Why some people don’t like the humor of Monthy Python

This image above shows two types of humor. One based on incongruity-resolution, the cartoon on the left. The other also based on incongruity-resolution but provoked by a nonsense cartoon on the right.

Humor of nonsense jokes and cartoons is a different sense of humor according to recent research. Not in the sense of the neural processing of humor in the brain or to their structural properties but they differ in content.

The common element of these humorous stimuli is that in their processing the recipient first discovers an incongruity. This incongruity can be easily resolved upon reinterpretation of the information available in the joke or cartoon. The cartoon on the left. Or on the other end of the spectrum, the cartoon on the right it can’t be easily resolved. It’s complete nonsense. The cartoon doesn’t provide a resolution at all. Or it provides a very partial resolution (leaving an essential part of the incongruity unresolved), or actually create new absurdities or incongruities.

It’s the difference between people who like the utter nonsense of Monthy Python and those who don’t. It’s the difference between your comic TV show and Monthy Python’s Flying Circus.

This appreciation of nonsense jokes and cartoons is dependable on personality characteristics. Those with a high level of experience seeking appreciate nonsense humor more.

Experience seeking involves a search for novel sensations,
stimulation and experiences through the mind and senses, through
art, travel, music, and the desire to live in an unconventional style

With fMRI scans it was shown that for incongruity resolution as compared to this resolution for nonsense cartoons the former had more activation of brain structures necessary with the processing of humor. These brain structures being the anterior medial prefrontal cortex, bilateral superior frontal gyri and temporo-parietal junctions (TPJ). These brain structures show more activation during processing of incongruity-resolution than of nonsense cartoons.

Samson, A., Hempelmann, C., Huber, O., & Zysset, S. (2009). Neural substrates of incongruity-resolution and nonsense humor Neuropsychologia, 47 (4), 1023-1033 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.10.028


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  1. Pingback: Do you think Monty Python is Funny? | TechIntersect

  2. I don’t really find either of the examples “nonsensical.” I find them both funny, and I find they both contain a type of “incongruity.” I guess you might say that the right-hand example is more “bizarre,” a terminology we’d use in psychiatry as well, to describe delusional content. (Here, bizarre refers to the impossibility of an event physically occuring). Bizarreness alone, as manifest in art or humour, could be a nice expression of a kind of unconscious or unspoken theme (the influence of psychoanalytic ideas in art & film has been substantial). On the right, perhaps many of us could have been distracted, frightened, motivated, or had our experience ruined, by some kind of figurative “shark” behind us — even on a ski hill!
    I don’t necessarily find Monty Python bizarre either. Silly, yes. Many of the most famous skits are more like the left-hand example. I suspect that factors having to do with a person’s personal or cultural history, conservatism, intellectualism, and personality style, are relevant determinants of whether something is found funny or not. I can think of certain individuals who are quite offended by certain types of humour as well; Monty Python liked to poke a lot of fun at certain personality types or occupations.

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  4. The given cartoons are not the greatest examples, considering that with the shark in the snow at least makes SOME sense that the skiers are skiing away from the danger. Yes, it is nonsensical that a shark would be in the snow, but it is not a complete non sequitur.

    The humor of Monty Python is often just plain being whimsical or doing weird things. Those of us who do not find it funny can be just as much “experience seekers” as those who DO find it funny. It’s just that I would like my humor to at least make an attempt at making some sort of sense. If I run up to you and make a funny face and run away, that might make you laugh, but it isn’t humor. Humor involves more thought than that.