There are three competing theories of jokes. The “superiority theory,” which can be traced back to Plato and Aristotle, holds that we find something risible when we feel superior to it. The classic statement of this theory was supplied in the seventeeth century by Hobbes, who declared that laughter expressed “a sudden glory arising from some conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others.” On this theory all humor is at root mockery and derision, all laughter a slightly spiritualized snarl.
A second traditional theory of humor, the “incongruity theory,” was hinted at by Aristotle (in the Rhetoric he observed that a good way to get a laugh was to set up your audience to expect one thing and then to hit them with a surprising punchline) and worked out in detail by Kant in his Critique of Judgment (1790), and by Schopenhauer in The World as Will and Representation (1819). The gist of the incongruity theory is that we laugh when two things normally kept in separate compartments in our mind are unexpectedly yanked together. On this rather intellectualist account, a joke forces us to perceive incongruities: between the decorous and the low, the ideal and the actual, the logical and the absurd.
Finally there is the “relief theory” of humor, which was pioneered by Herbert Spencer and given its most elaborate statement by Freud. Laughter, Freud submitted in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, is essentially a release of excess energy. Where does this energy come from? From the temporary lifting of an inhibition. Keeping down forbidden impulses, Freud held, requires an expenditure of psychic effort. When the cunning devices of a joke force such a thought or feeling to be entertained (by presenting it in an outwardly innocent guise), the energy used to maintain the inhibition against it suddenly becomes superfluous. It is therefore available to be discharged through the facial and respiratory muscles in the form of laughter.
Modern evolutionary theory might offer some support to the Relief Theory. If humor functions as a relief valve for excess energy or negative emotions, it might provide a significant survival advantage. Human beings are usually safer and more prosperous in stable communities than when isolated. Yet human beings also have a tendency to anger and aggression. The Relief Theory argues that humor lessens tension levels; if so, individuals with an appreciation for humor have an advantage over those who don’t, in that it will be easier for them to maintain community membership (Herbert Lefcourt, Humor: The Psychology of Living Buoyantly). As systems of mutual cooperation and coordination of activities, communities confer a survival advantage on their members. So a good sense of humor is survival-enhancing. The theory of natural selection would then predict that such a trait is likely to be pervasive a mong human beings.
Humor also can enhance community cohesion by functioning as an invitation to social interaction (Lefcourt). It can enhance community by acting as a binding agent: playful engagement in humorous activities is pleasant; so individuals who engage in these mutually pleasant activities will associate social interaction with pleasure, and hence be encouraged to spend more time together with others in their group. As Herbert Lefcourt points out, Charles Darwin (The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals), in fact, viewed humor primarily as a form of social communication. If we conclude that a tendency to enjoy humor and comedy is a binding force for a society, then group-selection theory also provides an evolutionary explanation for the persistence of humor in human society. Group-selection theory (a variation on natural selection theory) is the theory that natural selection functions at the level of communities. A more unified community is more likely to coordinate activities and prosper, so that community is more likely to survive and grow. If humor functions as a relief-valve for negative emotions and makes communities more 12 stable, group-selection theory would predict the persistence of humor as a social and cultural aspect of human communities. In conjunction with group-selection theory, the Relief Theory
would imply that, over time, we should expect an increase in both the distribution and population of communities with a good collective sense of humor. ..
http://faculty.swosu... of Humor_1.pdf
For now, I'll just state my own basic definition humor by dividing it into two categories: Comedy and Satire! I'll keep it simple for now and state that I believe comedy to be more benign in its approach. Whereas satire is negative in its approach. Both can illuminate points of keen thinking to an audience, but, in my opinion satire reflects a desire to break down the negative with a sort of violent overthrow of the absurd. Satire is much more destructive in its nature...
I'll have to think on this some more...and, of course, I'll be adding more links to information on this thread topic.
Your thoughts, opinions, and bias' are welcome. Please don't hesitate to point out the ludicrous for us all to share....\\