Would aliens have a sense of humor?

I realize that this question is likely ridiculous, vague, and not able to be answered with anything but wild speculation, or a PhD thesis, which is why I put it here. Mods, feel free to move it.

I guess my question is: how likely /necessary is it for other intelligent, sentient beings, capable of consciousness and abstract thinking to develop something like humor? Does having a sense of humor fill some vital role? Is it a it necessary and unavoidable byproduct of the way most human brains are set up? Is having a sense of humor required in order for the brain to work properly?

They ( scientists? Or do they?) say that dolphins and chimps are self aware, and they seem to have a sense of humor. I guess that could just be projecting, I don’t really know what or how they think
I realize that there seem to be some people without any sense of humor ( this is a perfect setup, somebody better take it) do their brains function normally otherwise?

If we were to come into contact with an intelligent race of aliens, would it be likely that they have a sense of humor just by virtue of them being intelligent and having abstract thought? Or do you think it was just a one- off, freak accident with us, a curious by -product that we could have developed without, without any real loss of brain function?

I apologize if this question makes no sense, is stupid, or has been asked before.

Yes, your screams of agony would be as knock-knock jokes to them.

It’s an interesting question. Not one that we can answer at this point, obviously, but it’s something people have put some thought into. In David Brin’s Uplift Universe series of sci-fi novels, humans are the only species in the galaxy to have a sense of humor - we’re also the only advanced technological species to develop entirely on our own. All the other species were genetically modified (“Uplifted”) by another species, who were themselves Uplifted by someone else, going back until before recorded galactic history. It’s a matter of debate within the book whether humor is just a random quirk of an unguided evolution, or a necessary component of spontaneous sentience.

Of course they would. But you might be offended by some of the human jokes they tell.

If they do, they are laughing at our species, not with it.

To get down to the basics, humor is how humans process something unexpected happening. We have decided that we like the way that experience feels, so we go out of our way to produce safe situations that recreate it.

Now, to be able to have expectations is pretty basic to intelligence, so I would think that something analogous to our sense of humor would be likely. That said, there’s absolutely no indication that their process for dealing with the unexpected would be anything that would equate to what we think of as humor. Aliens may hate that feeling, or think of it as something akin to feeling your stomach rumble, or even possibly have weird cultural hangups surrounding that experience. Who knows?

Furthermore, even if by some remote chance it WAS socially and emotionally similar to what we think of as humor, think about the wide variety of what people find funny. With that in mind, I don’t think there’s much of a chance that we would find that we would “get” an alien’s sense of humor, and an equally slim chance that they would understand ours.

It’s a pretty complex mental process going on, and I don’t know that it’s really teachable. Think about how it spoils a joke or story to explain why it’s funny, or how kids at a certain age go just nuts over puns and knock-knock jokes - they’re finally* getting *them, and it’s hysterical to them in a way that it wasn’t a year or so ago before their brains matured enough.

As I recall, apes at least appear to have a limited sense of humor. There are in fact at least two “senses of humor”, centered in two separate brain areas; apes have only the “lower” sense of humor that concerns itself with things like slapstick.

Andy Kaufman.

Humor appears to be a by-product of specific neural quirks of the human brain. An apparently dangerous situation triggers a threat response via an evolutionarily older hard-wired neural path, and that threat response is then interrupted by a contradictory response from our evolutionarily newer (and slower) higher brain functions. Furthermore, the “danger” perceived by our “lizard brain” is often tied to specific human social behaviors – moments when social hierarchies or relationships are disrupted.

It’s unlikely that an alien intelligence would evolve exactly the same fast-path/slow-path aborted threat response that we have. And even if they did, their instinctive threat detection hardware would probably be triggered by very different stimuli.

I worked with two captive research dolphins, 1980-1984. They definitely have a sense of humor, and seem to think it’s fun to tease the humans.

Humor is the subversion of expectation. Any species capable of being surprised has the foundation for humor. Whether they have hangups about it or not is a matter of their sociology, not their biology.

I would suggest that humor requires a few things. Creativity to create it and appreciate it. An ability to observe the world around you. An understanding of logic and therefore an ability to note when things are not logical. An ability to make complex connections between at first glance unrelated things. An ability to make intuitive jumps. And in general a high level of intelligence to put some or all of these things together depending on the scenario to create or get it.

It seem to me all those things are pretty much required to advance technologically. And if you have all or most of them then you probably have humor. Now perhaps once a species reaches their technological peak or perhaps even all that the universe allows they might stagnate and loose some of those abilities and therefore loose the ability of humor.

So, I am going with the greys probably have some sense of humor. I am not saying they would all have humor, but having given it just a few minutes thought I would be a bit surprised to find that humor was rather rare in advanced species.

Ooo. I like that second phrasing of it. Because it (often) is not only the awareness that the pattern (the expectation) has been broken, but that what has occurred fits another pattern better. A mental reorientation, a high level cognitive version of those figure-ground (is it the old lady or the young lady? a vase or two faces?) perceptual flips. And making the potential anxiety or discomfort that such creates functional. Of course humor also is a means of dealing with that which makes us anxious.

Would an alien intelligence comparable or greater than ours also be a pattern identifier and have a means of reorienting to a better fit? Likely. Would it experience such as humor? Maybe, maybe not. And what would be the patterns it expects and what would it be anxious about?

Meanwhile Heinlein at least though humans were special in this strange way.

These aliens yukked it up.

Laughter is a catharsis brought on either by the diversion of fear into safety or an unexpected outcome (or as an involuntary response to tickling). A species of sufficiently high intelligence (like, say, the intelligence required to develop sustainable intergalactic travel) would cease to be afraid of things, would anticipate all outcomes so that many are unlikely but none are totally unexpected, and wouldn’t need catharsis. Although not provable at all, my speculation is that humor would be a phase that a species is likely to outgrow once their intelligence is high enough. Once you know everything, you cease to be surprised by anything… kinda like Vulcans.

Maybe they’d still be ticklish, although if I were a member of a vastly intelligent species I would work to eradicate ticklishness. Not because laughter is bad, but because being tickled usually sucks ass–the laughter is involuntary, and being tickled is a very unpleasant sensation for many people.

Noted that you only said ‘kinda like…’, but the Vulcans understand humour, they just choose not to be amused by it - and (apart from being generally a bit implausible, IMO), come across as ploddingly stupid when they don’t get a joke.

A being could be highly knowledgable and intelligent, and still be surprised by artificially-constructed conflict of information - which is a major part of what makes humour work. I don’t see why any being ever would advance to the state where it not only knows everything about everything that is, but also has pondered every possible combination of things that are not.

A man walks into a bar and says…

Oh fuck! my eye!
It was an iron bar.

OK, it’s an old, crap joke, but I think it’s more likely that aliens would be humourless just because they don’t get it, or react with genuine, earnest confusion than that they could be so very smart as to be undeceivable.