Humor Isn’t as Subjective as You Think It Is

By Alex Kim, Staff Writer

Whenever a person’s humor or a media punchline is criticized, someone will make a poor defense, claiming that humor is entirely subjective, and you cannot truly criticize humor. However, that statement is only partially correct. The things that make people laugh generally are personal; nearly everyone has a different idea of what they find comical. But there is a specific science behind what makes a joke well structured and funny. For this reason, humor does have certain objective qualities that people can undoubtedly criticize. 


The most common critique for a humorous statement is the structure. There is almost always a clear distinction between a clever joke and a throwaway joke with no effort put behind it. For example, if you see a character randomly fart in a movie, you can laugh at it, but you cannot say that the movie director was clever. On the other hand, if a joke is set up well, has a good punchline, and is reincorporated in casual conversation or the script of a movie, that joke should be acknowledged as smart even if you did not laugh. 


Neither one of these categories of jokes is funnier than the other because everyone finds different humor appealing. Sometimes, even dumb comedy can have its golden moments. However, this kind of random humor always requires much less effort than a well-formulated joke. These two distinctions of comedy and the effort put behind them allow jokes to be classified as lazy or smart.


Delivery is arguably the most crucial aspect of any joke because an improper tone can ruin the smartest, well-written jokes. Although it is usually challenging to perfect, delivery is still one of the most objective comedy qualities. Many individuals will say there is no way to make a joke “wrong” because the comedian can choose how they want to deliver their jokes. Despite this, it is clear that a stiff presentation of any non-sarcastic joke leads to awkwardness. Conversely, if a sarcastic joke is told with a very enthusiastic tone, it will seem stilted and strange. Humor depends on good delivery to see it through, and it is very obvious when poor presentation weighs a joke down.


The objective qualities of humor are much more prominent and influential than many people believe. Humor can be criticized appropriately without making baseless claims or complaints. Comedy is extremely diverse and covers every topic in existence, but there are always standards that humor should meet to be considered funny.