Roger Rabbit, while hiding from the evil Judge, assures Eddie Valentine that the guys in the diner won’t turn him in because he’d made them laugh. That laugh, he said, created a special bond that won their loyalty. And the crazy thing is–he was right! Because the humor had helped them through their hard times when they were out of work and out of luck.
What makes tweens laugh?
Slapstick. This is especially good when it’s comic violence or clumsiness on the part of the “bad guy”. Paint cans or bowling balls falling on heads. People slipping on ice, skateboards, or anything else that will toss them in the air and on their bottoms. Tweens are starting to get the idea that violence is a bad thing (probably because they’re being exposed to it more often), but they still hearken back to childhood cartoons and want that “bounce back to life” ability of beloved characters. The slapstick is a carry over.
Silly names. Alliteration is always a plus. Tippy Tinkletrousers and the like. Boffo the Brave or Lois the Lunch Lady. Character names that are fun to read encourage them to read aloud. Funny names also make situations less threatening, so they can ease into more grown-up themes without having to be too…grown-up about it.
Bodily…Stuff. **sigh** No getting around it. They still think burps, farts and boogers are hilarious. At least the boys do. If such things can be used as weapons against an antagonist–even better! Sounds can’t always be transmitted through print, but the more creatively the author tries to convey that BRA-A-A-APTHFT!!! the more likely the tween reader is to try saying it aloud. Laughter follows. It just does.
Clever insults. This is where teens actually show some class. Rather than lashing together a row of swear words, they prefer the more creative taunts a la The Sandlot (“Buffalo Butt Breath”, “You bob for apples in the toilet, and you like it!” and the ultimate zinger, “You play ball like a girl!“). Tweens are discovering pecking orders, yet they’re still mostly vulnerable. If they can win a battle of the wits at this age…well, that has sticking power. Kids will be loyal to the one who made them laugh at the bully by calling him a “bootless toad-spotted bladder”.
Over-the-Top “Sexy”. I don’t mean actual sexy. Far from it. I mean things like ridiculously voluptuous chickens in a computer animated show, or a hip-swinging, lip-sticked slug monster. Tweens are just becoming aware of sexuality, but it’s still a little bizarre to them, so laughing at it–mocking it, even–makes it easier to handle.
Turns our Roger Rabbit was on to something. Laughter helps people get through tough times, and being a tween can be tough. A whole new world of emotions and relationships and challenges surround them, and some of them are overwhelming. Being able to laugh about them just helps!