The Absurdists Behind Gen Z Humor

The nonsensical humor of Gen Z is explained via the lens of Loyola students, who attempt to explain its prevalence.

With upwards of 72 million members in Generation Z, the subjectivity of Gen Z comedy has seemingly become a prevalent point of contention, according to Insider Intelligence. With social media algorithms catering content to its users taste, defining Gen Z humor is almost impossible, according to Foundation Inc.

Instagram meme page @luc.affirmations focuses on relatable campus events and memes. The account manager shared their thoughts on the wave of humor in an interview with The Phoenix but requested to remain anonymous to keep focus on the content rather than the creator’s identity.

“From what I’ve seen, Gen Z humor is very specific in what they’re trying to be funny about,” she said.

First-year Reid Sleeman said Gen Z humor is “hilarious,” referring to videos of Roblox car crashes from the online gaming platform.

“Gen Z humor is focused on absurdity, in a lot of ways,” Sleeman said. 

For third-year student Sophia Prock, internet use has rendered her humor more complex than ever. As co-captain of the Latchkey Kids — an improvisational comedy club at Loyola  — she said it causes difficulty getting the laughs of Gen Z audiences.

“Humor has gotten more niche,” Prock said. “It makes it more difficult to be funny if you’re on something like ‘train TikTok.’”

Cesar Giron, a first-year, noted a generational reliance on humor to cope with growing social struggles. 

“We’re not escaping something, we’re looking for something,” Giron said. “Joy, happiness, a reason to be happy. I’m at a particularly low point in life — laughing makes things better, even if it’s stupid.”

A satirical TikTok account named @homestucklover398 shared a video Oct. 2 where a Fortnite avatar danced to a child-like parody of “ecstacy” by SUICIDAL-IDOL.

“Sticking out your gyat for the rizzler / You’re so skibidi / You’re so fanum tax / I just wanna be your sigma,” @homestucklover398 sang.

In what seemed to be overnight success, the senseless audio garnered over 254,000 TikToks associated with it, many being lip-syncs and parodies — of the parody.

The bizarreness of the trend lies not in the videos themselves but who partook in it. Despite a majority of the sounds’ users being Gen Z, the lyrics are the handiwork of the newly emerging Generation Alpha, born between 2010-2025, according to The New York Times.

With the advent of Gen Alpha slang, many students expressed confusion toward the current progression of humor.

“I didn’t really know what ‘rizz’ or ‘gyat’ meant before I started seeing posts about that on the internet,” the owner of @luc.affirmations said. “I don’t think they’re stupid. I think there are words that Gen Z has made up that are also stupid.”

It’s hard to tell exactly why Gen Z is enamored with this type of humor. Recently, escapism has been attributed to Gen Z and their jokes, according to The New York Times. However, this stance isn’t shared by everyone.

“I feel like it’s because we’re masters of appropriation,” Sleeman said. “Do you recall ‘gang weed’ memes? At some point, people realized it was funnier to say ‘bottom text’ than the actual meme.” 

First-year Adrianna Nightenhelser reconciled with the prevalence of humor as a coping mechanism.

“Personally, I don’t use humor to escape but others certainly do,” Nightenhelser said. “People use humor to deal with their trauma.” 

While some members of Gen Z might not be escaping something, others like first-year Carrington Jackson view humor as an outlet to unwind.

“In efforts to cope with one’s afflicting circumstances, many feel an urgency to find relief,” Jackson said. “Humor makes itself an excellent mechanism to do that because pain can easily be buried by the laughter and amusement of it.” 

Regardless, Gen Z isn’t the only generation to have found themselves in this situation. In 2016, Millennials — born from 1989-1996 — faced similar accusations, according to The Washington Post

The article similarly described Millennial humor as absurd and weird, attributing shows like “Bojack Horseman” and comics with Winnie the Pooh as a “9/11 truther” as the cause.

While the article offers valid points, singling out Millennials was generous, according to students like Nightenhelser, who said other generations were likely made fun of for the same sort of slang.

“I think all generations are using words that other generations don’t understand,” said Prock. “If you talk to a Millennial and they were like, ‘Oh, we’re absurdist because we say ‘pupper’ and ‘doggo’ you would be like, ‘Oh my god, shut up.’” 

Truth is, Millennial humor is equally as bizarre and meaningless as Gen Z or Gen Alpha’s humor, and this battle for comedic superiority is another example of generational warfare, according to Smithsonian Magazine

“I have seen TikTok’s like, ‘Oh, Millennials do this, it’s so stupid that they’re trying to fit in and use our words and I think the concept itself is so stupid that, ‘Oh, a certain generation can’t use certain words even though Generation Z is trying to do that with Generation Alpha,” the owner of @luc.affirmations said.

The battle for comedic superiority across generations perpetuates, showcasing humor’s constant evolution, reflecting the zeitgeist and intergenerational dynamics.

Featured illustration by Hanna Houser / The Phoenix

Matt Sorce

Matt Sorce