What is and isn’t funny changes from person to person. Everyone’s individual experiences and cultures are completely different and what everyone thinks is funny differs due to that. However, there are several tricks and topics that are almost universally bound to get a giggle if they are presented right.
My favourite trick for comedy is the rule of three. When I was in Drama productions this technique was used a minimum of once a play. What it is is when the same thing happens three times in the play but the third time is slightly different from the previous times. For example, a character (I will call him Bob) is nervous to enter the room where his angry girlfriend is furiously going over her inner monologue out loud. Every time he timidly begins to enter the room she shouts in frustration that if she were to see him she would punch his face in or something equally as undesirable. Then when he retreats she remembers something good about him and he begins to enter the room with new hope only for it to be dashed again. The third time he pokes his head in she keeps saying good things about him so he comes all the way into the room. Meanwhile out of frustration and confusion, his girlfriend grabs something and hurls straight into Bob before realizing he is there… It is difficult to grasp without seeing it but next time you go to a play or see a movie, keep track events that seem to be repeating with slight variations they usually are funniest the third time the event happens.
Universal topics for Comedy need to be relatable to most people. This is why romance is such a popular genre throughout the world, it is relatable. Romance and other genres are not completely free from cultural differences. Dating and marriage practices are very culturally specific. However, domestic affairs, love triangles, and many other situations from the genre appear in comedies all over the world, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Kalidasa’s Malavika and Agnimitra, Plautus’ Casina, multiple Japanese anime and American cartoons. They all have examples of romance and the problems it can cause being used as comedic devices. Aside from romance, most people have experience with work and school. Also, physical comedy is funny for all ages but the type of physical humour that is funny could be different depending on the country and culture.
Lastly Irony is an absolute staple for any joke or comedic scene. For some strange reason it is funny when the exact opposite of what we believe is going to happen happens. Shakespeare loved to use Irony in his plays and writers still use this device in modern works. It hasn’t stopped being used after all these years because it works. Irony brings surprise and almost a sense of novelty to a story. It can refresh a stale plot and facilitates laughter which releases dopamine that will make the story seem more enjoyable. Overall, Irony is a powerful tool that, when used correctly, can vastly improve any comedy.