Please allow me to introduce Cliche Kitty:
The kitty says, "Mew!"
Cliche Kitty will be my co-host this evening as I define three different types of humor, all of which are fashionable among users of the Internet. All three attempt to take some easily noticeable attribute of the target as the basis for humor. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between them. That is what this handy guide is for.
As should be obvious, Cliche Kitty is cute. To illustrate the differences between the three types of humor, I will provide examples of each, applied to the "cute" of the Cliche Kitty genre.
Satire is the process of taking some attribute of a target and building a joke off of that foundation. It is a creative process, with its value proportional to the cleverness of its construction. The Cliche Kitty office inspirational poster to the left is one example. So is an elaboration of the idea of a Usenet poster with habitually poor grammar authoring the "onlien guyd to best writeing stile!!1!!1!"
As such, satire is always about synthesis. The author must have good knowledge of his target, and the highlights of the satire are often those drawn from the deeper details of the attribute in question. (The poster is funny because it accurately mimics an inspirational poster, right down to the flavor quote; and because the quote refers to doing physical harm to cute things, which one recognizes as the natural impulse of Internetters when confronted with cuteness.) The satire may also extrapolate from that attribute -- deriving humor from absurdity ("Cliche Kitty is so cute it makes people's heads explode!") or from dissonance ("Cliche Kitty is really cute, but it wanders around home on weekends unshaven, scruffy, and in its underwear").
Sometimes, satire is imitative -- the author attempts to speak or behave as the target would. A satirist attempts to derive humor from the accuracy of their imitation and of their ability to extrapolate. Again, this requires an excellent understanding of how the target actually operates, and a sort of reverence (or at least empathy) for the person who made it all possible.
Good satire is accessible to both those familiar with the target and those who aren't, because it both builds on a deep knowledge of the target and relies on original material for humor. It often takes considerable effort on its author's part, but rewards its readers richly.
Cliche Kitty enjoys this type of humor. Cliche Kitty says, "Even when I am the target of satire I cannot help but laugh at its cleverness. It invites me to apprehend my own foibles and move beyond them. Or at least it would if I had any. Mew!"
aka Taking Them Down A Peg
Mockery is the process of taking an attribute of the target and distorting or exaggerating it for comedic effect. Its value is determined not by its cleverness but by its absurdity, and mockery actually encourages a lack of effort, because (unlike satire) poor mockeries of something humorous to begin with are as funny as good mockeries of something bland. The Cliche Kitty graffiti to the left is one example. So is a letter imitating a Usenet poster with habitually poor grammar, written in a style "|
so 31337 45 +0 83 \//\/r34d4813".
As such, mockery is always about belittlement. The author doesn't need to know any more about his target than it takes to crack a joke about it. Further effort, if present, doesn't go into improving the quality of the humor, but rather finding (or making up!) attributes of the target that portray them in a worse and worse light. (The graffiti is ostensibly funny because it produces the impression that cuteness is linked to mental deficiency, and thus those of us who aren't identified as "cute" are superior to those who are.) If mockery is imitative (as it usually is), it derives its humor from how unappealing it can make the target look.
Mockery, by its nature, can't be accessible, so instead it is dismissive. Since comprehension of the target generally ruins the joke, a mocker will usually attempt to frame the target in a black-and-white scenario of "He's got this attribute, and we don't," discouraging further interaction between target and audience, because they have (in their own minds) shown him to be unworthy of further notice. Since this backfires whenever the target has the resources to outspeak the mocker, mockers sometimes run in packs, and usually attack targets they percieve as marginalized.
It is not unheard of for mockery to be made primarily to provoke the target; after all, if they can be made to react in such a way as to validate the distorted image of them, the perceived quality of the mockery will improve through being more plausible. It perhaps says something about mockery's low quality that the most memorable part of a great many mockings is the target's reaction upon learning about it.
Cliche Kitty doesn't understand this type of humor. Cliche Kitty says, "When people mock me, they close any possibility of a productive dialogue that might fix the problem they are ostensibly attacking; and by relying merely on belittlement, they won't even entertain audiences other than those who already agree with them. Mew."
aka Pointing and Laughing
Name-calling is the process of identifying someone as inferior
due to their possession of a certain attribute, and proceeding to
label them inferior as forcefully and broadly as
possible in order to strengthen that impression. It's like mockery,
except skipping the step of trying to find something to mock the target
about. Ironically, by freeing the insults from the constraints of the
given attribute, name-calling again has its value tied to the innovation
with which the insults are constructed. The Cliche Kitty labelling to the
left is one example, as is that of telling a Usenet poster with habitually
poor grammar that he is "a clueless moron, unfit to soil the pant legs or
befoul the shoes of even alt.teenagers.who.speak.l33t".
Humor is generally a secondary concern in such activities; even
belittlement is sometimes secondary to the sheer need of the author
to get his pent-up feelings out of his system. (In such cases, this is
called "flaming," and is not covered here.) Of course, there are
some sad cases of failed human beings out there who can't even work
up the energy to mock a target, and instead think they're being creative
by coming up with a choice string of epithets. The problem is that, since
this name-calling is completely generic, after the second time in
your life that you do this, you've basically exhausted the possibilities,
and you're just displaying to the world that you have nothing to say.
Technically, the Cliche Kitty label is supposed to be funny
because homosexuals are allegedly inferior, and thus labelling Cliche
Kitty a homosexual must be true since Cliche Kitty is already known to be
inferior, and so one can make the charge stick (even though it might not
be literally true), and that process is enjoyable. Or something. The
fact that there's no definable logic behind it any deeper than "the target
already sucks, so it must be true" is a pretty good indication of how sad
Cliche Kitty engages in this type of humor. This is why the pathetic
f--kwit should be shot through the head and publically defenestrated.
Cliche Kitty says, "F--k you too, a--hole. I know
where you sleep, and cat sh-t takes weeks to wash out of sheets.
Mew-wa ha ha ha!"
Laugh at name-callers. Pity the mockers. Write lots of satire.
Satire is spiffy.
Thank you, and good night.