Do You Laugh When Someone Falls? Is it Superiority Theory or a Fact of Life?
Yes, there is a term for this kind of humor. It’s called Superiority Theory, and it’s when you take pleasure and mirth in the demise of others. In short, it’s the type of jokes that make others the butt of the humor, by teasing, by making fun of, and/or bullying.
It can all fall under this type of “foul play.” (Did you catch that idiom…Oh, you didn’t? Then you must be an idiot…) THAT is an example of superiority theory humor!
Mop: Ever stop to think of the pain we cause people??? I think we cause more messes then we clean up…
Bucket: Sure, but there is nothing funnier than watching people slip and fall! That is why YouTube exists…
Caption: Questioning the Superiority Theory in Humor
The Negative Effects of Superiority Theory Humor
No one likes to be on the “ass end” of the joke; that’s another idiom referring to the end of a donkey. You know, the donkey’s ass is also his end/butt. Yes, I’m patronizing you by over-explaining that joke. Over-explaining in a belittling way is also a good example of the self-defeating aspects of superiority theory humor.
Is there anything worse than when a joke is played on you in a cruel manner to make you look like, well, a “donkey’s ass end”? It doesn’t feel good, doesn’t build up; all it does is tear down a person’s self-esteem. Granted, a few people need to be knocked down a few notches, and sometimes, I guess, superiority theory humor is a simple way to do it. But where is the love?
If you really care for a friend and have brotherly affection for one another, then do you really want to belittle or tear down/crush that person’s emotional makeup so that you can laugh at their mistakes? (Exception to the rule: superiority theory excludes family, of course.)
Car Ram Ic tiles
Let me give you an example: one day my brother-in-law (we will call his name Bob) and I were with a group of friends walking along and I saw an advertisement in a window. I curiously read it out loud: “For sale Car Ram Ic Tiles.” I honestly didn’t know what Car Ram Ic tiles were, yet without batting an eye, he yells out to our group,“it’s called ceramic!” (The ‘you’re a stupid idiot’ was in the intonation).
To this day, some 20 years later, I still hear the same joke from him whenever we get together and see the word ceramic. “Hey Chato, look it’s Car-Ram-it jewelry.” That to me is the epitome of superiority theory humor. Especially since he can’t let it ever go without having to rub it in my face over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. How would that make you feel? Good? Too bad he falls under the exception to this rule. I can laugh at it. I find humor in it and I think it’s funny too…now that is.
Yes, when we joke about someone’s perceived flaw, whether it’s reading or being seen as inferior because they are diagnosed with a mental illness, we are using the epitome of the negativity that superiority theory humor brings to the table of laughter. True, sometimes it’s hard not to laugh when we see someone slip and fall, but better to laugh with them than to laugh at them.
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Originally Posted on https://blogs.psychcentral.com/humor YOU need permission use ©2011
Mental Health Humor Cartoons
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Stewart, C. (2012). Do You Laugh When Someone Falls? Is it Superiority Theory or a Fact of Life?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/humor/2012/07/do-you-laugh-when-some-one-falls-is-it-a-superiority-theory-or-fact-of-life/