The main thing I have noticed that many metaphor in comedy are related to some kind of force. The force is created by the comedian, then applied to the audience. The force causes the audience to have an involuntary reaction, and does damage to them. The audience know this and volunteer to be broken. Let's look at this further.
Let's start with the comedian. If the comedy is funny, then metaphor used toward comedians tend to be around the delivery of the force.
- You killed out there
- You knocked them out
- You smashed it
- Your humour is shocking
- Delivered a punchline
When it comes to the audience, the metaphor tend to be around having force applied to them, causing involuntary reactions and having damage inflicted.
- I wet myself with laughter
- Laughed so much I cried
- I fell apart
- I exploded with laughter
- They cracked me up
- Side splitting humour
- I was in stitches
- Laughed my head off
This got me thinking. If comedy is about audience members going in and voluntarily offering to be broken by the comedian, and the comedian applying a force to do the breaking, what actually is it that's going on? What is the force? And what is the force actually breaking?
My take on it is that the audience of a comedy show go along as an escape from the day to day reality of their lives. They take along their everyday sensibilities, beliefs, and perceptions, and in the safety of the comedy show they offer them up to be broken. The comedian has an understanding of the common perceptions that the audience want to have broken, and through their unique viewpoints and attitudes, they apply the appropriate force of words to challenge and break such perceptions.
If the comedian tries to break perceptions that the audience doesn't have, the comedy doesn't work. If the comedian chooses perceptions that the audience has, but doesn't apply the appropriate force to break them, the comedy doesn't work. When comedy doesn't work, the audience often get disappointed or angry that their perceptions are left intact. They say that the comedian "died out there". But if the comedian chooses appropriate perceptions, and applies the appropriate amount of force, the audience enjoy having their perceptions broken and have the involuntary reaction of laughing. The comedian "killed".
So it's no wonder people revere successful comedians, and that the thought of being a stand-up comedian scares the bejesus out of most people. Imagine it being your job to put yourself in a position where you either kill or get killed, all for the amusement of others! To most people that sounds crazy, but for the comedian it's part of the fun of it.