Types of Verbal Humor

Varying types of verbal humor are used liberally by comedy writers to spice their work.

You will probably be familiar with some of the word plays making their hearers laugh. I hope though there are enough 'new' types here to add variety to your laughter menu. The next time you write, trying adding a pinch or two of something different to add zest and zing.

Types of Verbal Humor One

Pun: a play on words, in which a word of multiple meanings or a word of similar sound but different meaning is used to create the joke.
Examples:
Heard about the fight down town? It was called a shopping maul.
An old teacher never dies. They simply lose their class.

Types of Verbal Humor Two

Innuendo/Double Entendres: an indirect, often derogatory hint. The speaker appears innocent and the innuendo is ‘discovered’ in mind of the listener. The most common of these are sexual innuendos.
Examples:
Mae West's:‘Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?’
The use of the word ‘it’ as in ‘Comedians do it standing up.’

Types of Verbal Humor Three

Malapropism: either intentional or unintentional misuse of a word created by using one of a similar sound for another.
Examples:
My sister has extra-century perception.
He was a man of great statue.

Types of Verbal Humor Four

Spoonerism: an either intentional or unintentional transposition of sounds of two or more words.
Examples:
'nosey little cook' instead of 'cosy little nook'
'our queer old Dean' instead of 'our dear old Queen'
'I'm a damp stealer' instead of 'I'm a stamp dealer.'

Types of Verbal Humor Five

Mixed Metaphor: to mix common sayings to comic effect.
Example:
‘With friends like these, who needs enemas?’

Type of Verbal Humor Six

Joke: Something said or done to evoke amusement or laughter. Mostly joke means an amusing story with a punch line.
Example:
A mother mouse and a baby mouse were walking along, when all of a sudden, a cat attacked them. The mother mouse goes, "BARK!" and the cat runs away.
"See?" says the mother mouse to her baby. "Now do you see why it's important to learn a foreign language?"

Types of Verbal Humor Seven

Extended or Running Gag: an amusing situation or line recurring throughout a story or performance.
Example:
'The Goon Show', a famous British radio comedy show had the line 'He's fallen in the water' running through all its episodes.

Types of Verbal Humor Eight

Shaggy-dog Story: a long rambling story filled with irrelevant detail and repeated phrases, which has an absurd anti-climatic punch line. It leads its listeners on in the expectation there will be an ending to make sense of all they’ve heard. Often there isn’t or there will be a really weak pun. Its pointlessness is the joke!

Types of Verbal Humor Nine

Parody: to copy or imitate for comic affect the style of something or someone else. By its nature parody exaggerates and mocks the original. It only works if the person or thing being copied is well known to the audience.
Example:
The variations on The Ten Commandments.
I've seen 'Ten Commandments' for Cooks, Children, Wives, Husbands, Shopkeepers...

Type of Verbal Humor Ten

Satire: to expose silliness, foolishness or stupidity through ridicule. Satire attacks with the aim of alerting its audience and to make way for reform. The form has its roots in antiquity and is seen today in many forms. The television comedies 'The Simpsons' and 'South Park' use satire.

Types of Verbal Humor Eleven

Irony: using language to imply the opposite of their literal meaning or a situation where the outcome is the opposite from that intended or expected.
Irony and sarcasm are often regarded as being synonymous.
However sarcasm generally implies a stronger or more cutting remark and contains intent to ridicule unkindly.

Example of verbal irony:
‘What pleasant weather!’
– said while walking through a hailstorm.

Example of situational irony:
The plumber whose taps at home leak or the teacher's child who plays truant.

Example of sarcasm:
Mary is a thoroughly delightful woman with a delightful figure, a delightful dress sense, a delightful brain and an equally delightful husband to match. So much delight is entirely overwhelming and I must decline her invitation to dinner.

Type of Verbal Humor Twelve

Understatement: deliberate minimizing whatever is being spoken about. The audience knows and that is what makes the humor.
Example:
George is well known for his small appetite. Dinner consists of a mere half dozen pies, followed by a quart of icecream.

Types of Verbal Humor Thirteen

Overstatement: deliberate maximizing of subject often with hyperbolic exaggeration.
Examples:
She is the most beautiful woman in the entire universe.
I am so hungry I could eat a horse.

Type of Verbal Humor Fourteen

Statement of the Obvious: a technique funny because it is so obvious or the expected norm.
Example:
Cars have wheels.
People have two feet, two arms…
The sun is in the sky.

Types of Verbal Humor Fifteen

Exclusive Humor: using humor specific to a particular group of people for example in a workplace, players of a sport or members of a race. Outsiders find it hard to understand because they do not share the experience base from which it is drawn. It often has its own vocabulary (jargon) as well.

Type of Verbal Humor Sixteen

Absurdity: humor obviously lacking in reason. It is foolish or ridiculous and often includes the use of nonsensical language. In absurdity, the preposterous, incongruous, fantastical and whimsical are right at home.
Examples: the television shows, ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’, and ‘The Simpsons’

More Types of Verbal Humor:
Sound Devices

The following ‘sound’ devices are used in language to heighten or intensify the subject matter. Each adds a specific ‘sound’ interest for the listener.

All of them are commonly used either singly or together in comedy, radio or television advertising, speeches, poetry…in fact in any situation calling for oral language. I hope you enjoy adding them to your types of verbal humor collection.

  • Use of alliteration: repetition of the beginning sounds of words.
    Examples:
    ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’
    ‘She sells sea-shells on the sea shore.’
    ‘My mother-in-law is the hag from hell.’


  • Use of Onomatopoeia: to select words imitating their meaning when spoken.
    Examples: crash, bash, slam, scream, screech, sizzle, clang, whisper...


  • Use of Rhyme: use of words having similar or the same end sounds.
    Examples: cold, sold, bold, hold, mould, fold…


  • Use of Assonance: to choose words for similarity of internal vowel sounds.
    Example: heed, steed, reel, meal, queen, sheen…


  • Use of Consonance: to select words for similarity of internal consonant sounds.
    Example: flutter, stutter, mutter…


  • Use of Repetition: to reinforce important elements. Repetition is a common device used in oratory, story and joke telling.
    Here is a famous original example from oratory that has been widely borrowed and altered for comic effect:

    "We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields, and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!"

    -Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill in his speech about Dunkirk given in House of Commons June 4, 1940.

    In the children’s story, ‘The Three Little Pigs’, the wolf’s line ‘I’ll blow your house down!’ is repeated throughout.
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"Words are of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."
Rudyard Kipling