Rude birthday cards and toilet humour

Rude birthday cards and toilet humour

What and why is it?

Although toilet humour is often considered the lowest form of wit it exists in almost every form of comedy and is loved by millions.

For some reason, although so many adult people clearly love jokes about poo and farts, so many don’t like to admit it. 

Maybe the reason is that it just is funny, fact.

In this article, I’d like to explore this a little further.

So many of us love to give or receive a birthday card with some reference to poo on it, but why is that?  Let’s see if we can work it out.

I think the answer to this relates to two separate things combined.  First, it relates to bodily functions, most of which are so close to us, they’re something that we do and think about every single day.  The other reason is that it’s usually considered inappropriate for public discussion.

These two things together make it a very special thing; it evokes a feeling of awkwardness and tension but also the freedom to release some of the deep internal thoughts and feelings that we’re not normally allowed to express.

Can you think of anything else that is so often in our minds but is rarely discussed, apart from sex?  Sex is another subject that certainly overlaps all things poo-related, but we’ll cover that in another article.

This also relates to our evolution as a species which I’ve covered in this short discussion on rude birthday cards and why we like to give them.


Psychological Appeal

From a psychological point of view, there are two reasons why toilet humour works so well, especially on birthday cards.

The first one relates to something called ‘relief theory’, a concept in psychology that humour arises from the release of psychological tension.

Bodily functions are subject to strict societal norms and personal embarrassment, creating an inherent tension. When humour allows us to talk about these functions, it releases the built-up psychological tension, resulting in laughter.

Additionally, the superiority theory of humor suggests we find amusement in the misfortunes or embarrassing moments of others, offering a sense of superiority over those depicted in the joke.

Toilet humor often involves scenarios that are universally relatable yet undignified, allowing individuals to feel a sense of elevation above the subjects of the humor.


Poo, wee and kids

Toilet humor is discovered by most of us as kids and the least fortune of us forget this as we get older.  It’s a shame but it happens.

Sigmund Freud suggested that children go through an anal stage of development, where they a lot to giggle about from poo, wee and farts.

This stage lays the groundwork for toilet humor's appeal, embedding a deep-seated fascination and amusement with bodily functions from a young age.  As children, the first rebellious jokes often centre around toilet humor, serving as a form of resistance against adult norms and the constraints of politeness.


Cultural Significance

Across cultures, toilet humor serves as a means of subverting social norms and challenging taboos. It acts as a leveller, reminding us of our shared humanity and biological functions, regardless of social status or sophistication.

In many societies, festivals and rituals incorporate elements of toilet humor, using it as a means to invert the usual social order and celebrate commonality.

Historically, toilet humor has been employed by writers and artists to critique authority and social pretensions. From Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" to Shakespeare's bawdy jokes and the scatological humor found in modern cartoons and comedies, the theme persists as a powerful tool for satire and social commentary.


Mechanisms of Humor

Toilet humor often relies on the element of surprise and the violation of expectations. The incongruity theory of humor suggests that we find something funny when it juxtaposes incongruous ideas or situations in a context that signals it's safe to laugh. The sudden mention of a taboo topic in a benign context creates a cognitive dissonance that is resolved through laughter.

Moreover, the benign violation theory suggests that humor arises when something seems wrong or unsettling within a safe context, allowing us to enjoy the violation without feeling threatened. Toilet humor thrives in this space, presenting socially unacceptable topics in a manner that's recognized as intended for humor, thus permissible.


Why It's So Funny

Toilet humor's effectiveness lies in its universality and relatability. Every human being has intimate knowledge of the bodily functions it describes, making it a common denominator among diverse audiences. Its capacity to evoke a visceral reaction, combined with the tension and release of discussing societal taboos, primes it as an effective form of comedy. It bridges gaps, connecting people through the most basic aspects of human nature, while also serving as a vehicle for exploring deeper themes of vulnerability, equality, and the human condition.

Despite its often crude presentation, toilet humor has a sophisticated underbelly. It challenges us to confront our discomforts and societal norms, offering a unique lens through which to examine human psychology, social dynamics, and cultural taboos. Its simplicity belies its depth, making toilet humor not just a form of entertainment, but a significant aspect of human culture and communication.

In conclusion, toilet humor's appeal is multifaceted, rooted in psychological release, developmental experiences, cultural traditions, and the mechanisms of humor itself. It remains a potent form of comedy because it touches on the elemental aspects of human life, serving as a reminder of our shared experiences, vulnerabilities, and the inherent absurdity of taking ourselves too seriously. Through its ability to make us laugh at the uncomfortable, toilet humor not only entertains but also connects us, proving that even the lowest form of wit can have high value in the human experience.


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