I went did theatre training for my undergrad and if you know theatre people, they are always wanting to be ‘on.’ My buddies Brian, Matt and Alan took great pride in one-upmanship with wisecracks, puns and cultural references stretching from Euripides to Tarantino. Plus, I think my family has a very dark sense of humor which I think comes from the grandparents surviving the Depression and World Wars and on the other side of the tree various Lillian Hellman-esque Midwestern family intrigues. When we are all home for the holidays we laugh a lot and try to see who can be cleverest in dispensing a well-placed snarkasm – usually not insulting to anyone in the room – but a tight little jab to entertain all present.
Maybe we’re just feeling shitty about ourselves:
From Psychology Today:
So why do wisecrackers keep their bons mots coming at the risk of alienating others? Though they may not be aware of it, sarcasm is their means of indirectly expressing aggression toward others and insecurity about themselves. Wrapping their thoughts in a joke shields them from the vulnerability that comes with directly putting one’s opinions out there. “Sarcastic people protect themselves by only letting the world see a superficial part of who they are,” says Steven Stosny, a Washington, D.C.-based therapist and anger specialist. “They’re very into impression management.”
Albert Katz, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Western Ontario, has recently looked at the wisecrackers’ focus on one-upsmanship from a biological perspective, showing that people whose brains are best equipped to understand sarcasm tend to have aggressive personalities. Subjects who scored high on aggression tests showed different patterns of brain activity in response to sarcasm than those who did not. The differences suggest that the aggressive subjects were processing nonliteral meaning more quickly. “Sarcasm is definitely a dominance thing—it’s related to being top dog,” Katz says, both for initiators of sarcastic banter and those who catch on and offer a retort.