I like humor. I think that everything is better with humor in it.
But, like most people, I have humor I like and I have humor I don't like. For example, I can't stand South Park. I have never laughed at any part of South Park. There are occasional moments of mild amusement. That's it.
I guess everyone gets used to giving half of all humor a hairy eyeball.
Sometimes, though, things get a bit odd.
There are a lot of comics out there that I don't like. For example, Pearls Before Swine. When I read it, I don't see humor I don't like. I could deal with that, just dismiss it. Instead, I see inept humor. I see weak punch lines, poor pacing, and talking heads.
I assumed that it was simply bad. I can see what they seem to be trying to do, and I can see them fall short. So it's bad, right?
Apparently not. It's one of my dad's favorite comic strips, and it gets pretty solid reviews.
I had the same theory about Todd and Penguin, but it gets some pretty good reviews as well...
Looking into it, I find that the big thing that people seem to like about these comics are the characters. They enjoy seeing what the characters do and how they interact. This is not something I feel, even after reading hundreds of these comics. They all seem so painfully bland to me.
I didn't really think that my sense of humor was excluding characters. It's not that I run around saying, "ooh, it's got a character in it, I don't like it!"
But now that I think about it, that's pretty much the case. I like situational humor rather than personal humor. I like the tornado-torn house with a sign saying "landscaping by Jim". I like the Ministry of Silly Walks. I like Terry Pratchett. I like one-liners and absolutely terrible B-movies. I even like Scrubs.
All of these things have one thing in common: they have really strong situational humor. There are characters, but in most of them, the characters aren't really the point. They're just there to get us in and out of situations.
Scrubs is an exception: it's got situational humor, but it's also got a lot of character humor. And now that I think back on it, I have a clear line as to what I found funny and what I didn't. I find it funny when the radio wristwatches bounce around screwing scenes up. I don't find it funny when the ex-wife walks onto the stage and makes someone's life more miserable.
Looking at more examples is pretty easy. I can't stand Napoleon Dynamite. Why? Because it's basically a bunch of characters going around being extremely uncomfortable and/or idiotic. Doesn't interest me in the slightest. The situational humor is almost nonexistent: instead of the characters serving to take us from situation to situation, the situations serve to take us from character to character.
It's not that I simply don't find it funny. I actually find it acutely uncomfortable.
Most character humor revolves around making a character miserable or worthless. Humiliation, pain, idiocy... I don't like it. Character humor which uses milder approaches is simply boring to me.
But it doesn't bore me any more, because now I'm looking at it from a "meta" perspective. Even though Pearls Before Swine occasionally tells the same joke that a situational comic might, they tell it with a radically different focus and sense of pacing. Here's an ideal example (link will stop working in a few weeks): link. This is the funniest one I could find.
I look at it and all I see are flaws, because I'm looking at it from a situational perspective. I have the instinctive urge to cut half the dialog, maybe even try for single-panel or nested-panel, like the Far Side. But at least I find the underlying concept funny.
Rewind or fast forward, the strip is surrounded on all sides by character humor. You can clearly see the kinds of humor I just don't get.
I think this is interesting.
Do you see what I'm talking about? What kinds of humor do you like?