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Funny Business: reading informational text; This Is Your Brain on Comedy 8

CCSSELA: RI.8.2, RI.8.4, RI.8.8


Read the passage.

This is Your Brain on Comedy

Two muffins are sitting in the oven. One says, “Is it getting hot in here to you?” The other answers, “Woah, a talking muffin.”
  1. Whether that particular joke made you laugh or not, a sense of humor might have more to do with intelligence than you might expect. In order to write a joke or a funny story, you have to be able to examine your brain’s expectations, and find ways to creatively thwart the predictions your mind naturally creates. Comedians and clowns use our brain’s tendency to anticipate answers and find patterns in order to get the all-important laugh.
A guy walks into a bar, and says “ouch.”
  1. Consider the father of comedy in film, Charlie Chaplin. The silent movie star of the early twentieth century was famous for a type of comedy called slapstick. Slapstick is basically the technical term for watching people hurt themselves in funny ways. If you’ve ever watched a YouTube compilation of people falling into pools or cats falling off of anything, you’re familiar with slapstick. Chaplin was a pioneer of the genre—falling, slipping, and sprawling through his movies and into fame.
How many of those guys from our rival school does it take to change a lightbulb? Four: one to hold the lightbulb and three to turn his legs!
  1. Buffoon comedy is based on our natural desire to accomplish tasks in the most logical, easy way possible. Buffoons find convoluted solutions to simple problems, or take instructions and suggestions too literally. A scene in the TV show The Office, in which doofus boss Michael Scott drives his car into a lake because his GPS tells him to, is a great example of buffoonery.
Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg . . .
  1. Parodies are another type of comedy, often relying on popular culture for laughs. Parody could be a jokey remake of a classic movie, a song with altered lyrics, or an impression of your math teacher performed in the cafeteria. These jokes rely on exaggerating the characteristics of a well-known person, place, or event. Saturday Night Live’s comedy sketches often portray political figures in parodies. Sometimes, they’ve influenced actual elections! Infotainment news sources and stars, like The Onion, John Oliver, and Trevor Noah rely on parody.
What’s the deal with airline food these days?
  1. Most comics make a living from anecdotes: short, personal stories told to entertain an audience. Anecdotes take the events that happen in our everyday lives—an encounter at a store, an embarrassing mistake, a special occasion gone wrong—and turn them into comedy gold. If you’ve ever made friends laugh by telling a story about what happened over the weekend, you might be preparing for a career in anecdotal comedy.
  2. Creating a funny anecdote or witty story takes intelligence; there’s even some evidence that enjoying a good joke or a funny movie might actually make you smarter! A study found that students remembered more information from a statistics lecture if the professor included jokes. In another study, neuroscientist Karuna Subramaniam showed volunteers movies from different genres before asking them to complete a word puzzle to test creativity. He also used an MRI to measure activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that controls attention and problem solving. Participants who watched a comedy movie did better on the word puzzles and had higher function in this part of the brain than those who watched horror movies or academic lectures.
  3. So what can we take away from all this research? Jokes make us laugh, but they’re anything but frivolous. A good joke relies on a deep understanding of the human brain, and has the power to boost the audience’s creativity, attention, and mental flexibility. Next time your teacher accuses you of being a class clown, remind them of Subramaniam’s findings, and point out that you might be helping your class retain information. Or not—you do you.
This list shows some important ideas that should be included in a summary of the text, as well as some less important details that don’t belong in a summary.
Select whether each statement should be included in a summary of the text or not.
Include in a summary
Don’t include in a summary
Jokes often depend on tapping into the brain’s predictions and associations.
Michael Scott, a character in the show The Office, is an example of a buffoon.
Slapstick and parody are both types of comedy, and Charlie Chaplin is famous for one of them.
Some studies suggest that comedy may improve brain power.
There are many different types of comedy.