What’s so funny?

We’ve been in some pretty serious discussions the last couple of weeks since Bookworm left for vacation, so today I thought I’d ask a different question.  What makes something funny?  And please feel free to give examples of things you find particularly humorous.

I thought of this topic while reading Ann Coulter’s How to Talk to a Liberal.  Someone once said that the entire basis of humor is surprise.  Whatever else you might say about Coulter, she is the absolute master of the surprise punch line, buried late in the paragraph and hitting completely unexpectedly.  I kept laughing out loud and stopping to read the passages to my wife and laughing all over again.  Here are a few examples:


“The more public and respected a conservative you are, the more goodies will be offered to you [to become a liberal], starting with the cover of New York Times Magazine.  Even a halfwit can get a pretty good life out of liberal enticements, rather like a bureaucrat in the old Soviet Union.  If a conservative giant like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity ever became a liberal, there would be parades down Fifth Aevnue.  At the freshman-liberal introduction ceremony, Bill Moyers would MC, Bono would sing an original song, Maya Angelou would recite a poem, and Sean Penn would throw out the first punch.”


Amidst a long list of terrorist attacks in response to which Clinton did nothing:

“On August 7, 1998, U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by Muslim extremists.

“Clinton did nothing.

“On August 20, Monica Lewinsky appeared for the second time to testify before the grand jury.

“Clinton responded by bombing Afganistan and Sudan, severely damaging a camel and an aspirin factory.”


“Under the strange delusion that their input is necessary during wartime, various congressmen are trying to haul Attorney General Ashcroft before them to answer questions about the detentions of suspected terrorists.  Fortunately, Congress has no role in prosecuting this war either abroad or domestically.  They are relieved of duty, free to ‘get back to normal,’ as the president has recommended — which in their case means enacting massive spending bills to fund comically useless government programs.  That should make them happy.”


I could quote dozens more but my fingers are getting tired and you get the idea.  Anyway, what makes humor work for you and who do you enjoy reading for their humor?  Have any good examples?