The subjectivity of humor

Being funny is hard work.

I recently competed in three rounds of a speech contest–the Toastmasters Tall Tales contest. Contestants have to write and tell an original tall tale, a highly exaggerated story. I’m not sure if they’re required to be humorous, but all the ones I heard were.

In between the first and second rounds, I added a great line to my speech. But not one person laughed. They laughed at all the other jokes, but for some reason that one fell flat. I must not have performed it well.

Despite that, I still came in first and got to go on to the third round this past weekend. I left in that great line because I still thought it was funny. Again, no one laughed. Since I didn’t place in that competition, maybe I still hadn’t performed the line well.

Or maybe it’s not actually funny.

Humor is highly subjective. The guy who won last Friday had one joke that got a lot of laughs, but that I didn’t get at all because it relied on knowing something about fishing. Other speeches in the three rounds of the contest had jokes about men and women not understanding each other, which I just never find funny. I admire people who write comedy for a living. It isn’t easy.

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