They say that the highest form of creativity is to crack a joke. To make up a joke or to write or do something that makes people laugh is an amazing ability that few have. But what is it about a joke that makes us laugh either 'with' or 'at'? Looking back on things that made me laugh - cartoons, stories, jokes, people, movies - it would appear to me that there are certain elements that comprise of this act of making others laugh.
- The ability to surprise and constantly do something that is not expected is certainly one that makes for laughter (all the great jokes).
- Stretching any emotion to the limit, sometimes inappropriately, makes us laugh. Crying, laughing, anger, or any of the other emotions when pushed beyond a limit makes people laugh.
- Shouting at others, invectives (Captain Haddock), beating up people (Tom and Jerry and all other cartoons)
- Stupidity, overt or innocent, certainly makes for a good laugh especially if the person lands in the spot after the act of stupidity.
- A tangle of errors, that seem completely unintentional and puts the person in trouble is certainly worth a laugh 9Comedy of errors, Chupke, Chupke).
- In writing, the comparison or the use of a simile of something serious with something perhaps outrageously ridiculous could make you laugh (Wodehouse, Dave Barry).
- Characters with traits that people can relate to, traits that lead them to behave in a fashion that is expected brings on some smiles.
- Self-deprecatory stuff also brings on the smiles.
- Seemingly unrelated connections to topics does make for laughs.
- Situations where you know the character is headed for trouble, and where the character does not seem to know that he or she is, and is in fact trying to cover up, makes for laughs.
- Complete honesty is funny. Perhaps the funniest when written or shown.
- Naivete, complexity, villainy, innocence - anything pushed to the limit is funny.
- Razor sharp repartee that shuts up people, crudity included, seems to make people laugh.
- Complete idiocy also makes people laugh.
These are some situations I could think of. But going by the above, which may be only some, it appears that at the lower end or the baser end, we tend to laugh at others misfortunes, troubles, handicaps, at their beating beaten up, being abused, being troubled. Its funny, but it is so, that rarely do we laugh 'at' or 'with' happy people - more with troubled ones. On a higher end, we may have to create a subtle sense of humour that works on wordplay, on wit and repartee, but again leading to one upmanship of one over the other.
But the laughter does cleanse the heart and makes life so much better to have the jokes, the people who can evoke laughter, the see movies that make you roll in the aisles, tears down your face. I would love to do that everyday if I could.