Among humankind, there are those which delight in a bawdy joke, and those which prefer a joke exhibiting more wit. People laugh at irony, at others' misfortunes, and at complete nonsense. Only by getting to know a human will one learn what they appreciate more. Among the common other humanoid races, though, as with all aspects of culture, there's a little less variation. This isn't to say all Elves share one agreed-upon sense of humor, but there are safe generalizations to assume. Below are this author's takes on the subject:
The ordered societies of the dwarven people operate on assumed standards. People live up to these expectations in order to better serve their clan and state. The status quo is what makes the world go round. So what would be more laughable, to a dwarf, than to see the status quo turned on its head? Cowardly or incompetent soldiers, inexperienced or foolish adults on the receiving end of a child's wise-cracking, and cross-dressers and other gender-inappropriate behavior, are all likely to be the butt-ends of jokes made over tankard of dwarven ale. Dwarves enjoy being able to mock in a safe environment what would radically upset their way of life if it turned up in reality, including men doing traditionally-considered "women's work" and vice-versa (though this concept is different among dwarves than among humans), as well as soldiers running from a single goblin or not knowing which end to grip their weapons by. Such world-flipping icons also consist of polite orcs, honorable goblins, generous giants, and timid trolls. Their standards of formal marriages and family structures are derided by portrayals of salacious characters; drastic class differences in a partnership are comical, as are notions of interracial relationships. The stereotypical promiscuous Gnome is akin to a cultural icon (see Entertainment- Dwarves and Romance/Sexuality- Gnomes).
However, dwarves aren't the most jocular people. And while some might crack a joke or five with a colleague or comrade on occasion, they're rarely receptive to others trying to play upon their sense of humor; coming from someone foreign to their culture, how can they be sure that such an idea is meant in jest, and not a threat to their stable society? Another humanoid attempting to get a dwarf to crack a smile (and good luck) would be better served trying a different sense of humor. Only the most blithe (and rather tipsy) dwarves will invite you to sit with them and enjoy a drink if you walk up to them with a remark about a fictional gnome hitting on the king's daughter.
Elves' longevity gives them a very broad view of things, and they tend to focus on more simple aspects of life. Because of this, it tickles the typical elven funny bone to see things blown out of proportion. Hyperbole is a humor that most elves will appreciate. Think the Family Guy fight between Peter and the Giant Chicken-- after one gives the other an expired coupon, they engage in a five-minute long battle to the death. That's the sort of humor which falls under hyperbole. In a similar vein, it's common among elves to poke fun at a seemingly bad situation by grossly exaggerating, the consequences, often using the 'slippery slope' fallacy. Elves sometimes find laughable literary characters with one-track minds; someone who dedicates his entire life and every waking hour to perfecting his martial prowess can be comical to an elf, especially if any reasoning for it is unapparent or downright ludicrous. Ultimately, the average elf will find funny anything which involves dramatic hyperbole. Many elves are also fond of satire, but satire tends to make them think more than it makes them smile.
Elves don't laugh loudly, smiling more often than chuckling, and chuckling much more often than letting out a full-bellied yuck. (In fact, laughing too much at a small joke is another exaggeration the usual elf would find humorous.) They also don't place great cultural value in jokes, seeing them as rather small in scope compared to a great work of literature or a moving piece of music. If you joke around with an elf, they'll probably appreciate the gesture of goodwill, but not nearly so much the humor. (With humor, as with other facets of life, elves are "generally pleasant and gracious" even to those who don't quite understand how to handle the matter "properly.")
Gnomes are the one race in the Player's Handbook whose entry mentions their love of humor. As such, it's hardly necessary to expand on their love of puns and practical jokes. It is good to keep in mind, though, that practical jokes are, to gnomes, a way of keeping eachother humble and a chance to demonstrate cleverness, not a means of triumphing over others. As puns go, whether or not a gnome prefers a witty pun requiring clever exploitation of a language, or thinks a bawdy joke is just as good (and the many euphemisms which make such puns easy), is simply dependent on the individual gnome. Satire is also delightful to gnomes, who are appreciative of it in almost the opposite ways most elves are; it's a kind of humor, not a rhetorical device. As one might infer from their fondness of nicknames, gnomes also enjoy nonsense-humor. Stringing together words in ways that don't make sense is a good way to try to make a gnome smile. Other bizarre notions (such as Lewis Carroll's description the Wonderland game of croquet, in which one's ball is a hedgehog and one's mallet a flamingo,) also fall under this category of humor.
The importance of wit in gnomish culture makes humor of central importance. Gnomes love to laugh, and are more likely to appreciate a joke, even from a member outside of their race, than any other common race (except for some humans). If you really want to endear yourself to a gnome though, try introducing yourself with a clever pun demonstrating knowledge of both Gnome and another common language, plus a healthy dislike of kobolds.
Half-elves are just as varied as humans in their particular senses of humor, though some may possess the tendencies of elves, especially if raised among them. What makes them bear mentioning though is their appreciation dramatic irony and situations of misunderstandings (such as in Angel Densetsu or School Rumble). Many half-elves enjoy seeing someone else experience the befuddlement of different people seeing the same thing different ways. A few individuals, particularly the more cynical or dour ones, instead grow bitter when exposed to such humor, taking the matter as mockery.
Individual halflings exhibit different senses of humor; they are, for the most part, about as varied as humans in their tastes. Common favorites include various forms of irony (e.g., almost any scene in a Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner cartoon) and any jokes involving a clever mastery of language. Dirty jokes are often found distasteful, but this can vary from halfling to halfling and from time to time. One noted preference which seems common to most halflings, though, are inappropriately egocentric behaviors. Lecherous characters are rarely well-received, but other ridiculously self-interested characters are staples of Halfling humor. This includes gluttons (such as Garfield the Cat, Homer Simpson, or Monkey D. Luffy), sloths (also Homer Simpson, and Garfield, as well as Andy Capp), and the pretentious (Hercule from DragonBall Z, or Linebeck from The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass). Assuming the behaviors don't end up hurting someone, the community-oriented halflings frequently see such characters' self-centeredness as really too ridiculous, and etremely comical.
In a group, halflings usually don't need jokes to appreciate eachother's company. At mirthful times they laugh easily and readily with eachother, with jokes being but one medium through which they can enjoy eachother's company. Halflings are a bit too formal to begin joking around among other races, but as good as they are at fitting in, they can usually adapt when in a jocose setting in which humor is expected. Many halflings are rather protean in their senses of humor, enabling them to quickly establish themselves as "one of the folks" in a new situation.
The Savage Humanoids--
As one would expect, the goblinoids, orcs, kobolds, and drow are all pretty fond of schadenfreude. Most jokes involve someone else experiencing misfortune. Drow delight in stories of misfortune simply befalling others (often divinely), while orcs and hobgoblins tend to focus more on the dishing-out of said misfortunes. Goblins and kobolds enjoy both, with goblins loving tales of hapless people getting ambushed and kobolds enjoying stories of hapless people falling into traps. Lecherous jokes are also very common among some of these races: Among goblins these jokes tend toward hyperbole, while to orcs this line of humor is notably misogynistic. Drow enjoy ridiculing the male body, and jokes about impotent males are as delightful to them as jokes about women's rights are to certain real-life men. Among all of these races, humor is often a kind of social competition, used not only in earning appreciation but in belittling others as well. A person can win over a group of some of the less-intelligent savage humanoids using humor-- assuming they get past the race's initial hostile outlook to begin with (must be indifferent in order to use Perfom (comedy) in place of Diplomacy or Intimidate).
Dating is common in many societies, while in other places arranged marriages are more typical. Some people practice abstinence, whereas others sleep around. Whether one's spouse is expected to be an emotional partner and dear friend, or simply a familial unit crucial to stability, also varies from culture to culture. Some people greet any acquaintances with kisses on the cheek, while to others touching or sitting next to a person of the opposite sex is an egregious faux pas. Among the common races of D&D, these behaviors vary. Humans naturally display the widest range of behaviors, both within and between cultures. The other races show more generalize-able trends, just as they do in personality and religion. Herein are this author's takes on the twin issues of romance and sexuality in the cultures of different races.
Dwarven marriages are typically arranged, usually in a way which would benefit both parties. Families seek out a kind of mutually-beneficial hypergamy, in which neither family would be rising in social status, but increasing their ability to do so through what they believe will be a synergistic partnership. The strictness of the arrangement is different depending on the particular Dwarven culture, and may also differ by social class. In many kingdoms, the male Dwarf is betrothed to a particular clan at a young age, and when he grows older, chooses a particular suitor from among the clan members available. The individual female then has the right to accept or refuse his offer. Dwarves marry for life, and normally do not remarry in the event of a spouse's death.
Signs of affection are not given lightly in Dwarven society. Between close individuals, full-bodied hugs are the most commonly seen display of affection, and these are reserved for great occasions such as reunions and weddings. If the two individuals are not very close, two-handed handshakes (in which each person is clasping the other's hand in two of theirs) are more common at such occasions. The most meaningful symbol of affection is a kiss on the forehead; this occurs between two people who are very attached, usually husband/wife, mentor/apprentice, or parent/child. As an interesting sidenote, Dwarves's brains don't chemically associate happiness with particular people, but with particular bonds. Thus, a Dwarven soldier, for example, who is particularly close with a certain comrade-in-arms, feels intimately tied with any other soldiers in his company, not just that one close friend. In fact, the term "best friend" in Dwarven more closely translates to "best relation."
Dwarves are hardly fond in anyway of sharing their genitals with others, and if sexplay ever occurs among them, it's very, very rare. (In some places, other races joke that Dwarves don't orgasm.) Culturally, though, there is an understood importance of the genitalia, which are sometimes symbolic of health or social status. Individuals of other races sometimes find confusing (or humorous) the gravity with which Dwarves mention genitals.
Gnomes usually wed for life, commiting themselves to a single partner. Should one of the couple die, it is customary for the widow/widower to seek out a new spouse. Courtship among Gnomes usually involves dating, during which they seek out their potential partner, and often takes place just before adulthood. By the time the Gnome is ready to live autonomously, he/she usually has someone in mind to live with. Every Gnome is, shortly after birth, given a well-crafted ring, often an heirloom, which they keep until adulthood. When they propose, they offer this ring to their prospective spouse. If the spouse says yes, then the two exchange rings at the wedding.
While most of the common races, save humans, are not strongly attracted to members of other races, this is especially true for Gnomes. A Gnome which is sexually attracted to another race is about as rare as a lawful-neutral demon. Whereas most men of other races, for example, are "programmed" to be attracted to breasts, no male Gnome would be attracted to breasts not belonging to a female Gnome. If the Venus of Willendorf had been crafted by prehistoric Gnomes, they would've created it with something to make it distinctly Gnome in form.
Gnomes are notoriously flirtatious. Piquant winking, playful looks, gentle kisses, and stray hands are all part of how Gnomes get along. The degree to which they exhibit this behavior around others varies from one Gnomish culture to the next, but is common to all of them. They may do this with their fiancees and spouses or with close friends or even family members; none of it is taken seriously. (Some sociologists hypothesize that it simply gives more opportunity for wordplay, given the sexual lexicon's broad array of euphemisms.) In fact, recreational sex is rarely practiced outside of marriage among Gnomes, though some of the younger ones may, like humans, experiment. Nevertheless, actual sexual relations are quite far removed from the acts of flirting, and all Gnomes understand this.
Halflings usually choose their spouse fairly early after coming of age, though in some cases they don't begin living together until some time later. As a Halfling approaches adulthood, they usually have a few ideas for spouses in mind, typically childhood friends. Dating usually begins around their twentieth year, and isn't typically used to get to know a potential partner better as much as it is a type of courtship. Less hindered by fear than most races, Halflings find it comparably easy to approach the subject of starting a relationship. Before any engagement is official, both partners heavily consult their families. The partnership is most often approved, but the family might urge caution or ask that it be delayed if the prospective partner is not well known to them. When a couple finally moves in together they begin starting up a family, conditions permitting, and it is a given that requesting to live together is at the same time a proposition of having children.
Kissing is a common sign of affection among halflings, usually reserved for significant others or family members. In some cultures, close friends are greeted and/or parted from with a kiss on the cheek. Halflings are rarely embarrassed, and unless they are trying actively to blend in with another society, they aren't shy about showing eachother affection in front of others.
As Halflings are fine with enjoying life's pleasures, many are fine with the idea of "fooling around" with others; this can change drastically from clan to clan, but it isn't uncommon. It's a more private activity than say, enjoying good food or having a darts contest, and isn't usually brought up in conversation, but it isn't considered immoral or deviant. Note, though, that experimental/recreational sexual activities for Halflings usually only occur beteween members of the same sex, if not between married partners. Non-commital sexual relations between Halflings of opposite sexes can be seen as an affront to the very serious cultural concept of parenthood, and the idea makes most Halflings uneasy at the least.
The Savage Humanoids