Narcissists don’t really have a sense of humor because they are often unable to appreciate or “get” its element of empathy and human connection. Moreover, when narcissists do use humor, they do so to put others down or to belittle them.
Most of us have experienced nasty sarcasm or annoying jokes. Similarly, we all find dark humor funny to a certain extent.
With narcissism, though, humor turns into something completely different. It doesn’t brighten anyone’s day — it’s just pure malice.
If you have ever met a narcissist, you may have noticed that they either had no sense of humor at all, or a really “cold” sense of humor.
Well, it turns out, it’s a relatively common trait of narcissists. Let’s see why…
Common traits of narcissists
- Obsessive need for attention. Including negative attention. Narcissists are terrified of being ignored, and want to be noticed at all costs. They want others to give them attention and energy. This is usually to compensate for a deep feeling of emptiness.
- Obsessive need for control. Specifically, controlling other people, even more so if it’s their partner. Narcissists believe that if people around them behaved spontaneously, they would be a threat to them. When they can’t control others, narcissists act cold; when they get a chance, they become manipulative.
- Lack of empathy. Those with a narcissistic personality tend not to understand other people’s feelings. Even when their partner communicates their feelings verbally or physically, they may still fail to empathize. And when they do empathize, they could deliberately choose to ignore how the other person feels.
- Superiority complex. That is, an exaggerated sense of self-worth and self-importance. Narcissists believe they are better than everybody else. In their mind, they always deserve more. Their superiority complex may also lead them to believe they are responsible for controlling other people’s lives.
- Exploitative behavior. For narcissists, other people are valuable (matter) only if they clearly add value to their life. Since narcissists lack empathy, or choose not to recognize other people’s emotions and needs anyway — they justify taking advantage of those around them.
Humor as a weapon
Why and when do we laugh at someone’s joke — does it only happen if the joke is very clever and funny? No, not always.
Humor can be an excellent way to connect with others, to inspire them to take life less seriously and to have a positive, detached attitude.
In this sense, humor can be a great way to bond with friends or even strangers, just like it can be a powerful marketing tool.
Though some narcissists have no sense of humor at all, some realize that humor can indeed be a tool, and use it.
And no, they won’t do it to develop better, deeper relationships with others — or to take life less seriously, for that matter.
Some narcissists will use humor as a weapon because, in simple terms, it’s easier to get away with it.
Whereas direct and explicit insults can be deplorable (and expose them), sarcastic jokes can be just… jokes, and they get away with it.
Paradoxically, humor (which, in itself, is almost always harmless) is often used by toxic, manipulative, or even abusive people.
Why? Because there is a fine line between humor and belittling others, maliciousness, etc. There is never a clear threshold.
Moreover, think of dark humor, sarcasm, morbid jokes — these are socially accepted, so it’s harder for us to react negatively to them.
Again, when it comes to humor and jokes, the narcissist’s goal is to use humor as a weapon and then get away with it.
Why narcissists don’t have a sense of humor
These are the top three reasons that come to mind. If you can think of any other reasons, or if you’d like to share your own comments on these, please do so by leaving a reply at the end.
1. Narcissistic humor isn’t humor
Again: humor can be a weapon to belittle others, and at best it’s irritating, and at worst it’s humiliating or abusive.
When a narcissist tells a joke, or simply comments on someone in a way that can be perceived as funny, it’s not really humor.
Although narcissists tend to be good at lying, you can almost always tell that their jokes aren’t jokes, which means they are not funny either.
Ever pretended to laugh at really bad humor? That’s basically what it would feel like to laugh at the narcissist’s jokes.
2. The don’t have empathy
As we’ve seen, empathy and narcissism cannot really coexist. Even when there is empathy, the narcissist will usually choose to detach emotionally.
Because almost all humor has an element of human connection, it can be hard for narcissists to appreciate it (or even “get it”).
And the thought of taking life less seriously? Not something that a narcissist would like.
They are too immersed in their own world of lies, manipulation, and toxicity to even understand that life doesn’t have to be a constant battle.
3. Humor can mean vulnerability
Again, the narcissist sees everything as a manifestation of power or lack thereof. Power and control is really what they crave.
The third reason narcissists don’t really have a sense of humor is because it can easily imply vulnerability or an imbalance of power.
Say someone makes a really good joke, and you laugh hysterically. Though there’s nothing wrong with that, a narcissist would perceive that as an imbalance of power.
When you laugh at someone’s joke or comment, you somehow recognize that they are funny or clever: anyone with a superiority complex wouldn’t do that.
Virtually everything the narcissist does is part of a lie, or plan, which can only benefit the narcissist and not you.
Humor is no exception, and when the narcissist does have a sense of humor, it won’t be really humor, but malicious sarcasm.
Or, in the worst cases, a harsh, humiliating insult hidden under the veil of a “joke”, and if you don’t laugh, then surely you “can’t take a joke”.
The good news though is, like I said, it’s relatively easy to spot this and understand the narcissist’s true motive.
Repeated jokes that are not jokes are a clear red flag — once you spot this, either run away or detach emotionally.