"Seek out humor.... Just like anything else in life, the more you expose yourself to something the more you will understand it and the more competent you will be in the execution of it." -- Kristin Arnold, Boring to Bravo
I was on a nature walk led by a botanist who explained that while she knew a lot about plants she knew very little about identifying birds. She said, "If you hear a bird and you know its name, call it out."
About twenty seconds later we heard a bird, and I said, "That's George." That got a big laugh from the group. I was able to get that laugh because I frequently try to think of jokes. Most of them I don't say because the timing isn't right. My grandchildren probably think I say them too often. (My wife often explains to them, "Grandpa thinks he is funny.") I knew that the timing for this particular joke was right because the opportunity for the punchline came immediately after the set up. I knew if somebody had said something else after the leader's instruction or if more time had passed the joke wouldn't have worked because people would have had to work too hard to connect the set up and punchline. I understood that because I have purposely immersed myself in comedy. You can too.
Don't limit yourself to just one kind of humor. Read comic strips. Listen to old time radio comedies that relied upon the spoken word. Watch silent comedies that relied almost entirely on physical comedy. Watch TV sitcoms. Go to movie theaters where you can hear how other audience members respond to the comedy. Read novels that contain comedy. Watch stand up comedians, either in person or on TV. Read the annual Reader's Digest issue devoted to humor. Read joke books. Look for humor around you, for example, when I sat in an airplane exit row and noticed a sign on the seat back in front of me that said, "If you can not read or understand English notify the flight attendant." (The sign was in English only without any translation.)
Experiencing humor in a variety of forms will provide you with an abundance of ideas to inspire you. However, don't stop there. Analyze and study humor. Ask yourself why something made you laugh? What made the execution of it successful? If you didn't laugh, why did it fail for you? Read books on writing comedy like Gene Perret's The New Comedy Writing Step by Step. Read critical reviews of a comedians work like Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy by William Cahn. Read biographies or autobiographies of comedians, cartoonists, and other entertainers. Read anniversary compilations of comic strips, for example, For Better of For Worse: The 10th Anniversary Collection by Lynn Johnston, because they often contain information on how the strip is created. If a DVD has a commentary or other bonus features, be sure to check them out.
The same thing works with other aspects of your personal life and entertainment career. Would you like to be more creative? Expose yourself to creativity. Read books about creativity. Go to environments that are known to be creative. For example, one of the Disney theme parks or a theme restaurant like the Rainforest Café. Read about how they were created. The Disney Company has published a wonderful series of books on the creation of their parks. See movies known for their creativity and analyze how they were done. For example, when I saw "Pirates of the Carribean Strange Tides" I recognized how they had taken inspiration from the original amusement park ride, and from the films "Splash" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". Read books about how your favorite films were made. Go to museum exhibits not just to learn about the subject, but also pay attention to how the exhibit was created. Go to craft or art shows to experience how others have been creative. Read biographies of scientists, inventors, artists, authors, entertainers, and other people known for their creativity. Gradually your understanding of the creative process will grow and you will be able to use it more competently.
What would you like to understand better? How can you expose yourself to it?