Why is being in the wrong frame so hilarious? And what are the implications for business?

Benjamin P. Taylor
3 min readFeb 21, 2022

Why are misunderstandings so funny?
What’s your favourite misunderstanding?

The implications of humorous misunderstandings for #management, #creativity, and #innovation are really significant. So humour can help our #work in unexpected ways.

But before that — I’m an absolute sucker for these kinds of things!

From ‘Engrish funny’ mistranslations or words out of context to the attached video showing broken communication leading to ‘hilarious consequences’.

I suspect the way I go — one day — may be from laughter-induced apoplexy at a particularly funny fake text

I think this is what’s at the root of some (all?) humour: #reframing.

Either we see the situation one way, and then suddenly, it changes:

A gorilla dies of old age at a zoo right before the zoo opens. It is the only gorilla at the zoo since they are not very profitable.
However, the gorilla is their most popular attraction by far, and they can’t afford to go a day without it. So the zoo owner asks one of his workers to wear a gorilla suit they have in storage for an extra $100 a day if he will go in the gorilla cage and pretend to be the gorilla until the zoo can afford a new one.
Quickly, the new “gorilla” becomes the most popular craze at the zoo. People from all over are coming to see the “Human-like” gorilla.
About a month in, the craze has started to wear off. So, to get peoples’ attention back, he decides to climb over his enclosure and hang from the net ceiling above the lions’ den next to him. A large crowd of people gather watching the spectacle in awe and terror. Suddenly the man loses his grip and falls to the floor of the lion’s den. The man starts screaming “HELP!! HELP!!!” Suddenly a lion pounces him from behind and whispers in his ear, “Shut the EFF up right now or you’re going to get us both fired.”

OR we know that a character is seeing the situation one way, and we know it’s horribly wrong.

In the video above (I’m sharing as a fan — obviously I don’t have the copyright), Count Arthur Strong is going for a flying lesson — but everyone is confused about time because the clocks have gone back. This creates the possibility of further misunderstanding.

Just watch them walking to the plane

A third version: attempts to communicate break down because one character is inadvertently triggering the wrong context:

Take the conversations about directions in the film ‘Clockwise’:
‘Turn left!’ ‘Right, right’ ‘No, left’ ‘Right — left’ ‘Right’ ‘What, right?’ ‘No, left!!’ ‘Ok, right’ ‘Right’ ‘Right?’ ‘Right!’…

In a work context, we get stuck in ways of framing situations.

A simple reframe can create opportunities to think differently — to see the situation afresh, with new eyes and new possibilities.