The recent issue of Psychology Today (July/August ’06, pp 76-77) has a test for determining your sense of humor. The four types listed are (1) put-down, (2) bonding, (3) hate-me, and (4) laughing-at-life.
(1) Put-down humor is used “to criticize and manipulate others through teasing, sarcasm, and ridicule”, which can be harmless enough if used sparingly. In heavy or nasty doses it becomes “a socially acceptable way to deploy aggression and make others look bad so you look good”. (examples: Eddie Murphy, George Carlin)
(2) Bonding humor “gives humor a good name”, used “to reduce tension in uncomfortable situations”. This is good-natured humor used by warm and kind people. (examples: Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell)
(3) Hate-me humor is “often deployed by people eager to ingratiate themselves” and who enjoy being clowns. Small doses are charming, but heavy doses can erode self-respect. (examples: Chris Farley, Rodney Dangerfield)
(4) Laughing-at-life humor involves a wry perspective used “to cope with challenges” and take a step back by laughing at the absurdities of everyday life. People like this have a positive outlook, and tend to be healthy in general because of it. (examples: Dave Barry, Bill Cosby)
The test scores you in each category:
18-28 is HIGH
11-17 is AVERAGE
0-10 is LOW
Here’s how I turned out:
Put-down: HIGH (24)
Bonding: LOW (3)
Hate-me: LOW (10)
Laughing-at-life: LOW (6)
So according to these graders I’m fairly humorless, save on the put-down front. That would explain my distaste for comedy films, with the glaring exception of hard-core yelling/screaming satire like All in the Family (which I still can’t get enough of on DVD).
One of my colleagues firmly diagnosed me before I took this test (a not-so-subtle hint about put-downs and insults, however playfully intended), and my results are pretty accurate as far as they go. But I think there are special categories which go unacknowledged here. My humor goes beyond put-downs, but it’s rather off-beat humor which gratifies me in weird ways. So these results are only part of the story.