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Triggering points that psychologically makes you laugh

The secret to being an excellent stand-up comedian is figuring out how to make anyone laugh. Laughter is our money; it pays the bills and makes for the finest shows! It might be difficult to find out how to make people laugh.


A lot of the time, we don't know why something is hilarious; we simply know it is. You may start to exploit the primary psychological triggers to laughing to your advantage once you understand them. Here, we'll go through 9 laughing triggers, explain what they are, and provide an example so you can apply the same triggers in your act and ensure laughs every time!

Surprise!


We'll start with one of the most obvious sources of laughter: surprise! The key to this trigger is to completely surprise the audience. This trigger is used in the traditional "pull back-reveal" joke structure, which leads the audience to form an assumption on one thing before "revealing" the surprise! Here's an extremely simple (and not really amusing) example.


"I slept in and missed the bus to school!" But I'm sure the youngsters found their own way to school."


Superiority


It's horrible, but many like making fun of others of lower social standing. There's a golden rule in comedy about never punching down on those of lesser rank, but when employing superiority, punching down on oneself may be helpful! If the audience feels superior to you, they will likely laugh; self-deprecation is highly beneficial for this; Rhys James has a wonderful self-deprecating joke that also incorporates Surprise!


"Well, it wasn't nearly as bad as I had anticipated."


Embarrassment

If we didn't like laughing at other people's misery, Harry Hill would have had an embarrassingly short run on you've been framed. But it remains a classic piece of television based purely on laughing at other people's discomfort! Laughing at your own humiliation puts others more at ease around you.


When employing embarrassment, make sure you never humiliate individuals in a lesser position than yourself, as this might be perceived as punching down. Stories and jokes about embarrassing things about yourself or humiliating things about those in a higher status than you are a great way to go.


Tension release!


The release of stress is a significant laughing trigger and one that highly talented comedians employ frequently! The difficulty with this one is that you have to develop tension and sit in it to utilize it, and when you're working out your jokes, you don't know whether you have the gags to break it too. The more the tension, the greater the release, and hence the greater the potential laugh; nevertheless, if the release is not obtained, the louder the silence will feel!


Incongruity


This is when we combine two things that shouldn't be related and find a way to relate them! We take two seemingly incongruent things and compare them to one another, it’s a relatively simple trigger that can be super successful too!


Recognition


This is an easy tactic to employ; audiences prefer to laugh when they recognise or relate to something; this is why topical humour is so popular since it makes you feel like you're in on the joke. It's also why many comedians will make references to pop culture during their act!


For example, Luke Hall (the author of this article) has a joke in which he compares a used self-help book to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The audience recognises this allusion, and given that it is in the context of a self-help book, there is some surprise and incongruity there, so they laugh!



Exaggeration or Ambivalence

It's amusing to care less about things that should concern you. Being objectively indifferent also comes with a little of surprise because the audience expects you to care a lot. This can be a difficult one to deploy, and on the other hand, you have hyperbole! It's amusing to care too much about insignificant details.


Configurational

These jokes, which might often resemble riddles more than jokes, garner laughs because the audience feels like they're in on the joke! Many word play jokes are configurational, with a possible double meaning. Techniques such as "do the opposite" are another example.



Coincidence!


This frequently goes hand in hand with incongruity and is the key that holds everything together! Noticing an exceedingly implausible coincidence and recognising its ridiculousness and incongruity is where the comedy and chuckle come from! If the audience recognises this, you have a hot bed of triggers in one joke!


Conclusion


When writing your next tight five, keep these 9 psychological triggers for laughing in mind. It may also be a great tool to look back over past sets and attempt to pinpoint which trigger generates the laugh at certain jokes.


Simply understanding them will allow you to be much more creative in how you utilize and mix them to become a genuinely great comic!


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