Generational Humor By Katie orillion

Have you ever shown a meme to your mom or dad and been disappointed in their response? I have. I’ve shown countless pictures and text posts to my parents that had me on the floor laughing but earned no response or total confusion from them.

Now that families are quarantined together, this can be even more noticeable. However, it may be helpful to know why humor is so different between generations before becoming frustrated.

Most of our Gen-Z humor comes from circulating jokes and comedic formats that end up functioning as a huge, generational, inside joke, especially due to the new age of social media. Because of this, it can be hard for older generations to understand the humor behind the format or the joke. References to vines or old memes can lighten the mood in a younger setting, yet, at the same time, earn a confused or even concerned glance from an older person.

However, the biggest gap in generational humor seemingly comes from the way that our generation has grown up. Since we were little, we’ve been consistently bombarded with information: input from social sites, news, tailored ads, and almost everything else. Our world has become one where whichever company shoves their product in our faces first wins. Because of this constant flow of information, Gen-Z kids tend to gravitate toward irony and surrealism. In addition, both millennials and Gen-Z kids tend to enjoy darker comedy than older generations, because of the shock value it provides, unlike punchline humor. So many jokes have already been made and seen that the only refreshing form of humor that’s left for us is a technicolor frog labeled ‘arson’.

People in generation X tend to gravitate toward humor with more structure- knock knock jokes and other forms of punchline comedy- most likely because they grew up without such massive input. Though gen-z and gen-x don’t clash, there can be struggles between older and younger generations over this opinion of what is funny. Many of the jokes made by baby boomers and older people can be at the expense of the younger generations, and often include what gen-z considers to be “offensive humor”. Steve Taylor, a psychology lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, explains a reason that this might be the case: “[As they’re aware of their mortality], they cling to the traditions and conventions of their society in a stronger way… one way of reacting to that anxiety is to cling to identity, to try and gain a sense of belonging, or even a sense of protection.” The animosity between the two generations may be due to psychological reasoning, or it may just be a case of what one finds funny.

Regardless of generation, everyone has their own sense of humor and their own style of comedy. Both Gen-Z and the Baby Boomers use their humor to cope with fears about the future, and this humor manifests in many different ways. Next time your mom doesn’t laugh at that picture of a dark creature next to a bowl of corn flakes, keep your head up and remember that not all generations laugh the same.