What to Know About Using Obvious Humor


There’s a misconception that to use humor we have to be natural comedians, but that’s not the case. Obvious humor doesn’t have to be challenging, and it works well with kids. So what is important to know about using obvious humor, then?

Obvious humor, from observational musings to slapstick to simple jokes, are easy to learn and implement. Especially good for those who live or work around kids like parents, grandparents, and teachers, the benefits of obvious humor make it worthwhile knowing.

As a mom and teacher, I’ve lived and worked around children most of my life and having a sense of humor is not only helpful, but I dare say a necessity. One of the easiest humor styles to learn, if humor-challenged like myself, is obvious humor. And bonus, it’s the best kind of humor to use with kids!

Stating the Obvious Humor

Captain Obvious (a popular meme and commercial character of Hotel.Com) is funny because what he says is actually just plain facts.

I’d say comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Carrey are two who readily come to mind when thinking of comedians known for stating the obvious kind of humor. What is meant by stating the obvious humor, then?

Stating the obvious humor is overt, direct, and simplified in its approach to comedy. Comedians (or parents, grandparents, and teachers) who rely on stating the obvious as their humor tactic can use a calm, wry tone or even over-the-top slapstick, but one thing is common: the punchline is clear.

So what does it look or sound like concretely to state the obvious? Let’s consider these two comedians I’ve already referenced, extremes on the comedy spectrum, for a guide.

Jerry SeinfeldJim Carrey
wryboisterous
serious and calmjumpy
adultishimmature
expressionless or barely smirkinganimated and contorted expressions
makes observations about daily life/mundane thingsmakes blatant remarks verging on rude
Table comparing two comedians known for obvious humor: Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Carrey

And why should parents, grandparents, and teachers care about this, other than the sure enjoyment of laughing at Seinfeld and/or Carrey routines? Why is using humor even important? Well, research tells us it’s important, for starters!

For instance, this in-depth study from the journal of Education found that over 80 percent of teachers and students felt using humor was appropriate in the classroom for relieving stress, building relationships, and aiding learning.

As for parenting (and grandparenting), humor studies such as this one show that humor supports adolescent self-esteem, while other studies explain that humor is a healthy coping mechanism and useful for building and strengthening parent-child bonds.

And in my own teaching, and momming, experience, I can tell you that humor is a wonderful way to diffuse tense situations, and just manage the occasional wacky day! Much better than tears!

To put it succinctly, there is overwhelming evidence to support using humor with kids, as parents, grandparents, and teachers, regardless of the variation in comedy delivery and expression we choose.

For related articles about humor, laughter, and kids, I suggest these popular ones too:

Observational Comedy

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld made his humor mark using observational comedy.

Observational comedy is one approach to obvious humor (not the only one), with its most well-known proponent being the hugely successful comedian, Jerry Seinfeld. Let’s look at what makes observational comedy distinct.

Observational comedy is distinct from other comedy styles in that it applies humor to everyday, regular routines and situations, essentially, common observations. Some comedians, like Jerry Seinfeld, have grown famous using observational comedy, but everyone can use it, from parents to teachers.

Observational humor is easy for most people to acquire since it doesn’t need specially honed skills or natural comedy acumen. Basically, it just requires observations, or simply paying attention to what you and others do day-to-day, and finding the humor in that.

Some common observations Seinfeld found humorous (that most adults can relate to):

  • Waiting in line at restaurants
  • Rental car companies losing your reservation
  • Forgetting your new girlfriend (or boyfriend’s) name
  • Making out during inappropriate time
  • Someone double-dipping their chip
  • Picking versus Scratching your nose
  • Being embarrassed by your parents
  • Not knowing if you should cash the checks from ‘Nana’

Now it’s important to understand that the observational humor from Seinfeld is targeted to adults. However, observational/obvious humor is not just for adults. It’s the perfect humor to use with kids!

So keep that in mind when watching Seinfeld. You can certainly enjoy his observational/obvious for yourself but don’t think it will be appreciated the same way by kids. Knowing this then, let’s look in the next section at what it means to use obvious humor with kids.

Using Obvious Humor With Kids

Studies tell us that children develop humor in stages, which is good for parents, grandparents, and teachers to know because they can channel humor devices appropriately to align with children’s cognitive levels. So understanding this, how does obvious humor apply to kids?

Obvious humor, such as slapstick, is a comedy approach that naturally aligns with children’s cognitive levels. Because obvious humor is clear, direct, and generally simplistic, children are more apt to understand its meaning, and thus, get the punchline more easily.

What are children’s humor capabilities? Let’s look at humor by age group.

Age GroupHumor Capabilities
0-2 years oldInfants love to giggle, play peek-a-boo, and laugh at being tickled.
3-4 years oldAt the toddler stage, children laugh at absurdities like wearing their underwear on their head or making silly faces. They also like intentional physical humor from adults, like when they pretend to fall down or bump into walls.
5-6 years oldAt this kindergarten age, children begin to enjoy funny language like silly words and jokes with patterns like Knock Knock jokes, even though they don’t always grasp the point. Kindergarteners still struggle devising slapstick humor on purpose, but when it happens unintentionally, they recognize the humor.
Older elementary-aged kidsOlder kids and tweens have a newfound grasp of puns and riddles. They are less apt to poke fun at themselves for humor, but unfortunately (and naturally), they start to find humor in teasing others. Intentional self-induced slapstick is common, too.
TeensTeens enjoy sarcasm as well as full on funny stories since their attention span has increased. Slapstick in not nearly as funny to them as it is younger kids, though many still enjoy it on a smaller scale.
Table to delineate humor by children’s age groups

As you can tell from the table, younger children benefit the most from obvious humor tactics. This makes sense, since obvious humor is straightforward by design and clear with what it means. Obvious humor doesn’t resort to double meanings, irony, or complicated word choice…again making it more appropriate for younger crowds.

Obvious Humor Examples

Hit TV comedy Family Matters (1989-1998) used mostly obvious humor in its approach to comedy, primarily centered around character Steve Urkel.

Now that we understand what obvious humor is, and how it applies to both adults and kids, let’s consider some examples.

TV Examples of Obvious Humor

Family MattersFamily Matters was a popular TV sitcom in the late 80s, early 90s. One of its most obvious humor pieces was its over-the-top caricature of the character, Steve Urkel. Now, Steve was the quintessential definition of nerd from his larger than normal glasses, colorful suspenders, and high-waisted pants two inches too short.

The actor playing him also managed to create the most irritating squeaky voice, too. It was obvious that viewers were meant to laugh every time Urkel showed up on screen, making him a fan-favorite for the younger audience.

SpongeBob SquarePantsSpongeBob SquarePants started in 1999 and continues today with new episodes and full-length movies. One character in particular is used for obvious humor and that is Patrick, SpongeBob’s best under the sea pal.

Patrick is goofy, silly, simple, and leans toward insane behavior that frequently gets him (and SpongeBob) in trouble. And anyone, including kids watching, just about any episode know that it’s obvious Patrick is funny!

Seinfeld– Comedian Jerry Seinfeld started in stand-up comedy but eventually parlayed that into his own series in the 90s. It ran 9 successful seasons, and made Seinfeld a household name. However, besides Jerry’s observational humor that is synonymous with obvious humor, one popular and repeating character on the show was an obvious humor tactic: next-door neighbor, Kramer.

Kramer didn’t just walk into a room; he burst into it! Kramer didn’t just respond; his whole body reverberated a response. Kramer was over-the-top, sheer quirky goofiness!

Movie Examples of Obvious Humor

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)- Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Ace Ventura, a pet detective, is a prime example of obvious humor in film. From his extra-tall, swirly hair to his floral print shirts to his exaggerated behavior, Ace is most assuredly meant to evoke laughs out loud from its 13 and up viewers.

White Chicks (2004)- When the Wayan brothers donned ‘white face’ and dress in girl’s attire, the slapstick humor was more than obvious. Their in-your-face jokes and punchlines that required no thinking beyond surface level was made especially for tweens and teens who enjoy popcorn movies and easy pop-culture references.

Marlon and Shawn Wayans, a pair of funny brothers, found obvious humor success with their silly 2004 comedy, White Chicks.

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)- Comedians Wil Arnett and Michael Cera voice Batman and Robin respectively in this version of Lego films. Though it’s true that some subtle humor is used in the film directed towards older audiences, for the most part, Lego Batman Movie is full of obvious, blatant humor, easily grasped by its intended younger viewers.

Parent Examples of Obvious Humor

Daily Jokes– Parents can incorporate jokes in their everyday routine at home. From telling jokes at the breakfast table to reading joke books at bedtime, it’s not too much trouble to include humor at home. We even have a coloring book called, Fun Jokes For Kids, available at Amazon, easily adaptable for this use.

Common sayings– Parents, especially dear ol’ cheesy dad, can provide obvious humor at home through regular ‘sayings.’ This means using your own catchphrases or silly responses regularly.

At our house, my husband often says ‘Ethan, we’ve done done it’ after just about any regular or frequent task. Also, every time anyone says “I’m going to take a shower”, the rest of us absolutely must respond, “Please do! You stink!”

Grandparent Examples of Obvious Humor

Grandpa Isms– Just like with cheesy dads, corny Grandpas have their common sayings, too. This is an example of obvious humor, and also, obvious affection, when grandpas (and grandmas) say or do things over and over deliberately for their grandkids’ enjoyment.

Once grandparents, certainly creatures of decades-long habits, have their -isms, use them even more so. In fact, the more exaggerated the -ism (or saying or action), the better!

Clothes Fun- Grandparents definitely have their own sense of style, usually from 50 years ago. So embrace it! Wear your funny granpa pants pulled up too high and colorful grandma jewelry especially when your grandkids are around, and be sure to let your grandkids know they’re welcome to borrow them anytime!

But only if they leave a sizeable collateral!

Teacher Examples of Obvious Humor

Funny Teacher Attire– Teachers aren’t meant to be cool, and will never be, according to all students! Therefore, as teachers, accept it and wear it well, or should I say, wear it ‘un-cool.’

Don’t spend a lot of money on your wardrobe that will never be appreciated. Instead, wear things (from fedoras to clogs to Rudolph antlers) that will hook and hold your students’ attention even through the most boring of lessons! Your students behavior, and their test scores, will be better for your obvious attempt at humor!

Every year at Christmas time, I always wore my crazy-eyed Rudolph (Ugly) sweater and Reindeer Antlers unabashedly, an obvious nod to my teacher-humor!

Media Usage– Another obvious humor approach for the classroom is with the use of media. You can find just about anything in clip-form on YouTube and that includes funny snippets of SpongeBob, Kevin Hart, or the latest viral meme.

When choosing your video, however, be sure to look for obvious or observational humor for the clearest effect to your lesson.

Obvious Humor Punchline

To recap, let’s remember that obvious humor is humor that is clear, direct, and most likely simple. It doesn’t require overthinking or include complicated hidden messages. Puns and riddles can use obvious humor, but a better example is slapstick or the more subtle, observational humor.

Because of its elementary nature, obvious humor is a good humor style for those who work with kids or want to make their own kids (or grandkids) laugh. It also makes it a more attainable humor approach for those looking to improve their own sense of humor.

For further reading on humor and laughter as it relates to kids, I recommend trying these articles:

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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