Discover Your Humor Style I have often heard people say they have no sense of humor because they cannot tell jokes. Jokes are only one of a hundred different ways to elicit laughter from people. Each person has a different style of humor. For the sake of simplicity, I have identified five basic styles: Demonstrator, Assertor, Contemplator, Narrator and Creator. The trick to being a successful humorist is to find your style and build on your innate strengths. For example, are you the kind of person who can keep people riveted while telling a story about your latest trip to the grocery store, yet you always blow the timing on a joke? Perhaps you like to clown around and be playful, but get lost trying to do witty one-liners? Take the self-quiz on the next few pages to find out your dominant style or styles. These humor styles are, of course, highly generalized. Most people have qualities of more than one style, or will tend to switch from one style to another depending on their environment. Use this information as a place to start. If you begin with humor that suits your personality style, you will have more success than if you try something too foreign right from the start. Once you experience success in your dominant style, you can expand your skills to include different types of humor, to appeal to different types of people. That is why I have included a fifth style that includes and transcends all the other styles. It is the most creative style and therefore is labeled Creator.
Humor Style Quiz Try this self-quiz to find out your dominant humor style. Circle the letter of the statement that most closely resembles you: 1.
At a large social gathering, you are most likely to: a. b. c. d.
When you first arrive at a meeting you are usually: a. b. c. d.
Movie star. Head of a company. Inventor. Humanitarian.
What style of comedy do you most enjoy watching? a. b. c. d.
A bit late, and try to sneak in the back without being noticed. Purposely a bit late; you like to get there when things have really started happening. Arrive right on time and feel impatient if the meeting starts late. Arrive early so that you can be ready and organized when the meeting starts.
If you were famous, which career would most suit you? a. b. c. d.
Interact with many different people, including strangers. Talk one-on-one mostly with familiar faces. Use the opportunity to make important connections with people. Leave as soon as possible.
Something warm and friendly. Something quirky and intellectual. Something with assertive, satirical or pointed humor. Something wild, outrageous and/or fun.
Of these 4 personality traits, which do you consider to be your best? a. b. c. d.
Compassionate. Assertive. Imaginative. Persistent.
The statement that most closely describes you is: a. b. c. d.
Which appeals to you the most? a. b. c. d.
heart. head. wallet. libido.
Usually stimulates and energizes you. Revitalizes you, if you have a special connection with someone. Taxes your reserves, and you aren’t afraid to let people know it. Taxes your reserves, so you quietly slip away when no one is watching.
With group projects, which part of the process is most important to you? a. b. c. d.
Your Your Your Your
New and non-routine interaction with others: a. b. c. d.
Taking action on a calculated risk. Creating harmonious human relationships. Discovering the secret behind a complex mystery. Going to an exciting social event.
Which rules you more? a. b. c. d.
Sensible and frugal. Rational and quick-witted. Sensitive and reliable. Creative and fiery.
Creating relationships with people. Sorting out who is playing what role in the project. Organizing the way the project is done. Making sure the process of doing it is fun and exciting.
If you suddenly have spare time to yourself, what you usually WANT to do? a. b. c. d.
Contact several friends and see if there is something fun on. Have some quality time with one or a just a few people. Get some important things on your TO DO list done. Quietly focus your energy on one specific project.
You want to buy a special gift for a new friend that you don’t know very well. You are most likely to: a. b. c. d.
Which description most fits you? a. b. c. d.
Answer it immediately and talk at length. Look forward to the call, but wait a few rings before answering. Deal with whoever it is quickly and efficiently. Hope someone else will answer it or screen the call.
Your favorite type of clothing to wear: a. b. c. d.
To do your job in your own way in your own time. To be part of a team working together. To be the inspirational leader of that team. Delegate tasks to others on your team, and work alone.
When the phone rings you: a. b. c. d.
Hard-working and ambitious. Animated and gregarious. Focused and efficient. Cooperative and gentle.
Most of the time, when working, you prefer: a. b. c. d.
Buy the first thing you see that you intuitively think they’d like. Carefully find just the right thing, after much comparison. Buy the same special gift you always buy for special people. Get someone else to buy the gift, or just give them money.
Comfortable, practical and low-key. Unique and creative. Well coordinated and classy. Casual but nice.
Which genre of fiction do you most prefer? a. b. c. d.
Mystery or science fiction. Feel-good story or romantic comedy. Epic, adventure or action. Zany comedy, psychological thriller, or glitz.
Which is more admirable? a. b. c. d.
In terms of comedy, you most admire someone who can: a. b. c. d.
The ability to organize and be methodical. The ability to take charge in a chaotic situation. The ability to motivate others to succeed. The ability to be cooperative and collaborative.
Tell a heartwarming, funny story. Tell a great joke or offer satirical observations. Mimic others or create interesting characters. Offer a witty one-liner, pun or wordplay.
If a conflict arises between you and a friend, your FIRST reaction is to: a. b. c. d.
Make sure they understand you. Make sure the relationship doesn’t get damaged. Avoid confrontation and trust it will resolve itself in due time. Find a solution where you both get what you want.
Humor Style Quiz - Answers Circle the answers you chose. Then, add up the number of A’s, D’s, N’s, and C’s you have. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.
a. D a. N a. D a. N a. N a. C a. A a. N a. D a. N a. D a. D a. A a. C a. D a. C a. C a. C a. N a. A
b. N b. D b. A b. C b. A b. A b. N b. C b. N b. A b. N b. N b. D b. N b. N b. D b. N b. A b. A b. N
c. A c. A c. C c. A c. D c. N c. C c. A c. A c. C c. A c. C c. C c. D c. A c. A c. A c. D c. D c. C
d. C d. C d. N d. D d. C d. D d. D d. D d. C d. N d. C d. A d. N d. A d. C d. N d. D d. N d. C d. D
Total A’s _____ Total D’s ______ Total N’s ______ Total C’s ______ Total ________________ should come to 20
Interpretation What does this mean to you as a presenter? How can you use this information to make yourself a bit more entertaining when you speak? Below are the different humor styles, listing their strengths and weaknesses, with examples of famous comedians and comedy shows, and examples of jokes. Then we will look at audience styles and how you can match your style with your audience’s style, increasing the chances of creating much laughter in the room..
Demonstrator Demonstrators are people-oriented, fast-paced and enthusiastic. They usually have open body language, are animated and outgoing. They tend to prefer an informal atmosphere, and enjoy socializing frequently. Demonstrators can be outrageous, spontaneous and excitable. They are ideas-people who like to be in the limelight. Weaknesses of this type are that they can be unreliable, self-centered, overly optimistic and lack boundaries. Many people drawn into traditional comedy performing are Demonstrators, or have had to develop this kind of humor persona. Steve Martin is a Demonstrator comedian. You can see his extraordinary talent at physical comedy and wacky characters in such movies as The Jerk, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and All of Me. Carrot Top, Sofia Vergara, Lucille Ball, Buster Keaton, the Three Stooges, Robin Williams and Jerry Lewis were all Demonstrators. Their wild physical antics made them the top comedians of their day. More recently, the TV show Dharma and Greg features Jenna Elfman as a Demonstrator. TV shows that focus on Demonstrator humor are Whose Line is it Anyway?, Your Show of Shows, and Mr. Bean. Cartoonists such as Chuck Jones (Looney Tunes) or Friz Freleng (The Pink Panther) use a Demonstrator style as well. Humor strengths: • • •
Improvised humor Using costumes, props or magic Physical exaggerations
• • •
Characters Clowning Accents
• Impressions • Games • Farce
Demonstrator Jokes Here are samples of jokes that Demonstrators might tell or enjoy. Demonstrator jokes usually include something off-the-wall or outrageous, and the topic is more often about people, rather than concepts or things. For example, many impressionists, game show hosts and character actors are Demonstrators. Their job throughout history has been to step outside the norm, exaggerate the situation or take the mundane into the absurd, so that we stop taking life so seriously.
How many surrealist painters does it take to screw in a light bulb? Three. One to change the bulb, one to hold the giraffe, and one to fill the bathtub with multicolored dental instruments. - Mitchell Yawitz
We have women in the military, but they don’t put us in the front lines. They don’t know if we can fight, if we can kill. I think we can. All the general has to do is walk over to the women and say, ‘You see the enemy over there? They say you look fat in those uniforms. - Elayne Boosler Good thing I was born a woman, or I’d have been a drag queen. -
Whenever I have to choose between two evils, I always like to try the one I haven’t tried before. Mae West I may not be totally perfect, but parts of me are excellent. Brilliant
Assertor Assertors are fast-paced and direct, like Demonstrators, but tend to be more task-oriented. They are hard-working, ambitious, leader types who are good at making decisions quickly and efficiently. They are goal-oriented, assertive and confident. Assertors are the take-charge people who let nothing stop them. Their weaknesses include being too impatient, competitive and judgmental. Entertainers such as Louis CK, Joan Rivers, Bea Arthur, Roseanne Barr, and Jonathan Winters are all Assertors. Shows like The Office, Married with Children, Home Improvement, Late Night with David Letterman or This Hour Has 22 Minutes all have a high quotient of Assertor humor. The satirical, sharp-tongued humor of such comedians as Dennis Miller, Chris Rock, Joan Rivers, George Carlin and Don Rickles are also typical of Assertors. Many comedy duos often consist of an Assertor and a Demonstrator, such as George Burns and Gracie Allen, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Laurel and Hardy, or Abbott and Costello, respectively. Cartoonists such as Jim Davis (Garfield), Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), or Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) use an Assertor style in their comic strips. Humor strengths • • •
Stand-up comedy • Political satire • Pointed observations
•Humor that uncovers the truth •Witty one-liners
Assertor Jokes Here are jokes that Assertors might tell or enjoy. Assertor jokes usually have an edge, point out an uncomfortable truth or include an aspect of power balancing. For example, many late-night comedians are like the king’s court jesters of the olden days. Their job is to poke fun at authority figures when they get out of balance.
How many honest politicians does it take to screw in a light bulb? Both of them. - Anonymous
Based on what you know about him in history books, what do you think Abraham Lincoln would be doing if he were alive today? 1. Writing his memoirs of the Civil War. 2. Advising the President. 3. Desperately clawing at the inside of his coffin. -David Letterman
Whenever I date a guy, I think, is this the man I want my children to spend their weekends with? - Rita Rudner I’m going to write a book about the South. I’m going to call it When Beautiful Places Happen to Bad People.
- Brett Butler
The day I worry about cleaning my house, is the day Sears comes out with a riding vacuum cleaner. -
Have you ever noticed? Anybody going slower than you is a maniac, and anyone going faster than you is a moron. -George Carlin
Contemplator Contemplators are task-oriented like Assertors, however they are more indirect and methodical. Contemplators tend to be analytical, detailoriented, thinker types. They are persistent, good problem-solvers and pride themselves on their orderliness and accuracy. Often seen alone, they tend to have quiet, low-key personalities. Their weaknesses include being too withdrawn, rigid, closed-minded and overly pessimistic. Entertainers who access the Contemplator style are often in the comedy-writing department, rather than on stage. However, actors like Rick Moranis, Bob Newhart and Woody Allen personify the quiet, intellectual style of Contemplators. Comedians such as Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Steven Wright can enter into that dry, observational style, as well. Shows such as Frasier, Dilbert, Big Bang Theory, or the Drew Carey Show all have Contemplators as the main protagonist. Several comedy duos are made up of a Narrator and a Contemplator, such as Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser in Mad About You; Cheech and Chong, and the Smothers Brothers. Woody Allen often teamed himself with a female Narrator comedienne such as Diane Keaton or Mia Farrow. Many of the top cartoonists are Contemplators such as Gary Larson (The Far Side) or Charles Schulz (Peanuts). They enjoy the intellectual challenge and quiet life of a syndicated cartoonist. Humor strengths: • • •
Political Cartoons • Puzzles & mind games • Observational •
Puns & word plays • Analytical & intellectual • Conceptual
Contemplator Jokes Contemplator jokes may include self-deprecating humor, black humor, wordplays or wry observations. The topic is more often about concepts than about people. The Contemplator’s job throughout history has been to look at the world from unusual angles and provide us with new perspectives. Here are jokes that Contemplator might tell or enjoy.
How many programmers does it take to change a light bulb? None, that’s hardware. -
It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens. - Woody Allen
Whenever I think of the past it just brings back so many memories. - Steven Wright
I used to work at the International House of Pancakes. It was a dream, and I made it happen. - Paula Poundstone
Sorry, but my karma just ran over your dogma. Beyondananda
Narrator Narrators are mellow and reserved like Contemplators, but they are more people-oriented like Demonstrators. They are warm, friendly, gentle and cooperative. They value relationships over tasks. They are good at listening, have a sweet temperament, and tend to be open-minded. Most people find them to be loving and emotionally intuitive. Weaknesses of this type are their lack of assertiveness, and their tendency to get sidetracked. Sitcom stars such as Eric Stonestreet, Matt LeBlanc, Mary Tyler Moore, Bill Cosby, and Jean Stapleton are all Narrator comedians. Character actors such as Gilda Radner, John Candy, Mike Myers and Dan Ackroyd are also Narrators. For years, Narrator Johnny Carson had his late night show pitted against his exact opposite, Assertor David Letterman. Similarly, a Narrator show like Oprah is pitted against the opposing Assertor style of a show like Geraldo. Many family sitcoms have a Narrator style of comedy, such as Modern Family, New Girl, Friends or Mad About You. Family movies and romantic comedies such as Parenthood, LA Story, or When Harry Met Sally focus on a Narrator style. Cartoonists such as Cathy Guisewite (Cathy), or Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse) also use a Narrator style of humor in their comic strips. Humor strengths: • •
Family-oriented • Heartwarming stories •
Cooperative games Ventriloquism
• Romantic comedies • Puppetry
Narrator Jokes Narrator jokes tend to be about relationships between people, or charming characteristics about people. The Narrator’s job throughout history has been to use humor to bring people closer, to break the ice, and to help us build compassion for ourselves and others. Here are jokes that Narrators might tell or enjoy.
How many grandmothers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Three. One to change the bulb, and two to reminisce about how nice the old one was. Anonymous
The major concerns of Emily Litella (Gilda Radner): 1. Conservation of national race horses 2. Violins in schools 3. Soviet jewelry 4. Endangered feces Parents are not interested in justice, they are interested in quiet. Cosby
You know you’re getting old when you stoop to tie your shoes and wonder what else you can do while you’re down there. - George Burns Anytime four New Yorkers get into a cab together without arguing, a bank robbery has just taken place. -Johnny Carson Women definitely go to maintenance extremes. It’s amazing the way women take care of all the hair on their bodies. One of the great mysteries to me is the fact that a woman could pour hot wax on her legs, rip the hair out by the roots, and still be afraid of a spider. - Jerry Seinfeld
Styles within Comedy Teams Successful comedy teams often consist of four people who each represent a different humor style. Here are some examples: Show
Seinfeld Friends Big Bang Theory Modern Family The Marx Brothers Monty Python This Hour Has 22 Minutes
Contemplator Elaine Chandler Sheldon Bernadette Mitchell
Assertor George Monica Leonard Kripke Jay Claire Groucho
Narrator Jerry Joey Raj Penny Cam
Demonstrator Kramer Phoebe Howard Amy Phil Gloria Chico
Terry Gilliam Greg Thomey
Michael Palin Mary Walsh
John Cleese Rick Mercer
Eric Idle Cathy Jones
One Joke/ Four Styles Here is a joke to better help you understand the four styles: Four spies for the British Intelligence, who each embodied a different humor style, were captured by the sinister arch villain, Oldfinger. They were all hung precariously above a vat of boiling oil. The executioner pulled the rope and they came falling down, only to stop inches from the oil. Oldfinger was so annoyed that he had a heart attack and died on the spot. His lackeys rejoiced at his demise and set all the spies free. The Assertor announced, “I told you I’d find a way out of this!” The Demonstrator called out, “Let’s party!” The Narrator went up to the executioner, hugged him and said, “I just want you to know I don’t take this personally.” The Contemplator said, “I think I see the problem.”
Creator Creators are the fifth type of humorist, and typically they can access most styles of humor. If your Humor Style Quiz score came out fairly even across the board, consider yourself a Creator, or on your way there. To some extent we are all a hybrid of many styles. The more balanced we can become, the more tools we have in our toolkit, the better prepared we are for the humor challenges we may encounter in life. Creators can be both people-oriented, and task-oriented. They can flip between a slow-paced style and a fast-paced one often with great comic effect. They are open at certain times when it feels appropriate and reserved when that feels best. When the situation calls for it, they will be direct in their communication. When a more indirect approach serves, they will opt for this route. They tend to stay in the present moment, and utilize whatever tools seem best for the occasion. They can be great writers of comedy as well as great performers. They both plan their humor carefully, and break free into spontaneity when necessary. Their style is congruent with the situation. Their position is one of wholeness and free movement in any direction. All parts of themselves are in balance. Weaknesses of this type are that they can challenge the status quo too much, causing others to feel off-balance or uncomfortable. Comedians who are versatile in many areas are often Creators, such as Robin Williams and Jim Carey. Dana Carvey, Lily Tomlin, Eddie Murphy and Whoopi Goldberg demonstrate a Creator’s ability to do a variety of characters. Those who venture into many kinds of comedy, such as Billy Crystal, Bill Murray and Tom Hanks, are also Creators. They have ventured into such varied areas as stand-up, improv, sketch comedy, movie acting, TV roles, writing, and directing, etc. There are many behind-the-scenes humorists who are Creators. They are producing, directing and writing, often being the innovators of new projects. Some Creators are able to be behind the scenes and also perform, including Charlie Chaplin, Spalding Gray, Alan Alda, Albert Brooks, Goldie Hawn and Elaine May. Creators move past stereotypes, conventions, and styles to pioneer something new. According to most comedians, an audience of comedians is the toughest. They can see behind the comedian’s bag of tricks, and are usually analyzing the performer rather than surrendering to the comic experience. In his book The Republic, the ancient Greek Scholar Plato
referred to the Philosopher-King as the ideal ruler because of his pioneering innovation. Hal Erickson, a comedy reviewer, said that Albert Brooks was this “Comedian-Philosopher-King of whom Plato spoke” because of his innovative style. Brooks is one of the few comedians who can make other comics laugh. Humor strengths: • • •
Humor with a general appeal Mind-expanding concepts Performance storytelling
• • •
Philosophical Mythic comedy Creating new comic formats
Creator Jokes Creator jokes use humor to philosophize, to poke fun at human foibles rather than at specific people, and as a vehicle for creativity. Creators are likely to create new kinds of jokes, physicalizations, observations, and unusual forms of delivery. They may choose to demonstrate humor one moment, then use it to cut to the truth, move into narrative, and end with a contemplative style. They find a synthesis between many kinds of humor, either putting them together in new ways, creating a hybrid, or transforming two styles into a completely new third style. Here are jokes that Creators might tell or enjoy.
How many Zen Masters does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two. One to screw in the bulb and one not to screw in the bulb. - Anonymous Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it. I can take it in small doses, but as a lifestyle I find it too confining. - Lily Tomlin in her show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life (written by Jane Wagner)
In the end, everything is a gag. - Charlie Chaplin
Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious. – Plato Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you recognize a mistake when you make it again.
- F. P. Jones
To err is human. To really screw up, you need a computer. -