Positive humor is telling jokes and funny stories. It makes people laugh and lowers tension. And it makes you happier, more attractive, and better at work.

Negative humor does the opposite. Sarcasm and ridicule downgrade others. And self-deprecating humor downgrades yourself.

A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.

-Dwight Eisenhower


How can you become funnier faster? Try a simple system called reductio ad absurdum. It’s Latin for “to reduce to the absurd”.

A reductio joke follows this pattern:

  • Pretend a statement is literally true

  • Imagine a ridiculous consequence

You don’t need no gun control. You know what you need? We need some bullet control. Man, we need to control the bullets, that’s right. I think all bullets should cost $5,000. $5,000 for a bullet. You know why? ‘Cause if a bullet costs $5,000 there’d be no more innocent bystanders. That’d be it. Every time someone gets shot, people will be like, “Damn, he must have did something.”

-Chris Rock


Schneider M, Voracek M, Tran US. (2018). “A joke a day keeps the doctor away?” Meta-analytical evidence of differential associations of habitual humor styles with mental health. Scand J Psychol. 59(3): 289–300.

  • A meta-analysis of 37 studies with 12,734 participants found that affiliative humor increased self-esteem (effect size = 0.25); optimism (effect size = 0.20); and life satisfaction (effect size = 0.18)

  • Self-enhancing humor increased optimism (effect size = 0.32); self-esteem (effect size = 0.29); and life satisfaction (effect size = 0.29)

  • Self-defeating humor decreased self-esteem (effect size = 0.27); optimism (effect size = 0.14); and life satisfaction (effect size = 0.12)

  • Aggressive, attacking humor decreased self-esteem (effect size = 0.10); optimism (effect size = 0.09); and life satisfaction (effect size = 0.04)

  • Affiliative humor is telling jokes and funny stories to make people laugh and reduce tension

  • Self-enhancing humor is a humorous attitude towards stress and negative events

  • Aggressive humor downgrades others and includes sarcasm and ridicule

Hall JA. (2017). Humor in romantic relationships: A meta-analysis. Pers Rel. 24(2): 306–322.

  • A meta-analysis of 43 studies with 15,177 participants found that humor increased romantic relationship satisfaction (effect size = 0.22), especially relational humor created and shared between partners (effect size = 0.64)

  • Relationship satisfaction was decreased by distancing or avoidant humor (effect size = 0.26) and aggressive, attacking humor (effect size = 0.25)

Mesmer-Magnus J, Glew DJ, Viswesvaran C. (2012). A meta-analysis of positive humor in the workplace. J Manag Psychol. 27(2): 155–190.

  • A meta-analysis of 49 studies with 8,532 participants found that supervisor humor increased subordinate perception of supervisor performance (effect size = 0.45); workgroup cohesion (effect size = 0.42); subordinate job satisfaction (effect size = 0.39); subordinate work performance (effect size = 0.21); and subordinate satisfaction with supervisor (effect size = 0.16)

  • Employee humor increased work performance (effect size = 0.36); coping effectiveness (effect size = 0.29); health (effect size = 0.21); and workgroup cohesion (effect size = 0.20)

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