How Humor Builds Empathy

Scott Aukerman, co-founder of "Between Two Ferns," defaulted to comedy to disarm bullies early in life. He thinks humor is key to fostering empathy and genuine interactions.

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Humor begets more than LOLs—Scott Aukerman, creator of the podcast Comedy Bang Bang! talks to BigThink about how it’s a life skill that can help us navigate uncertain social waters and garner more authentic interactions.

3 Ways Humor is a Skill that Builds Empathy

1) Humor disarms. Aukerman says some of the most powerful people throughout history brag and make fun of people—it’s an easy and popular way to get laughs, but it doesn’t invite empathy.

The kind of humor Aukerman talks about is the polar opposite—you are not taking yourself very seriously, you’re actually being self-deprecating at times, which has power in itself. Aukerman once “joked” his way out of getting mugged: after 20 minutes, the guy gave up, saying he was “too nice.”

2) When you let go of the outcome being in your favor, it releases tension. In other words, when you’re not holding tightly to your expectations or whether you’re going to come out on top, it changes what might have been a typical interaction. Aukerman mentions a story from high school where a “big dude” didn’t like him (“it was just one of those things where he had found someone…