Hey You, Teasing Is The LOWEST Form Of Humor

Hey You, Teasing Is The LOWEST Form Of Humor

Even knock-knock jokes encourage audience participation.

Someone once told me that puns are the lowest form of humor, but I have realized that that can't be true. Puns have to be at least the second lowest form of humor, because the lowest form of humor is teasing.

Teasing is actually a subcategory of another form of humor. Let’s call it “insult humor.” The subcategories of insult humor are teasing, self-deprecating humor, and bigoted jokes (which I will not mention again in this article, because racism/sexism/ableism/homophobia/antisemitism/transphobia/islamophobia/etc. is never funny and therefore doesn’t actually count as a form of humor at all). The difference between self-deprecation and teasing is who the insult is directed at: the joker, or another person.

So why do I specify that teasing, as opposed to all insult humor, is the lowest form of humor? It comes down to power dynamics. But before I talk about power, I need to talk about what (allegedly) makes teasing funny.

A tease consists of a mocking, negative comment made by one person about another person, directly to that other person, sometimes with an audience. In other contexts, we would call this kind of behavior rude, insulting, and inappropriate. But in this context, the two people know and like each other. The teaser is insulting someone that they would not truly ever be mean to. Most humor hinges on reversal of expectations like this. But not all kinds of humor involve hurtful language.

Consequently the teaser is exerting a kind of power over the target, by saying mean things at their expense in the context of a joke. And in order for the joke to work, the target cannot otherwise participate. They cannot respond. They can neither argue against the insult nor take offense without "ruining the joke".

In self-deprecating humor, the teaser and target are one and the same. There is no power imbalance, no risk of hurting the feelings of any unwilling participants. The audience is free to relate to the self-deprecatory feelings and take joy in the joke. In self-deprecating humor, having an audience actively agreeing with you about the insult is an asset to the humor.

Teasing cannot handle agreement any better than it can handle disagreement. A big part of my personal sense of humor these days, which doesn't go over as well as I wish it did, involves responding to other people's teasing with agreement. I call it "back-teasing." I reply to the tease as if it is normal, expected, and taken seriously. The way I see it, if someone pokes fun at me, why shouldn't I be able to poke fun back?

But teasing is a form of humor so low that it cannot tolerate participation. Whenever I back-tease someone, they become very uncomfortable. "I was only kidding," they say, clearly not having fun anymore. By participating, I have somehow "ruined" the joke.

This is because of the power dynamics I mentioned before. The key part of the tease is that the teaser has control of this "not real" situation. They define when it begins and when it ends, and dictate that the insult is not something they would "actually" say. If the target responds to the tease, they take that power of definition away from the teaser. By responding, they lengthen the scenario beyond the intentions of the teaser. And because they responded, it is undeniable that the teaser did in fact actually say the insult, making the scenario potentially real and therefore actually insulting.

Jokes are supposed to create joy between people. A joke that denies participation, that insists that one person have fun while another person is unable to enjoy it, is the lowest form of humor. Even knock-knock jokes encourage participation. And so do puns – it is possible to bounce puns back and forth between people (“Can I tell you a yolk?” “I’d rather crack one.” “Egg-xactly!”), for hours on end, prolonging the fun and creating joy for all who like puns. No insults necessary.

Cover Image Credit: Photo by James Sutton on Unsplash

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My AP Environmental Science Class' Cookie Mining Experiment Shows Why Capitalism Is Destroying The Planet

Who cares about the environment with profits this high?


With the AP exams in May approaching quickly, my AP Environmental Science class has wasted no time in jumping right into labs. To demonstrate the damage to the environment done by strip mining, we were instructed to remove the chocolate chips from cookies.

The experiment in itself was rather simple. We profited from fully or partially extracted chips ($8 for a full piece and $4 for a partial) and lost from buying tools, using time and area and incurring fines.

This might seem simplistic, but it showcased the nature of disastrous fossil fuel companies.

We were fined a $1 per minute we spent mining. It cost $4 per tool we bought (either tweezers or paper clips) and 50 cents for every square centimeter of cookie we mined.

Despite the seemingly overbearing charges compared to the sole way to profit, it was actually really easy to profit.

If we found even a partial chocolate chip per minute, that's $3 profit or utilization elsewhere. Tools were an investment that could be made up each with a partial chip, and clearly we were able to find much, much more than just one partial chip per tool.

Perhaps the most disproportionally easiest thing to get around were the fines. We were liable to be fined for habitat destruction, dangerous mining conditions with faulty tools, clutter, mess and noise level. No one in the class got fined for noise level nor faulty tools, but we got hit with habitat destruction and clutter, both of which added up to a mere $6.

We managed to avoid higher fines by deceiving our teacher by pushing together the broken cookie landscapes and swiping away the majority of our mess before being examined for fining purposes. This was amidst all of our cookies being broken into at least three portions.

After finding many, many chips, despite the costs of mining, we profited over $100. We earned a Franklin for destroying our sugary environment.

We weren't even the worst group.

It was kind of funny the situations other groups simulated to their cookies. We were meant to represent strip mining, but one group decided to represent mountaintop removal. Mountaintop removal is where companies go to extract resources from the tops of mountains via explosions to literally blow the tops off. This group did this by literally pulverizing their cookies to bits and pieces with their fists.

They incurred the maximum fine of $45. They didn't profit $100, however.

They profited over $500 dollars.

In the context of our environmental science class, these situations were anywhere from funny to satisfying. In the context of the real world, however, the consequences are devastating our environment.

Without even mentioning the current trajectory we're on approaching a near irreversible global temperature increase even if we took drastic measures this moment, mining and fracking is literally destroying ecosystems.

We think of earthquakes as creating mass amounts of sudden movement and unholy deep trenches as they fracture our crust. With dangerous mining habits, we do this ourselves.

Bigger companies not even related to mining end up destroying the planet and even hundreds of thousands of lives. ExxonMobil, BP? Still thriving in business after serial oil spills over the course of their operation. Purdue Pharma, the company who has misled the medical community for decades about the effects of OxyContin and its potential for abuse, is still running and ruining multitudes more lives every single day.

Did these companies receive fines? Yes.

But their business model is too profitable to make the fines have just about any effect upon their operation.

In our cookie mining simulation, we found that completely obliterating the landscape was much more profitable than being careful and walking on eggshells around the laws. Large, too-big-to-fail companies have held the future of our planet in their greedy paws and have likewise pulverized our environment, soon enough to be unable to return from.

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