Ever been to a wedding where someone fell on their butt on the dance floor? You’ve seen the image hundreds of times on America’s Funniest Home Videos and Tosh.O. Ever laugh because you weren’t the person to fall on your butt? That’s transfer of fear. The woman who comes out of the ladies room with her skirt tucked into her pantyhose is another prime example.
Your first thought might be, “That’s something that would happen to me.” Followed by the inevitable, “Thank God it’s not me this time.” Oddly enough, women are more likely to laugh at transfer of fear comedy than men. Why? Probably because women are more empathetic than men. We can honestly see ourselves in that situation and feel huge relief when it happens to someone else. Especially if that someone else handles it better than we might.
The movie, There’s Something About Mary is one Transfer of Fear joke after another: from Ted’s disastrous first date with Mary when his manly parts get caught in his fly on prom night, to later scenes where we see him mistakenly arrested as a serial killer or snagged by a fishing lure while walking on the pier. Even poor Mary isn’t safe from our laughter with the infamous “hair gel” bit.
I Love Lucy is another example of Transfer of Fear jokes.
Set in the early 19th century, Julie Garwood’s The Gift features a lively lady named Sara who, at one point becomes disgusted with her husband’s continuous use of profanity. Intent on teaching him a lesson, she decides to spend one entire day using every swear word she can think of. Her plan backfires, leaving us laughing and cringing at the same time when, after a fairly colorful soliloquy, Sara is introduced to her aunt’s guest and the target of much of her salty language, the newly arrived Reverend Pickering.
Transfer of fear is an easy way to add humor to your story and allow your readers to empathize with your character(s).
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