This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the humor types, however it is a good place to start (if I do say so myself; then again, I’m biased). Organized alphabetically for your convenience.

Black Humor

They’re doomed, and they know it. And yet, they can’t help but crack jokes at their own or other unfortunates’ expense.

Also known as Dark or Gallows humor.

One of the more tricky types of humor since it deals with very serious subject matters. Death, murder, rape, suicide, genocide, torture, horrible crimes against humanity: these are but a sampling of some of the subject matter black humor deals with. Just as with vulgar humor (see far below), black humor has a high rate of backfire.

Be prepared to be called a heartless, sick bastard if you choose to employ this form of humor to any great extent.

Good Ol’ Stupidity

is just plain stupid. So stupid, in fact, that it becomes hilarious. At least, that’s the theory.

A cat flailing around with its head caught in a milk jug for the third time that day? Stupid kitty; it’s still funny. A whole plane full of Russian paratroopers jumping from high altitudes without their parachutes because they believed the snow would cushion their fall? And it didn’t? A bit morbid, but it’s still hilarious (and fortunately untrue; you need not feel guilty about laughing now).

Very easy to overdose, much like Random humor. Some people have no tolerance for stupidity, so keep that in mind if you plan to use this humor type.

Great Misunderstanding, The

A staple of romantic comedies, though it can be applied to almost every genre, humor being a given. Very simple as far as the basic concept goes: Character A misunderstands Character B; hilarity ensues as they act based on the great misunderstanding. Just what the misunderstanding is and what sort of hilarity it leads to can be difficult to successfully work out, however.

Simply remember that if the misunderstanding is stupid and/or if it would be easily resolved by the characters just talking to each other (which they don’t for whatever dumb reason), the audience will be most displeased. Also, the ensuing hilarity must be directly related to the misunderstanding; it should never be random (see Random), though it can be a form of situational irony (see Irony). This isn’t to say that you can’t have random humor in a story which stars a Great Misunderstanding; the random humor should not, however, take over the story if The Great Misunderstanding is the main focus.


One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong. That one little thing makes the whole thing ridiculous, so the audience can’t help but be tickled pink.

An example of this would be a psychopathic killer at home in his kitchen, frilly floral apron proudly donned, dutifully cooking a vegan dinner for his loving family. Spot the incongruities?

Can be used in the narrative itself to establish a humorous tone or in dialogue to the same effect. May utilize various forms of verbal irony (see below) in addition to plays on words (see Plays on Words).


There are three main types: dramatic, situational, and verbal.

Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something the characters do not. This is a very common device in tragedies and romantic comedies.

Situational irony occurs when the opposite of what is expected (by the characters and/or the audience) occurs. This is not random, however. The audience (and/or the characters) should be able to go back and see why the unexpected occurred. After all, hindsight is 20/20.

Verbal is when what is said has a different meaning than its usual connotation. Sarcasm is a prime example of verbal irony. Understatement (see further below) is another.

Plays on Words

The English (well, really any) language is such fun thing to play with. Puns, idioms, euphemisms, innuendos, common turns of phrase, homophones, homonyms, synonyms, and more – any literary or poetic device can be used to elicit a laugh if used well.

Practically an essential for witty banter of any sort. A great aid in achieving a humorous tone in the narrative. Often leads to The Great Misunderstanding (see Great Misunderstanding, The).

Random Humor

is very random. That frog dropping out of the sky to land in Lady Marianne’s hair, upsetting her weekly tea party? Random. Hilarious? Probably, if executed well and not overdone.

The issue with almost every random humor piece I’ve read is that there is way too much random. The end result is an unfunny piece in which it appears that the author is constantly pulling dei ex machinis out of their you-know-where.

The randomness must be balanced with reality otherwise the audience will be completely unable to relate to the piece.


literally means to delight in another person’s misfortune. Admit it; we all do it.

The song “Schadenfreude” from the show “Avenue Q” explains the concept nicely and in a humorous manner (if you don’t mind the curse words).

Some examples of schadenfreude are people comically flailing their limbs as they try not to fall on ice, someone walking into a glass wall because they thought it was an open door, the school bully and assorted cronies being defeated by a small girl, etc. The list goes on and on.

Slapstick comedy is a form of schadenfreude.


gets its own subcategory because I say so. Also because it’s the basis for much British humor.

Understatement is when you really simplify something, obscuring the extent to which it is (whatever it is). Some examples are calling a nuclear war “bad” or a twenty-foot-tall man “fairly tall.”

As evidenced by the American reaction to British humor (which is basically “WTF? o_O”), understatement can be very hit-or-miss. You might consider following it up with a deadpan “that was an understatement,” or something to that extent.

Vulgar Humor

is a very tricky business. On the one hand, it can be side-splittingly hilarious. On the other, it can be incredibly offensive. Use vulgar humor at your own risk, and do not use it frivolously.

“Avenue Q,” for example, utilizes utilizes vulgar humor a lot. Is the show offensive? To some people. Is it still funny? Yes, but not for everyone. Does “Avenue Q” rely solely upon vulgar humor to be funny? No, and neither should you.

Also known as Ribald and as Crude, Lewd, or Risqué humor.

Toilet (or Potty) humor is a more kid-friendly subset.

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  1. Romantic Vampire Lover on 9 January 2010, 06:14 said:

    AVENUE Q! I love that musical! :D Lovely article, by the way; a nice reference.

  2. NeuroticPlatypus on 10 January 2010, 15:53 said:

    Great article.

    black humor has a high rate of backfire.

    I love black humor… what does that say about me?

  3. Kyllorac on 10 January 2010, 17:48 said:

    Avenue Q is awesome. Nuff said.

    I love black humor… what does that say about me?

    That you can find the silver lining in any situation? :P

  4. Steph the Phantasmagorical on 11 January 2010, 01:27 said:

    I love black humor… what does that say about me?

    HOney, you don’t wanna know.

    Kyllorac, you forgot innuendo.

  5. SweetRunningBreeze on 12 January 2010, 19:24 said:

    I really liked this. Good article. :)

  6. Snow White Queen on 15 January 2010, 20:56 said:

    This is a great article, Kyllorac. I don’t consider myself to be an especially funny person (except I can be rather sarcastic) so I decided early on that any humor in my writing would have to be natural and/or accidental. However, this is a useful resource, compiled all in one place, and alphabetical, to top it off!

  7. Kyllorac on 15 January 2010, 21:24 said:

    @Steph of the many names

    It falls under Plays on Words.

    @Everyone else

    takes a bow

  8. Steph of the many names on 16 January 2010, 08:20 said:

    Oh, I forgot to say I like the article. Do forgive me.


  9. RT3 on 27 January 2010, 00:53 said:

    Honestly, I think it’s funnier if you just say penis. That’s my two cents anyhow.

  10. Francois Tremblay on 7 March 2019, 08:01 said:

    I don’t think a psychopathic killer cooking and serving food at home in a servile manner is incongruous. Most psychopathic killers appear to be relatively normal in most social roles (if overly aggressive in situations where they have power over others).