I always thought my friends were funny- me too! Well, here’s a bit of a book I’m working on. If you don’t like it, well, fuck you, it’s free.
I Don’t Get It
When it comes right down to it, nobody makes people laugh. When you laugh properly it’s an involuntary reaction. That’s what makes forced laughter so awful, even worse than silence. It says to the jokester “Gosh, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, so I’ll laugh awkwardly instead.” We’ve all been in that tricky situation where something is said, then everybody laughs except us- because we don’t get it. I’m guessing that most of us in that situation will muster a fake laugh, all the while feeling like an impostor, waiting for the moment to pass.
For folks like myself, who garner all approval and judge their own self-worth by how many laughs they get per day (L.P.D.), it’s not surprising to discover that when we study the body’s Humor Distribution System (H.D.S.) scientifically, our eyes and ears are attached to our brains. [tom hitt, 12/13/13 8:06 AM – run-on sentence – clean this up.] If I make a remark that’s funny and you don’t laugh, there are only two reasonable assumptions I can make; either you don’t get it, or your ability to process humor is impaired in some way. If it’s a disease, you can count on me to help fund the search for a cure. I suppose a third option is that you’re ignoring me, but that seems unlikely, I’m so engaging! The final (and least likely) explanation might be that what I said just wasn’t funny; and that’s just not funny.
Among some desperate non-funny people, a haughty, exclusionary attitude is misconstrued as humor, which is a cold and unreasonable way to get laughs in my book. It’s tantamount to bullying. Making people say or do something just to make them look foolish isn’t funny; never was, never will be. I was the object of such a ruse at a gig a few years back. I was playing music at a wedding rehearsal dinner. It was an outdoor affair, very swanky, chock full of pretentious snobs. Someone asked me to announce that one of the cars in the parking lot had it’s lights on. Then some “helpful” guest asked that I also announce that the car was running. The car was a Prius. What the hell did I know, I didn’t own a Prius, never even drove one. For those of you who still don’t ‘get it’— a Prius couldn’t have been running in the parking lot, the engine only runs when it’s traveling above 5 miles per hour. Assholes.
Obscure, outdated or confusing references can be the death of a schtick. A prankster, as with a neo-vegan organic environmentalist, must think globally and perform locally. Avoid jokes about vegetables though, they just aren’t funny. Stick to fruits, they have a lot more laughs to offer. For example, what’s not funny about a banana?
On occasion the joke isn’t actually the real joke at all. This is the best place to observe people who ‘don’t get it’ because they wind up hanging themselves for our pleasure. Against all odds they forge ahead, bound and determined to be voted ‘dumb-ass of the evening’.
Some time ago a good friend of mine related a family dinner scenario in which his brother-in-law was about to repeat a joke that he didn’t understand. For some reason the brother-in-law thought that this would be the perfect time to bounce it off of other folks, to see if they would get it. Please take my advice, never tell a joke that you don’t get, especially when seated at a formally set dinner table, surrounded by your very large, very christian right wing family. Yes, it’s that bad. For those of you with delicate sensibilities, this is your last chance to stop reading. No? OK, I warned you.
My friend is seated directly across from this impending disaster. His brother-in-law begins: “What do you call a mexican woman with no legs?” At this point my friend attempts a silent admonishment, glaring at his soon-to-be ex-relation, eyes wide with panic, subtly shaking his head no (NO!!) to this fool.
Apparently being subtle would not work, so my friend regroups his thoughts. He now mentally prepares himself for triage, preparing to pick up the pieces after all hell breaks loose, which it certainly will. “Consuelo” comes the punchline. My friend’s eyes reflexively close. It is guaranteed that at the very least his father-in-law will throw down his napkin in disgust as his mother-in-law falls to the floor in a dead faint. — — Nope. Silence. No one else gets it either. Oy Vey…
Years ago I attended a very nice brunch thrown for the choir members of our former church (that’s another book). I’m the tenor in this scene. I’m chatting about the most recent doings of Warren Buffett with a bass singer, also a member in the choir. Warren Buffett (if you don’t know) is a highly intelligent, insanely wealthy philanthropist. During this period he was in the news all the time. As we were chatting, a soprano sat down and joined us, mid conversation. Now I’m not casting stones here, or typecasting anyone – but when she heard my companion utter the name Warren Buffett again, she excitedly exclaimed, “Oh! I love his music!”. Yep, kinda awkward… but hey! I did enjoy the brief glimpse in my mind’s eye of Warren Buffett on a sunny beach stage, singing ‘Margaritaville’ to a bunch of drunken college coeds.
The bottom line is this: if you really want to be funny, know your audience – and remember, sometimes it’s ok to just shut up and listen.