Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Today get six common forms of American humor.

Find out how to identify them, how to use them, and what to watch to build your humor listening skills.

Today we will answer a listener’s question about how to understand American humor better in English.

When you can understand a joke in English then you can respond and you can finally connect with native speakers in the way that you want to.

Today let’s start with this question from our listener:

“I enjoy watching American movies without subtitle but I cannot understand a typical TV show like the Late Late Show with James Corden.” – AEE Listener


Why should you listen to late night talk shows?

They are a great window into American culture.

You get a chance to see what Americans are talking about.

You get to look at the issues through a funny lens so it becomes less stressful.

Plus you also get unscripted interviews and you get a chance to develop your listening skills even in spontaneous situations.


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Six common types of American humor:

  • Exaggeration: Americans might exaggerate more than other English-speaking cultures. This is when we say something ridiculous and go “over the top” in terms of numbers, amount, and quantity to make it sound funny. We don’t just say that we are hungry. We say “Oh my God I feel like I haven’t eaten in days!” This can be funny in a lot of situations.


  • Pun: Puns can be fun. They are word play. Sometimes we roll our eyes when we hear them but they can be fun especially if the person delivering them says that it’s funny. Here is an example: Q: “Why don’t some couples go to the gym? A: It’s because some relationships just don’t work out.”


  • Physical humor or slapstick humor: Jim Carey or the Three Stooges did a lot of this type of humor. This is usually when you do stupid things, you get knocked over the head, you fall down a lot, you move in weird ways. Kramer on Seinfeld is a good example of Slapstick humor when he slides into Jerry’s apartment when he enters an episode.



  • Satire: John Stewart on the Daily Show is a good example of Satire. They are pretending to be in a certain situation but they are actually making fun of that situation and the people who are usually in that situation. Check out Saturday Night Live to see Alec Baldwin’s impression of Donald Trump.


  • Sarcasm: We use this a lot in American culture. It could be construed as mean because you are often making fun of something or someone. We might take someone’s words and twist them to make fun of an idea or a person. We imitate people. We might also say the exact opposite of what we mean.


  • Irony: The dictionary definition says: “The expression of meaning that normally signifies the opposite, usually for humor.” There is also situational irony.


What questions do you have today?

Let us know in the comments below.

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