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Live to laugh; unpacking the Humorist

Forgive me world for all my little jokes, and I'll forgive you for this great, big one. This statement based on a line from the work of Robert Frost sums up the spirit of the Humorist. The light-hearted wisdom and the infectious joy of the Humorist make it one of the most popular archetypes loved by all.

In this short report, we cover:

Understanding the Humorist

Humour as an aesthetic quality

Humorists will tell you that everything is perspective. In their shape-shifting genius for using the moment, Humorists can flip even the most terrifying truths into angles so absurd that you take them in effortlessly, often while laughing. Infectious and beloved, Humorists bring joy to the downhearted, colour this world fun, and puncture rigidity with unabashed playfulness. They simplify and lighten things up, changing perspectives with remarkable dexterity, cunning, and cleverness.

The Humorist is the personality archetype that builds connections through fun, laughter and joy. Humorists can be both chaotic and helpful, blurring the lines between good and bad; in fact, boundary-crossing is very much in their comfort zone. The Humorist operates within a spectrum going from cheerful, joyous, funny, mischievous and irreverent, to downright obnoxious. 

Although known as the fool, the jester, the trickster, clown, prankster, and through many other names, we call this archetype ‘the Humorist’ to avoid biases. The Humorist is at the base of brands and characters that build connections through laughter, joy, and play. Humorists can break down walls between people even in the most tense situations. It’s one of the most universal archetypes, appearing in stories, fairytales, folklore, and fables belonging to all cultures in the world. Famous examples include Loki from Norse mythology, Krishna from Hindu stories, Kitsunē from the far east, coyote from indigenous American culture and the jackal from South Asian folklore.

“He [the Humorist] is a forerunner of the saviour, and, like him, God, man, and animal at once. He is both subhuman and superhuman, a bestial and divine being, whose chief and most alarming characteristic is his unconsciousness… He is so unconscious of himself that his body is not a unity, and his two hands fight each other.” — Carl Jung, C.W. Vol. 9.1: On The Psychology of the Trickster Figure

We discovered the Humorist archetype from the twelve human personality archetypes derived from the works of Carl Jung. Jung's theory of archetypes is a concept from his analytical psychology that suggests that there are universal, innate, and symbolic patterns or themes in the collective unconscious of humanity. These archetypes are fundamental elements that shape human experiences, behaviors, and emotions, and they often appear in myths, dreams, and cultural narratives. When it comes to branding, Jung's theory of archetypes can be applied to create consistent brand identities that connect with audiences at an emotional level; they’re particularly useful to build storytelling frameworks. We help businesses that want to connect with their audience through a sense of humor, laughter and good cheer to incorporate the Humorist archetype into their stories.

The core of the Humorist

The Humorist is the personality archetype characterized by fun. It also has traits such as cleverness, mischievousness, unpredictability, and a tendency to challenge what’s considered sensible and civil. They often use humor, wit, and cunning to outsmart others and navigate difficult situations. 

In society, Humorists also hold an important revelatory function. Consider the universal role of the court jester—a cultural figure who, both in the East and the Wester, had the sacred and dangerous role of voicing to the monarch what others could not. Humorists have a knack for playing between what is and what ought to be and subverting established interpretations. 

Humorist identities build strong associations with humor, play, fun, and happiness. When it comes to brand storytelling, these associations become important considerations to decide how a brand may want to connect with their audience.

For all our superior intelligence, reason, science and logical methodology, there comes a point where those bridges no longer continue; where the unexplored viewpoints lie beyond our sensibilities. This is the domain of the Humorist.

Humorist brand stories

Stories for Humorist brands can, obviously, be funny. Making their audiences chuckle, these stories carry the infectious energy of Humorists, making them highly shareable and engaging. But, those are not the only kind of stories that are appropriate for Humorist brands. This archetype is known for its ability to be in the moment, keep their minds free of worries and stay light. Stories that capture this mindset suit Humorist brands really well, and are particularly useful for businesses that may want to maintain a degree of seriousness; the wisdom of the Humorist, of being mindful and in the moment,  can help lift audience moods and establish a meaningful connection. Stories that channel happiness and induce simple joy are also typical of Humorist brands.

We think the type of humor appropriate for a brand should weigh on several factors; like its values and the other key brand archetypes. For example, a brand with a Humorist-Sage archetype pairing may lend to stories that bring in wit and language manipulation with clever wordplay, puns, and linguistic twists that highlight the intellect, sharp thinking and tact. 

A Humorist-Rebel archetype pairing in a brand will do well with stories that bring in satire and social commentary that basically adds fuel to the fire with both archetypes’ tendency to criticize and mock societal norms, behaviors, and authority in general; these kinds of stories can even take more serious tones despite the humor, if they are designed to provoke thought and encourage change. The Humorist-Creator archetype pairings effortlessly lead to stories that highlight both archetypes’ ingenuity; sarcasm and irony that reveal the disparity between the words spoken and the intended meaning. Absurd, surreal, bizarre or nonsensical situations challenging conventional logic and reality are true to the Humorist-Magician pairing, building whimsical joy and wonder in the audience. Remember, these are not hard-and-fast rules, but patterns and norms we’ve observed in our experience with brand identities and stories; each brand needs to be considered in its own right and context.

In our work, we’ve had to apply the Humorist archetype to completely different brands from furniture retailers to restaurants, and yoga gurus to artists. We’ve found that the Humorist archetype lends to brand identities that are quirky and fun, as well as those that come across as wise or joyous. 

Humor as an aesthetic quality; the hāsyam rasa

We have to make a special note about brands without a Humorist archetype adopting a sense of humor in its stories. As part of the universal human spectrum of emotions, humor is accessible to all types of personas. However, it needs careful consideration and we recommend all brands consider their values and key traits of the identity before they jump on the next trend of funny videos. If you’re bringing humor in as a tactic to build engagement with your story, we find it's particularly important to consider the audience's preferences and cultural context. This will help you decide what kind of humor your story should incorporate. For example, making fun of yourself lends to creating a quirky and endearing connection with the audience, while finding humor in the mundane aspects of life usually adds to building shared experiences and relatability. 

Consider your brand carefully before incorporating humor into your stories. Wondering whether your brand’s humor should be dark or induce amusement through the second-hand embarrassment of cringe? Start by asking why you want to use humour in the first place. If the answer is for engagement or that funny trend that seems to get more views, make decisions considering your audience and their culture. If the answer is that you think your brand may actually be a Humorist and humour should become a dominant aspect of your storytelling, it’s probably time to unpack this with a Brand Articulation Framework.

Humor is a great connector and a leveller. This definitely makes it a fantastic way to link with your audience. For brands, being funny is worth consideration in all seriousness.


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