Mar 21 2011 1:00pm

Make ’Em Laugh!: Heroes with Humor

Nathan Fillion as Captain HammerA hero who brandishes his well-developed sense of humor makes me swoon more often than the one with bulging biceps. Any hero worth a swoon, in fact, knows that humor is disarming.

When characters laugh together, for a moment they see eye-to-eye about something (even if only for a moment!), and they forget about the conflict and tension that usually defines their relationship.

What really makes me weak-kneed is when a hero utilizes humor to deflect the uneasiness brought on by newfound emotions. In Starr Ambrose’s Thieves Like Us, the hero Rocky jokes with his friend about his interest in the heroine being strictly physical, telling himself afterwards:

Crude guy humor was safer than admitting the truth, that he might just want something more with this woman.

Thieves Like Us by Starr AmbroseHumor can also create a neutral meeting ground for a hero and heroine who are wary of their growing feelings for each other. When they have their own inside joke, it creates a bond between them, but with a safer level of commitment. Janet, the heroine in Thieves Like Us, realizes how her feelings have changed for Rocky when she responds differently to their private joke:

He even tried to protect her heart. She’d known it when he’d joked about letting her use him again. The phrase had been useful for establishing an emotional distance between them. But now it grated against her happiness . . .

And then there’s banter—the Triple Threat—combining humor, wit, and intelligence. A man who uses clever wordplay to woo the heroine is never going to spend a night alone (unless he wants to). He’s also guaranteed a permanent spot on my keeper shelf.

So what exactly is the allure of a hero with humor?

Humor begets pleasure. It’s as simple as that. 

When a hero tries to make the heroine laugh, it shows he is aware of her needs, and, even more importantly, he wants to fulfill them. He pays attention to her response, to determine if he has met with success, and then does whatever will increase her satisfaction.

In other words, if the hero is devoted to making the heroine laugh, he is definitely interested in making her. . .happy.

You Don’t Know Jack by Erin McCarthyJack, the hero in Erin McCarthy’s You Don’t Know Jack, is a master at blending sexiness and humor, putting the heroine, Jamie, at ease and arousing her at the same time. Jamie is nervous about their first intimate encounter, but when Jack reveals how she makes him feel so free, and all he wants to do is have fun with her, she relaxes—until he tells her to jump onto his back so he can give her a pony ride to the bedroom. 

’I think I’m too heavy for this.’ Damn that Ben & Jerry’s. An embarrassed giggle escaped her as she realized her nipples were poking his firm, warm flesh.

’Try again,’ he said over his naked shoulder.

’Are you crazy?’

’I think so.’

Which made her laugh. If he was going to be a nut, no reason she shouldn’t have fun.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but let’s just say Jack was responsible for a great deal of happiness after this particular moment. And in several other scenes.

Humor is the ultimate seducer, but sometimes it is the hero who falls prey to its effects. 

Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta ChaseIn Your Scandalous Ways, by Loretta Chase, the hero, James, is a British spy, attempting to retrieve some incriminating letters from the heroine, Francesca, a courtesan in Venice. He has used several disguises, as well as his devilish sense of humor, to get close to her. 

In one instance designed to make her laugh, James pretends to be an Italian gigolo, speaking very broken English as he relates his fictional escape from a cuckolded husband. When Francesca does laugh at his antics, it had a wholly different effect than he had anticipated:

James sucked in his breath.

He’d heard about the laugh, and dismissed it as another of the myths men created to explain their stupidity about a woman.

He knew—knew—it was her art, yet the husky invitation in the sound caught him. It was a lover’s laughter, hinting at private jokes amid tumbled sheets. It was the laughter of shared secrets, almost unbearably intimate.

It was like those sirens, calling to what’s-his-name. Ulysses.

Tie me to the mast, he thought.

It’s not the last time he’ll utter that phrase, especially after their numerous escapades together, not all of them in the bedroom.

With each of these couples, the humor they share is merely the first step to building trust, and intimacy, and ultimately, a deep love.

All of it starts with a laugh, and a hero with a yummy sense of humor.


Donna Cummings writes lighthearted contemporary and historical romance. She can be found at, or talking incessantly about coffee on Twitter @BookEmDonna.

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Kari Lee Townsend
1. Kari Lee Townsend
Great post, Donna! I love a hero with humor :-) Love the pic of Castle...such a great show and hero.
Kari Lee Townsend
2. Tracy Brogan
I agree! A good looking guy will get my attention - but if he can make me laugh, then he will KEEP my attention. Great article, Donna.
Kari Lee Townsend
3. Leslie Langtry
You nailed it, Donna! And now I have a new TBR list!
Kari Lee Townsend
4. Tiffinie Helmer
I love a man who can make me laugh. I caught Bruce Willis in Die Hard the other day. Sexy, tough, and funny. My kind of man. Bet he'd take out the garbage.
Cheryl Sneed
5. CherylSneed
Ooh! Captain Hammer: Corporate Tool! (Sorry. Having a Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog moment)

Many of Chase's heroes have fabulous, wry senses of humor. One of my recent favorite funny-guys was Leo Hathaway in Lisa Kleypas's Hathaway family series. He uses humor very effectively in order to get through the dark places in his life.

Great topic, Donna.
Kari Lee Townsend
6. T.H. Browning
Great post, Donna! I agree -- humor is sexy! If a man can't make me laugh his good looks will only keep me for so long.
Donna Cummings
7. Donna Cummings
@Kari -- Nathan Fillion is the perfect example of a hero with humor, isn't he?

@Tracy -- I agree about humor being a long-term quality. It doesn't fade like good looks can. LOL

@Leslie -- Glad I added to your TBR pile. And I've got one of YOUR books on my TBR, uh, mountain range. I know I'm going to be laughing a lot.
Donna Cummings
8. Donna Cummings
@Tiffinie -- Bruce Willis is another one of my fave sexy humorous guys! I fell HARD for him when Moonlighting was on TV. And I bet you're right about the garbage--he'd probably do it with a cool wisecrack too.

@Cheryl -- I love the Dr. Horrible Singalong moment! And I'm adding Leo Hathaway to the TBR. . .continent. I love when humor helps light up the dark places.

@T.H. -- Humor is VERY sexy. It seems to increase the good looks on a man, doesn't it?
Regina Thorne
9. reginathorn
I definitely agree that wit is a very winning quality in a hero. (In fact, I think I've forgiven fictional characters a lot of sins if they were witty!)
Kari Lee Townsend
10. Marnee
Great post, Donna! And I love witty wordplay. Humor is sexy. My dad used to say, "If you can make 'em laugh, you can get in their pants." (Though he always said this as a warning to my sister and me. Ie, if a guy's making you laugh, he's probably trying to get in your pants. Wise fellow, my dad.)
Kari Lee Townsend
11. Kim in Hawaii
"Any hero worth a swoon, in fact, knows that humor is disarming."

Yes, yes, and yes! I recently read Pamela Clare's romantic suspense, BREAKING POINT. I generaly steer away from such books because it cuts too close to home. But Ms. Clare sent me the ARC so I gave it a try. The very Alpha hero, even in stressful situations, delivered humor. It balanced the book for me.
Kari Lee Townsend
12. Rebecca Forster
Humor is why I've been married 36 years. Thanks for putting it all in perspective. You're right - it's a moment of pleasure and a meeting of the minds. Great blog!
Donna Cummings
13. Donna Cummings
@Regina -- Oooh, you're right -- wit does absolve a lot of sins! (I think I've forgiven more than I should have with REAL characters too. LOL)

@Marnee -- Your dad is too funny! Witty wordplay gets me every time. That combo of smarts and humor. . .okay, I feel a swoon coming on.
Kari Lee Townsend
14. Jan O'Hara
My husband won me over with precisely this trait, so you don't need to sell me! And like you, I look for signals in my fiction that hero/heroine have a shared culture. What better than an inside joke? Well, except when they take it to the bedroom. ;)
Myretta Robens
15. Myretta
My favorite hero of the humor variety is Loretta Chase's Rupert Carsington (Mr. Impossible). From the moment the heroine descends into the bowels of an Egyptian jail to bail him out and hire his services, he makes me laugh:

"I may be stupid," Rupert said, but I'm irresistably attractive."

"Good grief, conceited, too," she muttered.

"And being a great, dumb ox," he went on, "I'm wonderfully easy to manage."
"He's cheerful, madam," Beechey said, sounding desperate...

Obligingly, Rupert began to whistle.
Donna Cummings
16. Donna Cummings
@Kim -- I've heard such good things about Ms. Clare's books but I was worried they might be too scary for me. After your recommendation, I'm going to give them a try.

@Rebecca -- 36 years! That's a lot of humor. :) I definitely like the meeting of the minds aspect of it, which means it's also got to be fun for the one creating the humor.
Donna Cummings
17. Donna Cummings
@Jan -- I'm glad to hear your husband won you over with humor. It's such an admirable trait, and one that can go anywhere, as you said. :)

@Myretta -- LOL -- I love it. Listing all his qualities in such a humorous way. Who wouldn't love him? :)
Kari Lee Townsend
18. wand3rlust
Yes, this exactly! Humor all the way. I can forgive many many annoyances if the man can make me laugh. Fictional or otherwise. :)
Charli Mac
19. CharliMac
I have a clown nose, so humor is a big part of romance for me. The hubby makes me snort laughing at least twice a day! Great excerpts.
Kari Lee Townsend
20. Cassy Pickard
Donna: What fun! You've created a great list of books with hunky men and fun themes. Thanks. Now I've got to find room on my shelves.
Donna Cummings
21. Donna Cummings
@Melissa -- It's hard to stay annoyed if you're laughing (and we probably shouldn't have let the men figure that out. LOL)

@CharliMac -- Humor is my favorite part of a romance. I envy your twice/day snort laughter. Sounds like you've got a keeper there!

@Cassy -- My shelves are the same way! I need to sign up for that 30-hour day since this 24-hour one doesn't allow enough time for all the books I want to read. :)
Kari Lee Townsend
22. Santa
Chase writes some of the funniest heroes, as does Julia London and Claudia Dain. I must admit that flashing Nathan Fillian's picture immediately put a smile on my face.

Great post, Donna.
Virginia Campbell
23. VirginiaCampbell
The one thing that I refuse to do is to give up my sense of humor. My philosophy in life is: "If you laugh, you'll live". My late mother was known as an "inappropriate laugher". She saw humor where other people saw nothing. Thank goodness, she passed that along to me.

Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Harrison Ford, Pierce Brosnan, Gerard Butler, William Powell, Hugh Grant, Tom Hanks, James Garner, Timothy Olyphant....those guys make me laugh 'til I sigh : ) The characters they play on the screen have much in common with the literary heroes we love to read and dream about!!! I love great sparks-fly, dueling wits, nicely naughty romance reads ; )
Kari Lee Townsend
24. Liz Lipperman
Great blog, Donna. Like most of the commenters, I love a hero who can make me laugh. Add in a little cooking and dishwashing, and I'm his!!

I can tell by the way you write that you write with a lot of humor. That means your books will fly off the shelves.
Donna Cummings
25. Donna Cummings
@Santa -- It's impossible not to smile when you look at Nathan Fillion, isn't it? And I'm writing down Claudia Dain. . .ooh boy, I've got a lot of good books added to the TBR today!

@Virginia -- I love the "inappropriate laugher". I think I've been that way at times, especially when my sister was disciplining her kids. LOL They were so funny though! I love dueling wits and flying sparks too. :)

@Liz -- You've just described a PERFECT man! And you've made me blush with your kind words -- thanks! :)
Kari Lee Townsend
26. Magdalen
Donna -- I agree with you, and my most favorite funny heroes are masters at the deadpan quip. In my WIP, my hero is a judge. The first time he and the heroine (who's quite a handful) go to bed together, he says in his best judicial voice, “If I don’t make it out of here alive, my sister’s number’s programmed into my cell phone. Just call her, will you? Let her know I died happy.” If he cracks a smile, it's a come-on line and not funny. But as long as he's completely serious, it makes me smile.
Donna Cummings
27. Donna Cummings
@Magdalen -- I love deadpan quips too. And I think I've just fallen in love with your hero. LOL He sounds incorrigible and yummy!
Kari Lee Townsend
28. anitaclenney
Great post, Donna. I love humor in books. It just makes it so much more fun to read. Thanks for this list of books. I saw a couple here that I have to read.
Kari Lee Townsend
29. Terri Osburn
Love the pic of Nathan Fillion! I'm so with you on a man who can make me laugh. A hero can use humor to disarm a heroine, which is always fun. I love when a hero who seems stern and straight finally makes a joke.

I have two of these books already on my TBR pile. Must look into the third.
Donna Cummings
30. Donna Cummings
@Anita -- I'm glad you've found some more books to read (and I've got YOURS on my To Buy list too!)

@Terri -- I hadn't thought about the stern straight ones, but you're so right. It's really something special when they let loose with humor. :)
Kari Lee Townsend
31. Maureen O. Betita
I know there is nothing that delights my husband more than when he succeeds in making me laugh. And I notice that and think, "Why don't I laugh more often with him?"

Because there is nothing better than the look on his face when I laugh at something silly he's done to make me laugh!

So, yes, a man that makes you laugh can disarm any situation and both man and woman can take delight in that!
Donna Cummings
32. Donna Cummings
@Maureen -- that is wonderful! Yes, definitely reward the man with some of your laughs, since it will make him keep trying to amuse you. :)
Kari Lee Townsend
33. amanda mccabe
Loved this post! I admit in real life I am a sucker for a man with a keen sense of humor (even better if it's slightly weird and sarcastic), but I don't run into it enough in romance novels...
Donna Cummings
34. Donna Cummings
@amanda -- I'm glad you enjoyed the post! Slightly weird and sarcastic humor is the best. I love when a man sees the absurdities in life, and then uses them to bring a smile to someone's face. That talent shouldn't be reserved for standup comedians. We need it in romances too. :)
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