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Observational Humor: It’s Surprisingly Effective And Simple To Do

Observational humor is a powerful and simple way to make people laugh and open up. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld often use this type of humor, starting with questions like “Have you ever noticed…”. In this article, I will explain what observational humor is, show examples of its bonding power, and provide easy steps to create this type of joke. Lastly, I will share examples of jokes that use different humor techniques for creating an observational joke’s punchline. So get ready for some jokes and also learn something.

“You know you’re in a fancy restaurant when they bring out a tiny portion of food on a huge plate and call it ‘artistic presentation.’ Suddenly, you feel like you’re starring in an episode of ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Portions!’

Understanding Observational Humor.

Jerry Seinfeld - observational humor

Observational humor is a comedic style that focuses on the comedian keenly observing and commenting on everyday situations and human behavior. Further, it involves finding humor in the mundane and ordinary aspects of life. And most importantly, it often points out absurdities or contradictions that go unnoticed by most people. For example, comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres are known for their mastery of observational humor. Indeed, they effortlessly transform everyday occurrences into hilarious anecdotes that resonate with audiences worldwide. For the purpose of this article, below is a definition of observational humor.

“Observational comedy is a form of humor based on the commonplace aspects of everyday life. It is one of the main types of humor in stand-up comedy. In an observational comedy act, the comedian makes an observation about something which is common enough to be familiar to their audience, but not commonly discussed.”


I like this definition in that it emphasizes “… familiar to their audience, but not commonly discussed.”  Indeed, I am always surprised when a comedian brings up something funny that is commonplace. This is because I have never really thought about it or shared this observation with others.

Examples Of The Bonding Power Of Observational Humor.

The bonding power of observational humor lies in its ability to transform the ordinary into something uniquely novel. By shedding light on the mundane aspects of life, observational humor allows us to see everyday situations from a fresh and humorous perspective. This shift in perception not only elicits laughter but also creates a sense of shared understanding and connection among individuals. 

When we find humor in the seemingly ordinary, it breaks down barriers and brings people together through a collective experience of joy and amusement. Observational humor acts as a unifying force. In particular, it bridges gaps between different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. This is because it highlights the commonalities we all share as human beings. Indeed, it reminds us that even in our most mundane moments, there is always something unexpected and amusing waiting to be discovered. See below, for examples of observational humor. 

Examples Of Observational Humor By Content Type
  • Shared Experience: “Isn’t it funny how we all become professional singers in the shower, but as soon as someone walks in, we turn into a mute statue?”
  • Shared Perception Of Reality: “Have you ever noticed how the size of the shopping cart at the grocery store directly correlates with how much unnecessary stuff you end up buying? It’s like they know our weakness!”
  • Cultural Relevance: “Why do we say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes? Like, what if they’re an atheist? Do we just awkwardly stare at them until they stop sneezing?”
  • Social Trend: “You know you’re getting old when you start using ‘LOL’ to mean ‘Lots Of Love’ instead of ‘Laughing Out Loud.’ Grandma’s text messages just got a whole lot weirder!”
  • Current Event: “Did you hear about that new restaurant that opened up? They serve food so fast that by the time you order, it’s already considered a throwback Thursday!”
  • Social Commentary: “Isn’t it ironic how we spend hours scrolling through social media, looking for validation from strangers, but can’t even accept a compliment from someone in person without feeling awkward?”

So these types of jokes are based on relatable observations. Further, they are so powerful because they not only make us laugh, but also bring us together. Also, these types of jokes are not just for stand-up comedians, but are for all of us to use. Positively, we can use these types of jokes in any setting where we desire to bring people together. For example, observational humor helps any speaker connect with their audience. Further, observational jokes are great for breaking the tension when people first meet. Especially, for more technical or routine presentations, observational jokes can make the presentation more “fresh” to your audience.

Steps On How To Create An Observational Joke.

The steps to create an observational joke are fairly simple. There are just 4 steps. Indeed, the hard part is not coming up with the subject, but coming up with the punchline that identifies the contradiction or absurdity. Below are the steps for creating an observational joke.

Step 1: Observe Your Surroundings.

Take a moment to observe the people, objects, or situations around you. Look for something that stands out or has a humorous aspect to it.

Step 2: Identify The Contradiction Or Absurdity.

Once you’ve found something interesting or amusing, identify the contradiction, absurdity or unexpected element within it. 

Step 3: Find The Punchline.

Think about how you can highlight the incongruity in a clever and amusing way. The punchline should provide the unexpected twist that makes people laugh.

Step 4: Refine And Test.

Refine your joke by practicing it out loud and testing it with friends or family to get constructive feedback. Remember that timing and delivery are crucial in comedy, so practice delivering your joke with confidence and precision.

Now if you want some help, you can use a Large Language Model (LLM) like OpenAI. Indeed, I’ve used LLM AI a lot for brainstorming, and it is also great for coming up with observational jokes. For example, you can create an observational joke using a LLM AI prompt like this, “create 3 observational jokes on [subject]”. That’s it! To illustrate, I asked AI for 3 observational jokes on drinking coffee. Here’s one of them:

“Have you ever noticed how coffee shops have their own secret language? I mean, ordering a ‘grande skinny vanilla latte’ sounds like you’re casting a spell rather than just asking for a cup of coffee!”

For more information on the steps to create an observational joke, see CleanComedians’ What Is Observational Humor, and BeMoreFunny’s How To Write Observational Comedy: A Quick Guide.

Crafting The Punchline Of Observational Jokes: Example Jokes Using Different Humor Techniques.

As I said before the hardest thing to do when creating an observational joke is coming up with the punchline, i.e. the contradiction or absurdity. Below are some observational joke examples using various humorous techniques to come up with a punchline. I used “drinking coffee” as the commonplace topic.

  • Exaggeration and Hyperbole: “I drink so much coffee in the morning that my mug has started requesting a raise.”
  • Irony and Sarcasm: “I love how drinking coffee gives me the energy to stay awake all night worrying about not getting enough sleep.”
  • Contrast and Comparison: “Drinking coffee is like having a personal cheerleader in a cup, except instead of chanting ‘Go team!’ it’s screaming ‘Wake up!'”
  • Wordplay and Pun: “I don’t need a therapist, I just need a good espresso – it’s my daily shot of ‘expresso’ therapy!”
  • Misdirection: “I thought I was addicted to coffee, but it turns out I’m just in a committed relationship with caffeine.”

For more references on observational humor, see LaughterLodge’s How To Understand Observational Humor In Jokes and The AccidentalCommunicator’s Tap Into The Power Of Observational Humor To Score Big Laughs.

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