Comedy in Our Culture

Comedy in Our Culture

By Chanon Cook of Comedy Central

Editor’s Note:  The following article was discovered in Kevin Hackenberg’s book, CHRISTIAN MOVIES ARE FUNNY, BUT SHOULDN’T IT BE ON PURPOSE. Kevin Hackenberg, of Funny&Amen, is a producer, director and writer with 25 years’ experience in the entertainment industry who believes the genre of comedy will reach millennials, men and the mainstream audience.  Kevin studied with Ted Baehr at the “How to Succeed in Hollywood” class shortly after he was “born again, again” during a comedic communication from God.   FunnyAndAmen.com. This article is used by permission.

In order to better understand Millennials’ unique relationship with comedy, Comedy Central conducted a study that explored the Millennial humor experience through the eyes of young males. Based on the findings, the network coined this group “Comedy Natives” – so-dubbed not only because humor is their #1 passion point, but because they have the tools to participate in their entertainment experience unlike never before. For this generation, humor plays a critical role across many facets of their lives – from self-identity to friendships to social change.

Key Findings

Comedy is the ultimate form of self-expression.

Millennials were not raised to be ‘seen not heard,’ but rather they were taught that their thoughts and opinions are truly valued. Young people today continue to hold on to this belief as they enter adulthood as a confident and empowered generation, and they see comedy as the best conduit for expressing their unique brand of Awesomeness.

  • Humor– over music, gaming or sports – is this group’s #1 form of self-expression.
  • Humor plays a critical role in self-identity: 9 in 10 guys say their sense of humor is instrumental in defining their personality.
  • You Are What You Post: They express their sense of humor through social media avenues, choosing what to post on Facebook and YouTube not just because it’s funny, but more importantly, because it says something about who they are.

Comedy is the ultimate pathway to cool.

Twenty years ago, young people dreamed of becoming rock stars, but today, they dream of becoming comedians. Given the chance to be stuck in an elevator with someone, the majority of guys (62%) want to be stranded with their favorite comedian (versus 15% with their favorite athlete or 23% with their favorite musician).

  • 74% of Millennial males believe that “funny people are more popular.”
  • 63% cite “being funny” as a top attribute for defining the “ideal man.”
  • Millennial guys believe girls are attracted to a sense of humor.
  • 58% have posted a funny video or comment on Facebook in hopes of getting noticed by someone they want to date.
  • 1 in 4 who made a comedy clip did so to impress a crush.
  • 53% believe that humor helps them identify what they value in someone they want to date.
  • Comedy Natives are active in creating their own comedy experience: 4 in 10 have made online videos – more than twice the levels of Gen Xers.

Comedy is the ultimate connector.

Comedy helps this generation do what they do best: connect. As they seek ways to connect, share and become (real or virtual) “friends” with others, comedy serves as the ultimate icebreaker. In fact, male Millennials agree that a shared sense of humor is a key predictor of friendship.

  • 73% say it is essential that their friends share their sense of humor (twice the rate of music and three times that of sports).
  • 87% say just knowing that someone shares the same sense of humor is enough to tell whether they could be friends.
  • 81% like humor that brings people together.

Comedy is the ultimate social currency.

From number of “likes” on Facebook to number of YouTube views, comedy holds real value as a means of social exchange. As monetary currency becomes all the more elusive, Millennial males view comedy as a path to fame and fortune.

  • 6 in 10 Millennials believe they are just as funny as any professional comedian, posting funny content online at least once a week.
  • Increased connectedness through social networks and mobile platforms allows Comedy Natives to take comedy sharing to new levels: 48% post to Facebook or a similar site, 39% send texts and 17% tweet.

Comedy is the ultimate agent for social change.

As the most civic-minded generation since the G.I. Generation, Millennials believe comedy has the power to change the world.

  • 53% say that comedy “makes you think” and that it has given them perspective on what’s important in life.
  • 38% say that it shines a light on social injustice and gives a voice to the voiceless.
  • 1 in 4 say that comedy has helped shaped their political beliefs.
  • 7 out of 10 agree that truth is funnier than fiction – and that the best humor cuts through the bombast of spin to get to the core of an issue, even when it’s uncomfortable.
  • 7 out of 10 believe that no topic is off limits and that anything can be funny.


Just as it is a litmus test for friendship, guys prefer brands that match their sense of humor, more so than matching their taste in music or sports.

  • If comedy is the number one passion point of Millennial males, marketers can most effectively reach them by incorporating humor into their messaging.
  • Brands can increase their appeal and relevance by leveraging comedy, no matter what they are selling.

The Methodology:

This study was based on a qualitative study of more than 100 male Millennials and an online quantitative survey with 2,000 respondents (two-thirds Millennial respondents; one-third Gen X respondents for context). For the qualitative portion of the study, in addition to meeting with respondents in their homes and hosting some participants at a live Workaholics show, Comedy Central gave respondents each a flip camera to continue to record their thoughts and examples of what makes them laugh.


Editor’s Note:  Chanon Cook is vice president of Strategic Insights and Research for Comedy Central.

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