Comedy is the unexpected. When someone first hears the joke "Why did the chicken cross the road?" they spend some time trying to think of a logical explanation. The punchline to this joke, "to get to the other side," is so obvious no one expects it.
Most humor is based on schadenfreude, pleasure through the pain of others. Generally, this humor works only if the person in question is in a position of power and isn't deserving of pity. For example, being beaten up by mall security isn't funny. Being beaten up by mall cop and former child star Gary Coleman is funny because he's only 4'8": the person fighting him must be terribly inept. This type of humor works very well if you're using it on yourself.
You may have heard that comedy is all about timing. What does this mean? If you are going to say something unexpected, you need to give your audience a moment to think about what you will probably answer so what you do say comes as a surprise. Hopefully once you do, they'll start laughing. Wait until they calm down before you go onto your next bit. Stand-up comics use boxing analogies to talk about their work: it's like you have to hit people at just the right moment for the joke to connect.
Take this classic comedy clip:
Have you watched it? Good. Humor isn't funny when it's explained.
This skit is about a group famous for torture throughout much of the medieval era. This is funny because they're shown as buffoons, unable to strike terror on the hearts of the couple they accost due to their inability to speak and the use of a disk rack instead of a body stretching rack. Each gag is spaced a few seconds apart for maximum impact. The comedians have to guess at this since they're not in front of a live audience.
Posted 1366 day ago