Janet Sumner Johnson
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Where Does “Funny” Come From?

Nov 12, 2012 Uncategorized 18 comments

In October I went to a conference where I had a
chance to participate in a critique group. After reading my piece, a member of
the group asked where my humor came from.

When I looked askance (great 3-point word, no?) at her, she
clarified her question. “For example, are your siblings funny? Your
parents? Where does your ability to be funny come from?”
I’d never really thought about humor as something that could
be transferred through DNA before. So I considered the question. And I mean,
sure my parents and siblings have their moments of funny, but I doubt any of
them could have a career as a comedian (Note: If any of you are reading this, I
didn’t mean that. You could totally have a career as a comedian. Just today I
heard about a prototype for pig-wings. ; ) You still love me, right?)
I think I uttered something about getting punchy at night,
but it does make one wonder. Where does a sense of humor come from? Is it
innate? Learned behavior? What do you think?

18 Responses to β€œWhere Does “Funny” Come From?”

  1. Good question, because my parents don't really have a good sense of humor. At least none that I've noticed. But I do.

  2. Julie Luek says:

    My dad was all kinds of dysfunctional but the man had a great sense of humor– towards himself and a love of words and puns. I find I have inherited his sometimes off-the-wall humor. Interesting post!

  3. LTM says:

    ew! Tough question, CUF! Hmm… well, my mom always said I was a funny kid, but I think she meant I did "quirky" things… LOL! Mom's nice way of saying I was strange. As I've gotten older and more experienced, I've gotten better at funny. So maybe it's learned? Maybe your DNA can give you a proclivity towards funny, but you learn how to use it?

    what do you think? And then there's just accidents… πŸ˜€ <3 ((jugs))

  4. Jess says:

    Interesting post~ I love that the woman asked you where your humor came from πŸ™‚

    I think some people are just a little more inclined for whatever reason, through early exposure to SNL and Monty Python and/or natural inclinations toward certain moods and reactions, to see the humor in situations (even finding the ability to find laughter and irony in moments of sorrow). Others are more sensitive to other emotions or logic. Congrats on being funny, though! The world needs writers like you!

  5. Being funny in my opinion comes from an ability to point out the obvious that is not obvious unless you are able to point it out and make fun of it in some way.

  6. Hi Janet, long time no see. I saw you comment on another blog and popped right over to say hello!

    And I'm not sure where funny comes from. But I'm glad I have the gift.

  7. I think sense of humor is a combination of innate and learned, but either way, I think you have to be smart to be funny – the funniest people I know tend to be very smart – they notice connections and things. Being able to write funny is a slightly different category, though. It's one thing to be funny around people whose sense of humor you know, it's much harder to pull it off in writing for a guestimated audience. Bravo you for getting noticed for your funny! πŸ™‚

  8. I'm not sure it's inherited either, because I never saw much of a sense of humor in my parents! (Hoping they won't track me down here and read that.)

    Does it say something about MY sense of humor that I am now chuckling over the person who asked that question? I imagine her wondering if a sense of humor can be purchased online, maybe at Craigslist.

  9. MikeS says:

    Ummm, was that comment directed at me? I could so make a career out of humor. I'm quitting my job right now, just to prove you wrong.

  10. Lenny Lee* says:

    hi miss janet!

    i dont have not one idea where it comes from but for sure you got it.:) hmmm…maybe you could google it. google knows everything. me and all my brothers and sister laugh at all kinds of stuff. my brother sebi put a sign on the door where we go out and its says "humor – never leave home without it!"

    …hugs from lenny

  11. That is such a hard question. I am 6 of 7 kids and some are really funny and some have to driest sense of humor ever! I think the environment your raised in can have an effect on you but it's also how your brain processes the info to make it funny.

  12. Lynn says:

    Good question! I think attitude has a lot to with having a sense of humour. One has to see the 'funny' side of even the most serious events of life, to have a sense of humor and be 'funny' in a good way.

  13. I think you have to be insanely intelligent to be funny. So, there you go! πŸ˜€

  14. Marcia says:

    I think sense of humor is largely innate. I know a big element of humor is surprise. I think if you can connect things that surprise people, you're on your way to making them laugh.

  15. I think there are a lot of different ways to be funny.

  16. nutschell says:

    I think it can be both. Some people are just born funny, and others just maybe pick up on what "funny" is and mimic it until they find their own funny-ness:)

  17. That's a good question, but I think you definitely have a good one. My son has a terrific but weird sense of humor (at least to his parents) and we don't know where he got it.

  18. Really good topic, Janet! I'm pretty serious. Thinking back I think my family is pretty serious. HMMMM I got my lack of humor and my crooked toes from my family.

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