The Lowest Form Of Humor- Puns, Sarcasm, Or Shock (Ranked)

There have been many that have postulated on what are the worst or lowest forms of humor. Everyone from school teachers to literary giants have weighed in on the subject. Yet, is there a way to make the designation of ‘lowest form of humor’ more objective?

Sarcasm is the lowest form of humor because it subverts a persons worth, views, or truth itself. Irreverent shock humor is a close second, with strong cases against it actually being humor at all. Puns though simple and even mundane word play do have admirable social uses.

Here I have ranked the three lowest forms of humor according to how that humor affects others. Humor is made to be conveyed. So, simply basing it on how you personally receive it, though valid for the individual, leaves out its foundational intent. So, lets look at how puns, sarcasm, and shock humor rank when their target is considered.

What Is The Lowest Form Of Humor?

To honestly look at humor, it has to be admitted that it is both for the person delivering it (a sense of satisfaction at achieving an intended reaction) and the person receiving it (the joy of surprise and levity). When the person delivering it does so at the expense of modesty, those receiving it, or turning it into a back door for an unwanted opinion, it fails.

The lowest form of humor is sarcasm, which degrades another or their views in order to garner credit for the one delivering the remark. Low in this sense refers to the human element though this can even be done to discredit everything from worldviews to morality itself.

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.

There are other low forms of humor that vie for the top spot in this inauspicious list. Some are considered simple and not worthy of the title humor and others attempt to push the limits of decency instead of actually engaging what humans find funny.

Would you like a kid friendly way for kids to engage with humor that is age appropriate? We have a kid’s coloring/joke book you can purchase from Amazon with 100 pages of fun coloring and hilarious jokes.

#1 Sarcasm- The Lowest Form Of Humor

What does it mean to say that sarcasm is not good humor? Is there an objective way to determine this?

Sarcasm is the lowest form of humor because it attempts to uplift the self at the expense of others. It degrades things that are true in leu of opinion or simple pragmatic outcomes that may affect the one using it. It has a dehumanizing effect that is not redeemable.

There are several reasons that I will discuss here explaining why sarcasm can be used for bad ends or as an expression of bad intentions. These are the easiest ones to fall prey to and by no means does this mean that some can’t use sarcasm in a more positive way.

Since this site is dealing with children and how we teach humor to them as parents and educators, the direction here will be on how it should be handled with kids.

All children have trouble understanding how to be. Adding a potentially volatile element like sarcasm to their daily interactions is not productive.

Sarcasm Is Self Aggrandizing Humor

To put someone or their ideas down as inconsequential or ‘less than’ is in effect a way to lift up one’s self at their expense. This element of self-centeredness and a neglect for the importance of the other person is inherently flawed.

Sarcasm at its core is self aggrandizing humor which by definition evokes the vices of pride and selfishness. Sarcasm is either aimed directly at another person or at least at something they deem important or true. This is all done in an attempt to elevate the user of sarcasm or their opinion.

Most of us know that a person that brags or builds themselves up is uncomfortable to be around in most situations. This should be doubly true for those that do it at the expense of others.

Making someone else seem lesser to make ourselves seem greater is always wrong.

Sarcasm Is A Tool Of The Weak

There are many forms of weakness that intend to divert blame. This can be from someone using the tactic or directly onto someone or something else. Passive aggressive joking is one where the person can always retreat with the phrase ‘I was just joking. Sarcasm is another that hides disrespect or insults behind double meanings.

Sarcasm communicates weakness through hostility toward a person, their ideas, or a world view in such a way that allows plausible deniability. The person using it attempts to deny any intended disrespect or offense due to hidden or double meanings with an facade of a non-serious, joking intent.

“As I said, this was my sarcastic summer. It was only long after that I recognized sarcasm as the protest of people who are weak.”

John Knowles, A Separate Peace

Teaching our kids and even reminding ourselves that dealing with issues or disagreements head on is the right way to deal with tension. Hiding contempt or aggressiveness in joking or cryptic language is not an acceptable strategy. Moral action takes courage.

Sarcasm And Our Kids

We all know of children’s attempts to assert control in their lives as they get older through pushback against their parents. In the teen years this can become overt for some children that have not been raised to properly respect their roles along with the roles their parents have.

Sarcasm in children should not be tolerated or encouraged. Nevertheless, in the teen years many kids with under formed consciences or loose boundaries set by parents lean toward using sarcasm to rebel. It should be addressed at every occurrence for its hidden disrespect.

Though sarcasm definitely takes higher levels of thought than some forms of humor, this in no way negates the dehumanizing and offensive nature it has at its core. In the hands of children whose brains won’t be completely developed until their early twenties, it is too much for them to handle.

To recognize and instruct children it is important to know how to identify when a child is being disrespectful through sarcasm. In a study done by researchers from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, it was found that three vocal ques can be used over and above the verbal ques to determine when a statement is sarcastic.

You can know if your child is trying out sarcasm sometimes by simply the tone of their voice. The indicators discovered to be most universally applied were:

  • a slower tempo
  • greater intensity
  • a lower pitch level

If you notice any of these in a statement, it is important to address it. Learning about sarcasm is important in an educational sense, but accepting it from children as a form of challenge is not.

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#2 Shock- The Second Lowest Form Of Humor

Surprise is one thing, but that can be found in most types of humor. Shock humor takes this to a different and even disturbing level. Much of it centers on the immodest and even lude. Instead of clever twists, word plays, or double meanings, it attempts to push boundaries to get a reaction. Uncomfortable laughter is usually the outcome.

Shock humor is a low form of humor because of its lack of foundation on the purpose of humor. It’s attempts at being vulgar, gross, or offensive elicit laughter from the rebellious in nature and awkward chuckles from less desensitized. It should be avoided with children in general.

Shock humor is mostly an easier way to get a reaction out of a crowd than using witty observations or turns of phrase. Let’s look at some of the reasons it is considered a less desirable form of comedy.

Is Shock Humor Really Humor?

Is eliciting a response through crossing boundaries of decorum or decency really comedy? The surprise and nervous laughter we all have experienced at immodest jokes or even comedy routines, feels off even when they are happening. If we are honest, they feel more so in retrospect.

Shock humor is not is essence trying to find clever ways of breaking patterns or hiding double meanings. It is intended to form an uncomfortable feeling brought on by the surprise of saying things that are not normally acceptable in conversation. This does not fit in the definition of humor.


-that quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous 

Merriam Webster

This definition refers to the use or ordinary speech to create the absurd or out of the ordinary. Shock humor may be said to attempt to point out the out of the ordinary, but it actually doesn’t. The language itself is deemed inappropriate for most situations and this is the out of the ordinary. Simply using vulgar language doesn’t mean it is funny.

Laziness Is The New Norm

It takes a surprisingly high intelligence to form jokes within acceptable communication parameters and not devolve into using immodest language meant to disturb sensibilities. It takes a considerable amount of effort to form jokes and observations without vulgarity as a crutch.

Shock humor is a lazy attempt at comedy because it relies on the inherent shock the listener will feel at the choice of words instead of surprise at hidden meanings or unexpected twists. It becomes a crutch in attaining a response to jokes even if that response is not actually meaningful.

To create good humor is not only an art, but also hard work. Shock humor is the equivalent of a shortcut to get around that work.

#3 Puns- The Third Lowest Form Of Humor

For most that would vote for puns as the top of this list, the simple word plays that sometimes are too obvious even for some children are seen as less intelligent. Yet, the problem with this view is that the intent of these easy to understand jokes much of the time has a higher purpose.

Puns are not the lowest form of humor because they are simple in nature, but normally have one of two more noble purposes. One is to provide simple attempts at levity without crossing boundaries of decency. The other is self deprecating in nature meant to ease tension or awkwardness.

Much of the time when a dad or grandpa pulls out the puns, it is to seem more approachable by children or ease tension with relatives or acquaintances. Most know that the suppleness of the pun will bring groans, but this tends to have a unifying effect on people.

This is often done to lower themselves to make others more comfortable. This is the opposite of the aim of sarcasm in common use.

Here are some common puns that dads, grandpas, and many others use to bring a lighter feel to the air and in essence take their place as the ‘butt of the joke’.

If a grandpa is trying holding hands with his granddaughter just before crossing a busy intersection, he may say…

Why did the chicken cross the road?

(Insert any of the hundreds of answers here.)

If a dad is trying to get his son to jump off of the diving board for the first time, he may say…

Which weighs more, a pound of air or a pound of water?

(Both weigh a pound so…)

In both of these situations, puns are not there to be funny in and of themselves. In fact, puns are marginally funny if done well. The purpose of puns in these situations is to get the focus on how they themselves are ‘silly’ or ‘weird’ instead of the possible anxiety at hand.

The Lowest Form Of Humor Punchline…

The lowest form of humor or comedy should be decided based on its intent. If the intent is to cross boundaries of morality it should make the top of the list. Even more so, the degrading or defaming of others should make the type of humor unacceptable.

Though not always the case, shock humor and sarcasm both have strong tendencies toward these. There are exceptions that have either being used appropriately, but exceptions do not make the rule.

Many claim puns are the lowest form of comedy due to the simplicity. Yet, this becomes their strength at times and if not used to simply be annoying, they can lighten moods and contribute to better social situations.

To read more about humor, see my other articles here…

Jackie Booe

A mother to four kids, grandmother ("Oma") to a growing number, a retired teacher for over 18 years, and a wife to Mat since 1994, Jackie knows kids and laughter. She holds a license to teach in 3 states and is certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners, with practical experience at all levels. She holds three degrees in the field of education and has taught education courses online at the university level as an adjunct professor, too. She has mentored numerous education interns, hosted professional development for educators, and tutored, in addition to homeschooling her own children.

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