Literal Humor…It’s Worth a Good Laugh

An easy humor technique that triggers spontaneous laughter is called “obvious 
or literal humor.” You can amuse others who speak figuratively to you, by responding literally to the “meaning of their exact words.”

Recently my good friend Shannon asked me, “Have you ever had one of those days when everything you touched turned into a disaster?”

Knowing that Shannon was fully aware of my four-year period of utter chaos when I was adjusting to living with a brain injury, I saw an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I said, ‘Nope, can’t say I have.”

Shannon immediately responded, “Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry I said that.” 
We both chuckled.

Two days later she said it again, “Have you ever had one of those weeks when nothing went well?” I chirped, “Yes, once…in 1992!” (Shannon knew this was the week of my auto accident.) She gasped and then we both broke into raucous laughter.

The magic of these moments was that Shannon’s troubles “literally” vanished when her focus immediately switched to what she had said. Our laughter lifted her mood.

If you want to surprise and entertain someone with obvious humor, listen for figures of speech. Then respond to the literal meaning of the words spoken. Some common lead in questions – “Are you free today? (Yesterday I was free. Today I cost $10 a minute.) Are you available? (I’m married, but if I wasn’t…) Can you spare a minute? (I think I might have one minute available next Thursday at 8 a.m.)

Adults can brush up on how to think literally by paying attention to what young children say. In an effort to make sense of an adult world, children innocently misinterpret the meaning of things said and naturally entertain using literal humor. I recall someone telling my friend, “Your son is adorable.” He howled, “I am not a door-bell!” (Be mindful to tell children you are laughing because you were surprised by something they said. Make sure they understand that you are not laughing at them.)

Honestly, some people will say literally anything to get a laugh. Why not you?

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