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Meta-Funny: the Psychology of Internet Humor

Has digital media created a new kind of funny? Do the constantly evolving modes of memes, response videos, and remix make us laugh because they are “meta-funny,” drawing on the established forms endemic to electronic culture to create humor? In his largely unfunny "Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious", Sigmund Freud deconstructed some Fin de siècle thigh-slappers to identify both the universal and highly personal psychic operations that lead to a guffaw. As was his wont, he positions these observations as timeless truths, distilling the mechanics of humor to their essentials. Obviously, he did not consider YouTube or First World Problems in his analysis. So could new forms of humor develop, layering new context onto old? Or is it just the same old jokes recycled for a new medium? Funny you should ask. (This topic comes with a two-drink minimum.)


  1. If “Brevity is the soul of wit,” is ultra-brevity is the soul of digital wit?
  2. Would a meme be as funny outside the context of the digital culture?
  3. Is the comment thread a new form of Collaborative Stand-up?
  4. Does the nature of digital humor (with its heavy reliance on self-reference, mnemonics, and remix) require a more active role of the audience in the joke?
  5. Has popular humor come full circle from the vaudeville one-liner to the Twitter post?



Tim Sheridan, Creative Director, Razorfish

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