Laugh Lab Logo
     
 
 

Superiority theory

Why do people tend to laugh when someone slips over a banana skin or has a custard pie slapped into their face?

Well, according to one theory of humour, we laugh because these types of situations make us feel superior to other people. The person who tripped over the banana skin, or was the recipient of the custard pie, has been made to look silly and that makes us feel good. In fact, it makes us feel so good that we laugh.

The superiority theory also explains why we laugh at certain types of jokes. Many jokes make us feel superior to other people. In these types of jokes, people appear stupid because they have misunderstood an obvious situation, made a stupid mistake, been the hapless victim of unfortunate circumstance or have been made to look stupid by someone else. According to the theory, these jokes cause us to laugh because they make us feel superior to other people.

Here is a classic ‘superiority’ joke from LaughLab:

A woman goes into a cafe with a duck. She puts the duck on a stool and sits next to it. The waiter comes over and says: “Hey! That's the ugliest pig that I have ever seen.” The woman says: “It’s a duck, not a pig.” And the Waiter says: “I was talking to the duck.”

Home

Introduction

The winning joke

In second place

Humour across the globe

It's all about timing

The brain's funnybone

Freudian funnies

Superiority theory

Incongruity theory

Images and soundclips

Fun facts

Tech stuff