What is meta humor?

Meta humor is a type of humor that is self-referential. Not to be confused with self-deprecating humor, meta humor can include different styles such as a joke that makes fun of a joke template, a joke about jokes, or even a fourth wall breaking joke. You might have heard somebody say that something is “so meta.” This means the thing is referencing itself, such as an incomplete drawing of a man that is holding a brush and is in the process of painting the rest of himself.

General bits of info about meta humor

This type of humor is not new. Not even close. It has been around since as early as ancient Athens where Aristophanes, a playwright of comedy, would write self-referential plays. Though, humor has evolved, and it takes on a different form now, but this type of humor has been around for ages.

Meta humor encompasses many formats. As long as the joke is aware of itself as a joke, it is considered meta. It can be a meme, a comic strip, a joke in a Netflix series, or even a note thumbtacked to the wall that says, “No thumbtacks allowed on the wall.” It might be easier if we just give some examples, so here we go.

“Why you makin’ fun of yourself?” Said one joke to itself.

Some jokes make fun of themselves as a joke, which for some reason makes them funny. A normal knock, knock joke would follow a pattern like:

“Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Boo.”

“Boo who?”

“Don’t cry, it’s just a joke.”

A meta knock, knock joke might make fun of its own format, such as the starting line, “Knock, knock.” Then immediately followed by the reply, “Come in!” This interrupts the normal pattern of a knock, knock joke, and is aware of itself as a joke.

Another type of meta humor joke might be a take on a different classic. The teller of the joke might say, “A priest, a rabbi, and a Buddhist monk walk into a bar. The bartender says, ‘What is this, some kind of joke?’”

Meta humor could also be as simple as graffiti on the wall that says, “Apologies for the graffiti on your wall.” Below it there might be a reply written, “Okay, but don’t do it again.” That reply might be followed by a written message, “I won’t, don’t worry.” Then capped off with a “Thank you,” written underneath. In this case, the graffiti is aware of itself defacing the wall, so it’s meta.

Likewise, a character like Rick Sanchez from the animated series Rick and Morty might make a comment about animated series in general, thus making the comment about himself. Or he might break the fourth wall and make a joke demonstrating that he is aware of himself as an animated character with an audience watching his every move. He might even say, “You know who I think really sucks? People who sit there in front of their TV screens just watching cartoons and calling them ‘animated series’ as if that somehow makes it more adult.” In this case, Rick breaks the fourth wall, calling out his own audience for something they are currently doing.

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