Humour and Creativity

Travelling between the Aha! Experience and the Ha! Ha! experience.


Creativity and Humour are closely related as many aspects of the creative process can be understand in terms of humour.

Developing skills in creativity will help you create humour, and appreciating a wide variety of humour will help develop your creativity. Humour means having fun, and creativity needs a good dose of fun and play.

I have always enjoyed humour and I still have some limericks I copied from a book when I was in Year 6 (age 11). My favourite comedy includes Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Absolutely Fabulous, Mister Bean (Rowan Atkinson), Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, The Simpsons, and for some very light relief, the very silly Mel Brooks spoofs: "SpaceBalls", "Robin Hood, Men in Tights". Other types of humour I particularly enjoy are cartoon drawings, and my favourite cartoonists are Michael Leunig (Australian) and John Callahan (Californian).

Edward de Bono writes about humour in his book I am Right, You are Wrong:

Humour is by far the most significant behaviour of the human mind. Why has it been so neglected by traditional philosophers, psychologists and information scientists?

Humour tells us more about how the brain works as mind, than does any other behaviour of the mind - including reason. It indicates other thinking methods, something about perception, and the possibility of changes in perception. It shows us that these changes can be followed by instant changes in emotion - something that can never be achieved by logic.

Humour is so significant because it is based on a logic very different from our traditional logic. In traditional (Aristotelian) logic there are categories that are clear, hard-edged and permanent. We make judgments as to whether something fits into a category or not. This is labelled rock logic.

Imagine your path of thinking following definite paths. There are potential side-paths but these have been temporarily suppressed by the dominant track. If 'somehow' we can manage to get across from the main track to the side-track, the route back to the starting point is very obvious. This moving sideways across tracks is the origin of the term 'lateral thinking. If 'somehow' with which we might cut across patterns is the essence of humour and is provided in deliberate creative thinking by the actual techniques of lateral thinking, such as provocation.

The significance of humour is precisely that it indicates pattern-forming, pattern asymmetry and pattern-switching. Creativity and lateral thinking have exactly the same basis as humour.

An excellent resource center for humour is The Humour Project in New York. They conduct workshops and conferences, and publish a magazine "Laughing Matters". An online store is also available.

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Last updated: 28th February 2000