Explain what makes it funny. The more they’re able to get the structure behind the humor, the better they’ll be later on to getting the joke on their own.
Another way you can help your child with humor is to actively incorporate humor in your daily lives. You can read joke books together; tell jokes purposefully; watch comedy specials- all ways to embed humor in your environment. The more you surround your child with humor the better chance he’ll have with improving his understanding of comedy.
Some Child-Friendly Funny Programs (Select what’s most appealing for your child):
- Mr. Bean
- SpongeBob SquarePants
- Kung Fu Panda
- Phinneas and Ferb
- Full House
Some Tips for Making Humor Less Difficult for Kids:
- Embed humor in your daily life. From laughing about mistakes to keeping a positive attitude to being flexible in your routine to incorporating funny/fun activities, you can add humor indirectly.
- Actively add humor. Besides embedding humor indirectly, it’s important to be proactive with humor too. Watch funny movies together, for instance. As well, tell jokes as part of your routine.
- Play board games. While not all board games are designed specifically for humor (i.e. Monopoly; Checkers; Trouble), you’re bound to laugh and have fun while playing them. However, there are some made especially for humor purposes, so you can incorporate those too.
- Hose a Family Improv too. Invite friends if you want as well to expand the audience. It may seem over the top, but it’s apt to become a fun and funny event.
Cultural Difference Is Why Humor Is Difficult
Humor is difficult because of cultural differences. Because each culture has its own social norms and mores, adapting humor to specific cultures is important, and necessary. What’s funny to one culture is not so funny to another; in fact, it may be considered insulting.
An example of how humor must be adapted or modified to a culture for optimum effectiveness is the hit tv show, The Office.
The Office started out as a British comedy series. Because of its popularity, an American version was created. Since both shows are in English, you’d think creating a whole new show wouldn’t be necessary but it was.
While some Americans like watching the British ‘The Office’, it’s decidedly British humor. Mainstream America preferred an American version, which became wildly successful, much more so than even its predecessor. This shows a difference in British and American humor.
As well, the series went on to having a German version, as well as Indian version, adapting and adjusting the humor for the culture of its audience (even though we all know the American version of The Office is the best!)
To put it another way, humor is cultural because humor often uses daily life and routines as its basis- the ‘funny’ or punchline is connected to what’s normal or expected. For example, the show mentioned earlier, Seinfeld, was about finding humor in daily observances. And obviously, everyday life in Germany and what’s observed there is going to be different from everyday life in middle Oklahoma or the southern tip of Japan!
Humor Is Difficult Because It’s Personal
Similar to the reason humor is difficult for children is that humor is difficult because it’s personal. The personal caveat of humor is why humor has to be tailored precisely for kids, for instance. And well, humor has to be tailored, in essence, for everyone!
Humor is difficult because of its personal requirement. Comedians must conform their humor for their specific audience. This is why comedians will adjust their standard bits depending on where their show is, often having multiple versions from G to R ratings of the same comedy.
It’s also how certain people or groups are known for a type of humor. So for instance, boomer humor is about the good ol’ days and jokes connected to working hard, and grit. Millennial humor is going to be more about social issues and technology, more than likely.
There’s ‘mom humor’ too. Mom jokes are going to be about parenting, wine imbibing, and work-life balance. Dad jokes are known for being cheesy, corny…and include topics like yard work and sports.
All of this is to show that humor is connected to the audience. If the audience is young, the jokes will need to be shaped to their interests rather than the interests of an over-40 crowd. Likewise, if the audience is female jokes should be able topics more relatable to them than a crowd of all-men.
And of course, there’s going to be some commonalities and ‘blurred lines’ from one group to another, but in general, audiences have natural tendencies to what they find funny based on their group identities.
The Punchline for Humor Is Difficult
The main thing to takeaway from this article about humor being difficult is that humor is closely connected to its audience. Because of this, it means humor should be tailored or adjusted to be relatable. If the audience can’t relate, they won’t be able to find it funny.
And because kids have limited capacity for understanding humor and lack relevant experiences, humor is particularly difficult for them, which is why simple, obvious humor like slapstick is their preferred style.
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