Why Funny Tees Work: The Top 3 Comedy Theories Explained

In case you haven’t noticed, funny tees have been extremely popular as of late, with no indication of slowing down. In fact, on Etsy alone, there are over 93,000 results for ‘funny graphic tee’. If you haven’t considered adding the style to your custom apparel offerings, now is definitely the time.

Now, we know what you’re thinkingwhat exactly makes something funny? Is there a formula you can easily recreate for your own tees?

As it turns out, scientists and philosophers have been pondering several theories behind humor for hundreds of years. While it may not be an exact formula, understanding why people think situations are funny can inspire ideas for your creative new apparel.

To help provide some direction, we narrowed it down to the top three comedy theories. Let’s take a look!

The Top Three Comedy Theories Explained

1. Benign Violation Theory

[Image source: BoldGalCo on Etsy]

Linguist Thomas Veatch published the basis of benign violation theory in the late ‘90s, stating that humor happens when something “seems wrong or unsettling but is actually benign [not harmful].” However, Joel Warner and Peter McGraw actually coined the name ‘benign violation theory’ a decade laterbuilding it out a bit further. They proposed that we laugh at violations of social norms (strange behaviors, picking nose), morals (disrespectful behavior, sexist jokes), normal language patterns (puns, using an incorrect word in place of a similar sounding one) and so on, as long as they’re not threatening.

Take a close look at the words featured on the t-shirt above. The phrase “I wet my plants” is a garden pun, and plays off of wetting your pants and watering plants. On the one hand, it seems as though it doesn’t make senseand like a social norm violation, because adults generally don’t wet their pants (or at least talk about it)but, it makes total sense to those with a green thumb. Because of this duality, the pun is a “violation of a normal language pattern” and also “benign,” which fits the theory. Gardeners, plant lovers, and florists alike would definitely wear something like this and find it funny since watering plants is a common task they can relate to.

Pro Tip: Think of a few activities, sports or hobbies and try and come up with some puns or strange behaviors that relate to each, making sure they aren’t threatening (offensive). Then play around with funny sentences or sketch some funny artwork to see what you come up with.

2. Bergson’s Mechanical Theory

[Image source: BossiEverything on Etsy]

Bergson’s mechanical theory is the idea that things are funny because they’re true. In fact, it’s why many comedies rely on predictable patterns of behavior that we see and do in our everyday lives. We often laugh at jokes that remind us of our own quirks, or even the behavior of our friends, families and co-workers.                  

A shirt in line with this theory is the Dwight graphic tee featured above. For example, in The Office, Dwight loves to contradict what people are saying by using irrelevant facts to make himself look smarter. When he does this, he’ll often start by saying, “FALSE.” Someone watching this play out might think, “I know a guy from work who is a total Dwight.” Or, you might watch it and think, “Wow, that’s totally me!”, and because it speaks your personality, it might be funny to you to wear a shirt like the one above.

Pro Tip: Think of some quirky things you, or people you know, do or say and write them down. Throw in some fun personality traits too. Then use this list to outline general ideas for a funny design that anyone could relate to.

3. Release Theory

[Image source: 229DesignShop on Etsy]

The release theory is the idea that laughter happens as a result of tension breaking between people. An example of this theory is when a person breaks the awkward silence after meeting someone they think is cute and uses the pick-up line, “Did it hurt? …When you fell from Heaven?” 

However, psychologist Robert Priest went further, noting that if the tension felt by a group of people was ‘strong’ rather than ‘moderate’, it could invoke frustration instead of humor. An example of this would be trying to break the ice by telling a joke about feminists to a feminist group. It’s probably not going to be received too well. 

With that said, a good example of this theory in practice would be the “dad joke” shirt above. Dads and lame jokes are synonymous, and almost a right of passage. But since they always create that tension in the room, where people may feel pressured to pretend that their jokes are funny, wearing this this shirt is a perfect anecdote for making everyone feel at ease, when they don’t laugh.

Pro Tip: Jot down some funny pick-up lines or think of phrases or situations people use to break tension in the room. Are there any that make sense as a slogan or graphic tee? Show them to your family and friends to get their opinion, then create a few test shirts and see what sells. 

Now that you’re familiar with the top theories behind why things are funny, you can use the philosophies as a guide in developing your own funny tees. Just remember, think about who your niche audience is first, then brainstorm possible situations they could relate to. 

Ready to stock up on basics and start screen printing your own funny tees? Check out our extensive selection of quality brands on the S&S Activewear website

Screen Printing Halftones Like A Pro

Geno from Wichita Screen Printing and LearnHowToScreenPrint.com is back again to show you how to print halftones, using the Alternative Go-To Tee (style 1070). You can get some really amazing printing detail if you do it just right, so we’re here to help you get the best results possible.

If you’re wondering what halftone printing is though, here is a brief summary. This method is a one-color process that uses a series of dots varying in size or spacing, which combines together to form a gradient of that color. Those gradients then help to form the final image.

The number of halftone dots in the print is measured in LPI ( Lines Per Inch ), which is the number of dots per linear inch. The amount of detail and smoothness of your print will be determined a lot by the LPI.

In the video above, Geno will show you the difference in the results when printing using 35 LPI vs 55 LPI. He’ll also touch on the importance of screen tension, and using the right mesh to get the best results.

Work With Your Fashion Tee. Not Against It.

Do you want to sell more fashion tees, but haven’t had much success getting the right printing results when using them? Are you defaulting to selling basic cotton tees as a result? The problem could be that you’re working against your garment, and not with it. Times have changed and the “one style fits all” approach to screen printing just doesn’t cut it anymore. What works on basic 6.0 oz./ 100% cotton tees doesn’t necessarily work on lightweight fashion fabrics like 3.7 oz triblends or 4.2 oz 100% ringspun cotton. So what’s the difference?

Continue reading “Work With Your Fashion Tee. Not Against It.”

7 Major Graphic Design Trends to Keep an Eye On for 2019

Whether you design your own graphics for your apparel business or work with a graphic designer, it’s important to stay on top of the trends to make sure your garments remain relevant and are meeting a market need.

Here’s a closer look at seven major graphic design trends for 2019 to help your ideation process:

Continue reading “7 Major Graphic Design Trends to Keep an Eye On for 2019”

PRINTING w/ Glow in the Dark Ink on a 100% Poly Rabbit Skins Cape

Wearing a cape can give you superpowers, but upselling with them can give you SUPER PROFITS! Imagine a client from a local school approaches you to print a bunch of tees for an upcoming event, and you have a Rabbit Skins Cape handy to show them. But, this is no ordinary cape. Its got a printed design on it using glow-in-the-dark ink! They see it glowing and instantly think, “WOW, this would be perfect to give our graduating kindergartners!” Now, you’ve turned that ONE job into TWO jobs from the same client.

When the right opportunity presents itself, these capes are the perfect way to increase your sales, and people will remember that you’re the one to go to, when they’re looking for cool ideas.

Check out the demonstration below to see Geno, from Learnhowtoscreenprint.com, show you how to use glow-in-the-dark ink on the Rabbit Skins 100% polyester cape (Style #1111).

HOW TO SCREEN PRINT using DISCHARGE INK as a BASE w/ PLASTISOL (feat. ComfortWash by Hanes)

Ever think about printing with both plastisol and discharge inks together? In this video, Geno shows us just how to do that, using Matsui High Mesh Discharge White Ink and GSG Vortex plastisol inks on the ComfortWash GDH100 Garment Dyed Tee.

Why would you want to print this way? Sometimes, using discharge ink as a base, allows the plastisol colors on top to pop and look more vibrant, as you’ll see in the video.

If your going for a vintage look, discharging on garment dyed apparel is the perfect option for printing, since the ink will be set into the fabric, rather than be set on the surface of it. This gives you that “worn-in” look that makes the design look aged.


5 Tips for Successful Custom Embroidery

Often when the term “custom apparel” is heard, our minds jump to the ubiquitous methods of screen printing and sublimation. However, the art of embroidery should not be forgotten. Embroidery creates an added level of detail and lends a sophisticated, high-end look to any garment. From adding decoration to jeans to logos on company shirts to fun designs on casual wear – the options are endless.   Continue reading “5 Tips for Successful Custom Embroidery”

Specialty Ink Basics: Setting Your Screenprinting Business Apart From Competitors

In a competitive screenprinting market, it’s vital for your print shop to continually find areas where niche skills can be added to help set your business apart. One way to catch the eyes of potential customers is by dazzling them with specialty inks. Before you cringe (we know, special inks can be hard to work with), specialty inks can bring a lot of value to your business, create awesome designs, and you can (and should!) charge premium pricing for the services. To help get you started, we’ve listed three Continue reading “Specialty Ink Basics: Setting Your Screenprinting Business Apart From Competitors”

Beginner’s Guide to Screenprinting Children’s Apparel

Research has shown that the children’s apparel industry is booming, and honestly, we’re not surprised. Custom bibs and hats are adorable gifts for baby showers, and thanks to social media, matching “parent-child” tees have become extremely popular. In 2016, global sales for children’s apparel and footwear outperformed adult fashion sales by experiencing a total value growth of 5% to reach $203.4 billion! Last year, childrenswear outpaced womenswear and menswear in retail value growth again. In simpler terms – children’s apparel is on the rise.  

However, before you dive head first into adding custom childrenswear to your screenprinting services, there are important regulations and best practices your business should follow.  Continue reading “Beginner’s Guide to Screenprinting Children’s Apparel”