When a thing is funny, search it for a hidden truth.

—George Bernard Shaw

Humor Only Appears To Be Free Form. Most often it is carefully structured and predictable. "A good deal of humor is observation on everyday life twisted into absurd shapes," said Patrick J. Sweeney. Nowhere is this more evident than in the interaction of realism and exaggeration, two of the six ingredients in the THREES formula. In humor they balance each other like equal weights on a scale. Sometimes the scales may tip, but the variation is always small—and that's no exaggeration.

Since humor analyzes our view of the world around us, realism is essential in order for the audience to approve of our hostility toward the target. "Comedy is just truth with a curlicue," said Sid Caesar. On the other side of the scale, facts and conclusions are exaggerated to attract attention. This is a standard theatrical device, granted by dramatic license, to portray objects and events as "bigger than life." In ancient Greek theater, actors wore leather phalli as part of their costumes. "Then, as now," said Joy Lindskold, "men seemed to have a need to exaggerate small things."

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