i-Learner Education Centre

Steps to Success » Humour

Recognising and Realising Subtle Humour

Who doesn’t like to be amused? To smirk, to beam, to sneer – there are many ways for us to describe when a person finds humour in things. But at the end of the day, how do we make people laugh?


Well yes, but that’s not the whole story. As we probably all know, cracking a joke doesn’t always mean instant laughter, and laughs don’t only come from jokes. That’s because humour is a two-part idea. Humour isn’t only the quality of being funny but also the ability to find things funny (we say someone ‘has a good sense of humour’ if they often find things funny). Both the creator and receiver of a joke need humour for the thing to work.

This is important for young learners to understand. When students try to write funny things, they tend to start with stand-alone jokes. These can be very funny and inventive, but to go deeper with humour involves a complex thought process that takes practice. Creating laughter is often done through a meticulously designed atmosphere or a sudden upset of expectation. To write something funny, the creator must attempt to imagine how the audience would interpret their idea, which includes considering their vocabulary and ideas about the world. For example, a parent may laugh when a toddler points to a cat and says ‘dog’, but we wouldn’t laugh at a professional comedian doing this.

Writing funny things is an excellent exercise in understanding the audience’s perspective. Though we might grow tired of reading a child’s jokes about bodily functions, we shouldn’t discourage them from trying to make us laugh through their writing. As they read and learn more, they will develop a subtler sense of what is funny, and through this, they come to understand a lot about the world.

As they practise more, they’ll learn to judge what kind of humour goes with which mindset, and soon they’ll have everyone laughing!

For more on humour, visit this issue of our newsletter.