Constructive and Non-Constructive Humour. Which is better?

in life •  last year

I used a lot of sarcasm when I was younger, a lot of sarcasm. As I am very sensitive to the emotional tone amongst people, I began to feel uneasy with this form of humour.

Later in life I left the shores of Australia, and headed for the USA. This provided the contrast in humour I needed to see the problem clearly.

Humour can be constructive or unconstructive, and sometimes even destructive.

Any time a person is constructing concepts or imaginary ideas on top of what currently exists, it is constructive humour. Digging or rehashing something that already exists in the current context is not constructive. Simple as that.

I'm not saying that different forms of humour cannot be funny, of course they can, and everyone has a different sense of humour. But unconstructive and destructive humour can sap your energy. Just like negative comments drain the energy from a relationship between people, destructive humour can be damaging.

If the reader pauses to think, I'm sure they can think of some examples. Let me try to do the same.

Constructive

Almost any comedian is constructive, they create humour out of nothing!


From the hilarious John Mulaney.


The always funny and often raw, Mike Birbiglia

I like Mike's joke here because it highlights that "constructive" doesn't just mean positive. Both of these jokes had NO context before you read them just now, they're just jokes that stand alone, they Create all the content of themselves entirely.

Unconstructive

This is a bit of a tall order, but I knew 'An Idiot Abroad' would give me some examples.


The core of the humour is the nappy (diaper) flying through the air, he is just commenting on it. There is no creation here. This is a good example of dry humour.

For the record, Americans do understand dry humour. I find they find it kind of hilarious in an odd sort of way. Think Woody Allen.

I have two destructive stories later on. But "negative" jokes can often fall into this category, the type of humour derived from humiliating or deriding others. Here is an example I found.

More on my sarcasm habit

So at the top of the article, I said that I was very sarcastic. The problem with sarcasm is that it is necessarily unconstructive at best, and deeply destructive at worst. It does not create, it does not add.

You read right, this is what is said about Americans, mainly by the English. Americans "don't get irony [or sarcasm]". On the surface level, this appears true. Let me provide you with an example from my life.

Please forgive me for what you're about to read! I was a very unhappy man while I was in England, and I frequently carried the energy with me.

Setting: Getting a hotdog at an Ice Hockey game in New York City.
Guy: Is this ketchup?
Me: Red and in a bottle, that's usually ketchup!
Guy: Cool.

A moment later my brain processed what had just happened. This comment would have been widely accepted while I was in London, but in NYC, the guy seems to have not "understood the humour in the sarcasm". But the reality is I've just created a completely unnecessary unconstructive attempt at humour that has resulted in this little release of fairly negative energy. I'm still impressed with how the guy handled it, with a dismissive little "cool" to just break off the communication.

It isn't that he didn't understand, he followed what I was saying, possibly what he didn't understand was why I was being such an asshole to a stranger who was just asking a simple question.

This is the contrast that is so easily highlighted when in the USA. People there are socially trained to not go around spreading negative tone in conversation, and they don't think it's humorous when it happens.

I can give a counter example when I was in England just after I had returned from the USA. I was able to bleed out the anxious negativity that I was carrying around during my trip, and I was seeking positive constructive interaction.

Setting: I was purchasing a foodstuffs from the Sunday market
Seller: This is the last one we're selling.
Me: Ah, good, I'm lucky!
Bystander: Hah, it would be funny if you dropped it now.

I wish I had the grace to just say "cool" like the guy from my scenario, instead I just smiled and allowed the conversation to change course. Unless I'm going to engage in schadenfreude, there is very little humour to the statement. It's not adding anything, it's just an odd statement about what would be an unfavourable turn of events, and not even in an interesting or creative way.

Why we should strive for constructive humour

Now'a'days, I seek to escape those who use derisive humour. We are the average of the five people around us, and I prefer to not have that influence in my life anymore.

We can start to see how this may impact society when we start scaling up. I generally find that the more negative approach to social interaction is the short-term victor. If someone is getting laughs from others by applying destructive humour, like tearing apart someone else's attempt at constructive humour, then it is hard for the positive constructive humour to thrive.

If we on the other hand work together and push to create more and more humour atop the humour of others, everyone wins! It is harder, but it is worth it.

The choice is yours, friends.

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A look into the soul of humour. 11/10! Loved it! MORE!!!

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Thank you for your feedback :)

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No problem. There is always time for humour!

I don't think the ketchup comment was negative, it's also about how you say it. Imagine if you say it calmly in a teaching manner(like talking to a child) and half-way laughing. XD Both will get a laugh.

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I agree it wasn't negative. But it wasn't very constructive nor clever.