A psychological deconstruction of masturbation jokes

You also have to be able to explain why the very same thing that some people find funny, other people find boring, and yet other people find offensive. The third puzzle is you have to explain a wide array of things that can be funny. You have to be able to explain why physical comedy is funny and why puns are funny — at least to some people. Prior to the benign violation theory, most scholars used kind of a menu approach. They had one theory for one type of comedy and another theory for another type of comedy. We don’t have multiple theories for fear, one for snakes and another for public speaking.

The short answer is that people are amused by things that are wrong, yet okay; things that are threatening, yet safe; things that don’t make sense, yet make sense. So there’s some underlying notion that the situation violates the way the world ought to be, yet from another perspective it’s acceptable or safe or okay — this violation is benign. What the theory does is take into account the various ways the world can be wrong. So you can violate language norms with puns and wordplay, you can be physically threatening with tickling, and so on.