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How and why does self deprecation work

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We all know what self deprecation is. The idea is that a joke you tell is at the expense of yourself. If you call yourself stupid, that’s not a joke that’s just you being honest. There’s been a certain resurgence in films and television as of late in regard to self deprecation. That’s great news! But what actually is self deprecation and where can you find it?

It’s a very simple concept that I wanted to look into much further than others have. No, it’s not where you insult other people, that’s called an insult. Self deprecation is something you’ll have seen and heard almost daily, but never put any thought into. That’s the point of this article. Why does self deprecation work? It’s very simple really, you can find out more below.

What exactly is it

The definition of self deprecation is as follows. It’s not as detailed or lengthy as I would have expected it to be if I’m honest.

“Modesty about or criticism of oneself”

That’s quite simple isn’t it? If you call yourself a moron, that’s self deprecation, also a good criticism of yourself you moron. That is what self deprecation is in the most basic form possible. Obviously there are a lot of examples of where this can be utilised, that’s what the rest of this article is for. But regardless of that, the main point for self deprecation is for a cheap laugh.

For some reason, while self deprecation is a good form of comedy that can get laughs out of anyone, it is also extremely overused. I think one of the best self deprecating jokes I’ve seen is the one below.

“I haven’t showered since 2016 and haven’t been happy since 2006.”

Now that was a tweet, someone who isn’t a comedian came up with that. See, it’s very easy to make fun of yourself and with the added benefit of making people laugh, you can see why people are eager to do it. I don’t do it, mainly because I make fun of others instead. That’s a lot easier for me. Don’t call yourself an arsehole, call someone else an arsehole. It’s not funny for the other person, but I’m out to make myself laugh. Arsehole.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Arguably the best example of self deprecation in any film or television programme ever is Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000 – Ongoing). Larry David plays himself and he gets into some pretty hairy situations. I’ve been watching this series as fast as possible, currently rounding off series six. That’s not the point though, give any episode of this show a watch and you’ll see what self deprecation is.

Both the real life and fictional Larry David aren’t afraid of making fun of themselves. I mean, considering Larry David writes the show and stars as himself, he must understand the concept of self deprecation, right? So because his show is all about making fun of himself, what can we learn? Well, we can learn a surprising amount from the hilarity of Larry David’s life.

Well for whatever reason, this show can really make you feel bad for David. Most of the time it’s not even his fault that he’s in the position he’s in. But from here it only gets worse and worse, you can’t help but feel bad for the guy. So one of the feelings we may be supposed to be feel is a mixture of hilarity and sadness. That’s a fairly difficult mix to make, but somehow it works very well.

Stand up comedy

Some comedians rely on self deprecation to connect with an audience

It will come as no surprise to know that self deprecation can appear frequently in stand up comedy. One of the main reasons for it is that it’s a way of connecting with the audience. The other reason is that self deprecation is plain funny. A joke can go one of two ways. Either it can be to make fun of someone, or someone else. That’s basically what a joke is in it’s simplest form.

So when a joke is about yourself, how do you deliver it? My type of comedian probably isn’t one that you yourself would enjoy watching. Frankie Boyle and Jim Jefferies are two of the funniest people around. Peter Kay? Michael McIntyre? Piss off, go watch some real comedy you dopey twat.

Anyways that’s not the point, self deprecation is a staple of the stand up genre. It’s very easy to deliver as Frankie Boyle is often accustomed to doing. If you think about it, everyone does it, not just comedians. It’s the easiest form of comedy out there. You don’t need to write anything or think of a joke, just say your teeth are big and away you go. Obviously there has to be an ounce of truth behind the self deprecation, but most of the time it’ll work.

Conclusion

In essence, self deprecation is very funny. It just depends on the cirumstances of everything really. You can’t keep calling yourself a tosser because then people will believe you are actually a tosser. That’s what the past few examples do well. They’re more than happy to make fun of themselves, however they know when to limit it too.

Curb Your Enthusiasm wouldn’t have worked if the shtick of the show is just self deprecation. As a form of comedy, self deprecation is very low rung because of how easy it can be. It’s really just a cheap laugh that you can get from almost anyone at any time. To be able to use self deprecation effectively you do actually have to use other forms of comedy. Relying on one set piece over and over is never going to work. Well, it did for The Big Bang Theory (Beginning of Time – Forever) and that is still somehow running.

The point remains though, self deprecation is a cheap laugh. That doesn’t mean it’s not funny though, because it genuinely is. You have to be really boring to mess up self deprecation. Honestly I’m convinced it’s not possible to mess up something so simple.