Carter Lowe Creator, entrepreneur, and self-care advocate
Reading time: 12 min

How to Develop a Sense of Humor: Exercises and Tips for a Good Sense of Humor

Humor is cool. First, people with a sense of humor seem more attractive to other people. This is pure physiology: when we laugh, the brain releases a lot of “happy” hormones into the body and reduces the level of stress hormones that cause depression. In this state, everything around us seems more attractive and pleasant, and especially the person who makes us laugh.

Second, humor is a defensive mental response that helps us deal with stress. Something bad happened, and you made fun of it, laughed at it - and now it's not so scary, and you can safely rush towards adventures and cope with all life's difficulties. Therefore, it is worth thinking about how to develop a sense of humor. And this article will help you with that.

How does humor work?

A lot of books and studies have been written on this topic, including the most scientific ones (for example, the topic of humor was studied by Sigmund Freud and the linguist and philologist Bakhtin, because humor is closely related to language - I will say a little more about this topic below). But if it is very, very simple and primitive, humor is always based on surprise, on the interweaving of some unexpected element. It just manifests itself in different ways, in different forms and forms.

In the theory of humor there are such concepts: set-up and punchline. Set-up is when you set the circumstances of the joke, and punchline is when you destroy them, insert something into the joke that surprises the reader or listener.

Example: “Stirlitz opened the window. There was a breeze from the window, ”this is a set-up, you set the circumstances of the joke, prepare the reader.

“Stirlitz closed the window. The muzzle has disappeared, ”this is a punchline: you surprise the reader (or listener, interlocutor) using a play on words.

A variety of types of humor are built on this mechanism. Here are some of them:

  • Irony, when you say one thing, meaning the opposite. For example, you slipped, almost fell and smiled: “I am generally grace itself.”
  • A play on words. Almost all jokes about Stirlitz are based on this.
  • Anecdotes are often built on deception of the listener's expectations. For example: “In a relationship with a guy, it is important for me that he is attentive, kind, romantic, and that my husband does not find out anything.”
  • The character of an anecdote or a joke, a comedy situation does not behave as expected from him. Many comedic images and situations are built on this, for example, a brutal man with the appearance of a biker, eating well-fried babies for lunch and breakfast, behaves sensitively, shyly, emotionally, or he likes typical “girlish” things.
  • A hint or reference to something is often funny, because it makes you remember the sensations of what the interlocutor refers to (for example, Soviet comedies are often quoted).
  • Amplification to the point of absurdity. For example, "The wife is going on a hike, took forks, spoons, ladles, bed linen, warm clothes, a bathing suit, a fly swatter, a footstool, Ozhegov's dictionary and a cast-iron iron."

And so on, there are a lot of different subtypes of jokes. In order to understand how to develop a sense of humor, you do not need to memorize them all - you just need to understand how they work and develop some qualities in yourself. Here they are:

Seeing. The more you watch, read, listen to something funny - the more you understand how humor works, the more you have a "humorous vocabulary". You may not come up with your own joke, but at the right moment you will insert an appropriate quote and amuse others. Plus it's fun!

For example, you can watch standup performances (Louis C. K., George Carlin), read humorous prose classics, or simply comedies that you like. It's important that you like it, because otherwise what's the point.

Self-irony. This is the deepest storehouse of various jokes and fun. Besides, it is safe, because with self-ironic jokes you will not offend anyone, but only amuse and gain a reputation as a self-confident person, and take away weapons from people who, perhaps, would like to ridicule you themselves.


Observation. The more attentively you look around, noticing a variety of life situations, comedy and the absurdity of our everyday life, the richer your “humorous arsenal”.

Reading. Humor is closely related to language, so if you want to understand how to develop a sense of humor, it would be great if you read a lot. Why?

First of all, you need to be able to tell jokes, right? And for this you need a rich vocabulary, so that there is no “in short, well, there it is... well, this one, well, how it is! Ay, kill it, in short. If you take a closer look at the same stand-up comedians, it turns out that they have a rich and bright speech, saturated with expressive means.

Secondly, reading develops memory, speeds up thinking, develops your brain, and this helps in terms of humor too, for example, when you need to quickly remember a joke that suits the occasion or answer a joke.

Thirdly, in order to joke well and subtly, you need to understand the language, understand how it works, since many jokes are built just on games with words (we will also talk about them below).

The ability to look at everything with irony. Any situation, even the most mundane, can be told in a way that is funny, and this is a very useful skill if you are thinking about how to develop a sense of humor.

So what to do? Tips on how to develop a sense of humor

Let's move on to practice.

1. Read more.

Any literature that makes you laugh. Keep in mind that the rule “you are what you eat” works here: your sense of humor develops under the influence of the environment, including what you read, so read something that you will not be ashamed of later.

2. Take the jokes apart.

When something makes you laugh - think about why it makes you laugh, try to formulate it, find a specific place in the joke where it became funny, and why it became funny, what contributed to this - that is, find a set-up and punchline. Even in classic videos where someone is hurt, they are: when a person does something, thinking that he will succeed, this is a set-up, and when he breaks off and suffers, this is a punchline.

3. Practice in everyday unpleasant situations.

For example, you stepped on your foot - joke about it, late - joke about it, bad weather - joke about it. This helps to practice both in the very formulation and inventing of jokes, and in an ironic attitude to life.

4. Remember funny things (jokes, anecdotes, memes) so that you can refer to them later at the right time.

This increases the "humorous observation". There is nothing wrong with that, you don’t have to come up with jokes yourself so that others consider you a person with a great sense of humor, seeing funny things, remembering funny things and inserting funny ones when appropriate is also a kind of talent.

5. Come up with jokes in advance.

It's okay if you, for example, know how to come up with jokes, but do not have time in a stressful environment, for example, when you are taunted and you need to quickly answer something. You know that moment when the conversation is already over, and two hours later you came up with a witty answer? To prevent this from happening, you can come up with jokes for a standard situation that you often find yourself in beforehand. For example, you are often late - come up with a few jokes about it.

6. Imitate.

If you want to learn how to joke, find yourself a role model whose jokes you like, and who is similar to you in the manner of speaking or topics for jokes, and copy his manner of presentation, remember his jokes. Over time, you will develop the skill to come up with your own.

7. Hone your acting skills.

Learn to speak clearly and quickly (jokes are funnier when they are spoken at a fairly fast pace) - tongue twisters and the skill of reading aloud will help with this (by the way, it is generally useful for brain activity). Jokes are funnier with acting out - this can also be perfected, you can learn how to act out.

If you are not an actor (for example, I am terrible at acting) - on the contrary, you can learn to tell jokes with an impenetrable expression on your face. It's often very funny because it creates a contrast: you're saying something funny while you're being serious, so it's literally an extra set-up and punchline.

8. Comment on the situation as if it is the opposite of the existing one.

It's always funny or at least ironic, plus it will help you hone your "how to develop a sense of humor" skill. What do I mean: you came to your mother, she put everything that was in the refrigerator on the table, you survey the edible expanses and ironically: “Mom, did you decide to starve me?”. Or you were lazy all day, lay on the couch and did nothing - in response to “how are you”, you can say: “Everything is in business, there is no free minute: you have to lie down, eat, and watch the series.”

Word games help a lot in making up jokes and developing a sense of humor, as they expand vocabulary and often help come up with something bright and unexpected, that is, they help come up with set-ups and punchlines. Here are examples of such games:

  • Associations. You can complicate the task: choose not pairs of associations, but chains. For example, you take two absolutely unrelated objects and connect them with a chain of associations, trying to make it as long as possible. For example: dragon and magnet. Dragon - miracle - fairy tale - Ivan Tsarevich - gray wolf - fur - fur coat - winter - north - north pole - attracts compass - magnet. It develops fantasy, makes your brain work.
  • Antonyms. Come up with pairs of radically opposite things. Sometimes you have to rack your brains, for example, what antonym will you come up with for the word “paper”?
  • You take an object and think of as many ways as you can to use it. It develops fantasy and helps you generate unexpected jokes in the future. For example, you came up with the idea that you can write with a shoe if you get it dirty in mud and draw letters with a dirty toe.

And then you joke using this notion: “Why do you have such handwriting with blots, did you write with a shoe?” You don’t need to write anything down - it will itself be deposited in the subconscious, a habit will be formed.

  • Look for similarities between absolutely opposite things. It is necessary for the same as the previous paragraph. For example, find similarities between a mug and a computer, a cat and a hipster, a cafe and a desert island?
  • Practice in verse forms. For example, look for rhymes, write haiku, write pies or powders (forms of online poetry, sometimes very funny).
  • Make up stories or sentences where all words start with one letter. Often this results in something absurd, and therefore funny.
  • Come up with funny captions for anything. A laconic, sharp, funny, caustic signature or title is also art. You saw a bunch of likes on the first comment under such photos, where a person came up with such a caption? You can do that too!
  • Choose a feature and think of as many things as you can with that feature. Example: the sign is brown. What can be brown? Brown eyes, tree bark, dust, tiles, dog fur, dark skin. A joke based on such a game: “What did you brew into this tea - dog hair?” (if the tea tastes bad, for example)
  • Think of pairs of words that sound the same but mean different things. Example: Liszt and Liszt (composer's surname), bach and Bach (sound and composer), light and Sveta, and so on.

All these games, firstly, develop the imagination, make you remember the words and catch the connections between them, and then, based on these skills, it is easier for you to come up with jokes and humor.

In the end, I would like to give a couple of tips.

First, don't go overboard with the jokes, they don't have to be cruel. Black humor is great, but only in a company where everyone understands and supports it. Remember that a joke can easily offend, even hurt.

Second, don't forget about self-confidence. Even the funniest joke will not be funny if you mumble it somewhere in the corner.

Third, don't be scatterbrained, jokes are funnier when they're short.

And the last thing: joke about what you yourself think is funny and funny. After all, you should also enjoy the process, right?

Good luck and good jokes!