Reference Humor Is Boring and Unfunny

By Alex Kim, Staff Writer

Many social media jokes hinge on reference humor, which boils down to people quoting recognizable moments from pop culture or the jokes of other people. Reference humor has become more popular than it has ever been before, but, despite its popularity, it is one of the least funny forms of comedy.


There are two primary forms of reference humor. The first and more common type is where someone will use a quote or screenshot from a film that initially had no basis in humor. For example, the “perfectly balanced” moment from Avengers: Infinity War is commonly used as the punchline of jokes. And I cannot understand why. What is the joke? I do not know if the joke is supposed to be hilarious because it is random. A part of me genuinely thinks the reference is meant to be funny because it is so painfully unfunny. These references to pop culture and recognizable quotes are rarely ever witty and confused me more than anything.


The second type of reference humor is the unapologetic repurposing of someone else’s joke. These jokes are typically not very specific and vague enough to be reused without being too lazy. Usually, these jokes are actually pretty funny when they are first conceived. However, over time, as more people repeat the line and the phrasing slightly alters to fit different situations, most humor is lost in translation. Therefore, the joke gets less funny as it becomes more widespread. And let us say your associate or friend uses a joke that someone else made, but you still laugh at the joke. In this situation, you only laughed because your associate did not make the joke. I know that there are no original jokes or ideas— not really. But using someone else’s joke and slightly altering the phrasing to fit various situations is not very funny. It is lazy.


I do not consider myself a comedy genius or anything, and I strongly dislike the idea of a “comedy police” that demeans other people for their sense of humor. But reference humor is genuinely one of the most boring, uninteresting types of comedy. I do not know why reference humor has become so prolific as of late. It is rarely ever funny, it leaves people confused, and it makes people who use it look lazy.