How to describe a funny person in English (Part 2: talking about humor negatively)

Unfunny clown

In the last article, I presented some phrases that you can use to describe a funny person. Of course, there are a lot of ways that humor can go wrong. Here are some things that you can say about people who try to be funny but fail, or who joke about bad things.

Unfunny humor

  • Corny jokes are supposed to be funny, but aren't. They're too silly, too predictable, or too dumb. Puns (jokes that involve two similar-sounding words) are very corny.
    You can call a person who tells a lot of corny jokes "corny" or "a cornball".
  • Lame jokes are ones that just aren't funny. A "lame" joke is worse than a "corny" one. You might still laugh at a corny joke even though you think it's bad, but a lame joke just isn't funny.
  • When someone is telling a joke, but messes it up by saying the wrong thing or revealing the joke to early, you can say that they "screwed up the punchline". The punchline of a joke is the really funny part which comes at the end.
  • When someone makes people laugh even though they're trying to be serious, you can say that they're unintentionally funny or unintentionally hilarious. You can use these expressions to talk about people who are not very self-aware.

Inappropriate humor

  • Some jokes are sexual, racist, make fun of people with disabilities, or have other bad content. You can call this "offensive humor". If someone tells a joke that makes you angry or disgusted, you can say "I found that joke offensive."
  • "Dirty jokes" are offensive jokes about sex and things that people do in the bathroom ("toilet humor").
  • Young men especially like offensive humor, it seems. When young men make dirty jokes, laugh about drinking too much, and so on, you can call it "frat boy humor". A "frat boy" is a young man in a college fraternity. Fraternity members have a reputation for partying a lot and enjoying offensive humor.
  • Some people like to "crack jokes at other people's expense". This means joking about other people's weaknesses, like how they dress, mistakes they make, their financial situation, etc.
  • You can also call jokes that are made at other people's expense "mean-spirited jokes". These are jokes that are meant to hurt someone or put people down.
  • Finally, if someone thinks that other people's pain or death is funny, you can say that they have "a sick sense of humor".

So these are some ways to describe people whose humor you don't like.

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