Hall of Shame: When Humor isn’t so Humorous

“Men show their character in nothing more clearly than by what they think laughable.” -Johann Goethe

Laughter, Lynne Knowlton, Norma Theissen, Blogger Retreat

There is nothing I treasure more than a person who makes me laugh. Laughter makes life worth living and is scientifically proven to improve health. I have met people who I found to be hilarious up front, only to find out that- not only are they not so hilarious, they may not even be so nice. Lately I am seeing people increasingly post photographs, tweets or blog posts that are funny at somebody else’s expense. It all gets down to this-

There is a difference between humor that uplifts and humor that tears down.

Humor walks a fine line at times. Is it funny if it is at somebody else’s expense?

walking a fine line

Humor was originally defined by the Greeks as being like water, the ability to go with the flow, to be fluid and flexible. People who posses this gift to be spur of the moment hilarious are using a part of their brain that might just be inactive in many others. It is a talent of intelligent speed and dexterity that I admire.  Good humor is the great human connector- it is distinctly more cerebral and more kind than the other, which is outright predatory and low-grade.

Negative humor can be destructive and damaging, causing hurt feelings.  When you realize that you are in the company of a “humorist” who gains power or laughs by putting down others, you can count on being the topic of a past or future joke. So funny? Perhaps not. What is their motive? Insecurity, controversy, ratings, blog traffic?  If the motive would be to draw others in to gang up on a topic/person, then such “humor” would be nothing more than a cowardly attack or a lack of respect for others.


Do you reward these people, avoid them, or call them out? It is a choice that we all have to make- who we allow to influence us, whether we use caution to know the difference.  Where do you stand on this topic?


  1. While I have happily indulged my inner cynic, I try to reserve my comments to those who are overtly fake and about pretense. Does this make it okay, not really, and worth noting. You are right, when you meet someone like this, it does cause one to wonder – what do they say behind my back? When it comes to influence, weighing the character of the source is valuable. Joan Rivers make fun of everyone equally including herself, often with dose of reality, she is truly funny, not mean spirited. There is a difference.

  2. I’m with you Courtney. I’ll admit to laughing at and even snapping a photo of someone at the airport, etc., when I was younger. However, several years ago a photo of my nephew with Asperger’s Syndrome made it’s way to the internet as a ‘joke’ and it immediately made my heart sink. I knew then it was a lesson for me to learn from and I now work very hard to show compassion to everyone. I know I’ve worn my share of ‘what not to wear’ outfits that could just as easily be posted to get a few laughs. It’s just not funny anymore. Think I’ll stick to knock knock jokes. Thanks for bringing this to light 😉 hurting anyone’s feelings for the sake of a laugh is unacceptable. Xo

    • Words do not even express what I feel about the story you shared about your nephew. I’m sure we have ALL worn the outfits (!!!) – thanks for your comment- food for thought.

  3. When I was a teen, my older sister told me to be careful of the fine line between being funny & being sarcastic. I am glad she taught me that.

    • I have actually noticed that you have always been on the nice side of humor, Alexandra. Sounds like you have a cool sister~

  4. So true! And I love how eloquently you have shared your thoughts here. I always try to be very respectful and never make fun at somebody else’s expense.

  5. While I like to consider myself a funny guy, few things put me off faster than when someone takes aim at the personality of another for humors sake. I will admit that I might chuckle at what someone else is doing but make them the butt of a joke is in poor taste. While the difference might be subtle, I have found that I sleep better at night when I make fun of someone’s shoes, rather than make fun of the person for wearing those same shoes.

    Thanks for the article, it’s a great conversation article

    • These are interesting points that you make, Bob. You certainly have the gift of high speed humor. Thanks for commenting.

  6. http://@shelleycholmes says

    Some thrive on picking up on some weakness and exploiting another and all for a laugh, and manage to do it in a very skillful way, so that somehow or other it seems reasonable and acceptable.

    Love a good laugh, but when someone is the butt of the joke, it makes me cringe.

    Fabulous article which will be tweeted out and regularly.


  7. Beautifully expressed observations, Courtney. There is a telling difference between a humorist and a bully, although each purport to reach the same conclusion–attention from their audience. My heart sank when I read Jessica’s comment above and it breaks every time I hear of a child who has taken their life in order to escape someone else’s misguided idea of funny. As someone who was bullied for years, gratefully before the internet, I can’t imagine what it’s like it today’s environment. Sadly, I can quickly recall the names of the tormentors, but have a harder time remembering those who didn’t participate.

    Tweeted and shared,

    • K- I am truly surprised by the responses that I have been getting from this post- quite a few private emails with sad stories. Sorry to hear that you have dealt with this first hand. 🙁

  8. http://Anthony%20Marrero says

    Know this all too well. I was forced to clean out that closet of toxic people, those that I call “opportunists” who choose to ride over you to boost their ego. A BIG no thank you…not this time!


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