Gen Z humour is a mystery to other generations. It's like we have our own language and understanding of it, which leaves onlookers to decode the true meaning of their jokes. Bizarre online trends like TikTok's "It's corona time" and using Tiger King memes to distract themselves from the pandemic are just some examples.
With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, Gen Z's brand of humour has appeared to have become a form of coping mechanism to help them deal with uncertain times that include lockdowns, limited social interactions, and cancelled plans. To get an insider's take on the matter, we spoke with two rising Gen Z TikTok comedy content creators — Alona (Philippines) and Qilah (Singapore) — who shared their thoughts on whether their humour is a coping mechanism and if it's a good or bad thing in their eyes.
What is Gen Z humour?
"Gen Z humour consists of jokes that we would make of literally everything and nothing at the same time," Alona explained. "For example, sometimes people make jokes about serious topics that people usually would try to avoid or they wouldn’t laugh at these jokes. But instead, our generation can appreciate that they lighten up the mood."
"I would say Gen Z humour is very relatable content and, in a sense, quite self-deprecating," Qilah shared. "We tend to make fun of ourselves and the things that we go through and make it more lighthearted."
The shared sense of humour also sprouts from a feeling of camaraderie. "We always think like we're the only ones messing up and doing shitty stuff. But in the end, we realise that a lot of people are doing the same thing," Qilah added.
Qilah also thinks that self-deprecation and authenticity are the main characteristics of her generation's sense of humour. "I'm not afraid to make myself seem a bit silly, like kind of just make a fool out of myself. I'm not afraid of doing that," she said. "I think that's Gen Z humour, where we're just unabashedly ourselves."
"Gen Z humour is also very relatable as we also use current events to make fun of it and make it a trend," Alona added. "Overall, I feel that there is no exact definition of Gen Z humour but it is very unique as compared to millennial or boomer humour."
Gen Z's trademark humour was started by online trends. Ever the online natives, Gen Z will start and discard humour trends easily so you need to be switched on to stay updated. "It consists of a lot of inside jokes, hence if you are not in the scoop of it you’ll miss out. Luckily, with the internet, you can Google it and there will probably already be an article about it so you can read up about it and understand the inside joke," Alona shared.
For instance, one of the latest Gen Z terms involves the chair emoji that recently became the generation’s synonym for laughter. "I kept seeing it under so many comments on TikTok. Turns out it was just an inside joke started by a content creator named KSI and it spread until it became a trend."
Humour as a coping mechanism
Perhaps one of the reasons why Gen Z humour appears to be quite jarring to millennials and other generations is in how it was utilised at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Coronavirus memes were prevalent, especially among Gen Z. These gave them the hope that things will get better eventually according to BusinessWire. To some, it may come across as "dark" and not funny, but it did help the generation come to terms with the reality of having to cancel current and future plans for the time being.
Qilah’s comedic content — as well as those from other Gen Z creators — was what helped her through the social restrictions in Singapore in the past one and a half years. "Staying at home, media was all that I could possibly consume other than painting and all that kind of stuff. So I feel like comedy content gave a kind of escape from reality a little bit and allowed me to, in a way, take myself less seriously."
Similar to Qilah, Alodia thinks Gen Z’s comedy content over the past year helps "lighten the mood" while also allowing her to “not take things too seriously" and view things from a "more optimistic standpoint".
Qilah brought up shows like Tiger King and Bojack Horseman as a couple of the pieces of content that really piqued Gen Z's interest because of the escapism they offer. "Bojack Horseman is a very depressing show but it's also like a comedy too. I think people really relate to that because they see a character who's depressed but he's also sad and funny. It's just like a whole mix."
She said these kinds of shows — while offering escapism — are also still relatable enough to the public. "I think Bojack Horseman kind of helps people realise that yeah, you know, I feel like maybe shit at the moment and we may be going through all this bunch of crap, but there's still light at the end of the tunnel," Qilah explained. "There is still fun and there's still comedy at the end. We shouldn't be so hard on ourselves. Take some time off to relax, breathe and just watch something funny. Then you can snap back to reality again [afterwards]."
Meanwhile, Alodia shared that humour and comedy helped ‘change her perspective on certain events’. "Since the media is a huge part of our lives, we constantly get news about the pandemic. We see the number of cases constantly rising and it gets very draining to think about the day this will all be over."
However, Alona does see a downside to using humour as a coping mechanism. "It desensitises Generation Z from such events," she explained. "If a pandemic were to occur again Gen Z’s would be making jokes about it rather than being distressed over it," she mused.
Humour can be used productively
As comedy content creators, both Alona and Qilah are aware of how they can use their brand of Gen Z humour in a positive way. "Consuming comedy content has also helped me grow in terms of creativity as I can create and find jokes on the spot during interactions with people," Alona said. "This not only helps me connect with other people but it boosts my mental health and lessens stress as well."
Social media has become an online newspaper, and Gen Z's comedic takes can also be one of the ways Gen Z viewers stay informed about current events. "When I watch comedy content that is inspired by the idea of something that came up with the news, I will not only be informed by it but I am entertained as well," Alona explained.
On the other hand, Qilah is quite conscious about not letting comedic content completely consume her. "As much as I think that humour is really important for everyone, I think people need to understand that if you're going to consume humour through media then we need to also be able to consume it in a way where it's not consuming our whole life."
Humour, or levity, must also be found in other sources. "We should find humour not just through media but also through people." Find levity and an escape in mingling with friends and family or spending time with your pet.
So yes, humour can be considered a coping mechanism to some Gen Z-ers. But it isn’t the only one — it’s just the most accessible.
(Cover photo from: tabitha turner via Unsplash)
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