I remember those days of internet dating when one of those ever-present terms was “a good sense of humour” – stated either as a requirement or as a description of self. But the problem is that humour can mean different things to different people. Very different things….
There were those who thought the way to woo a woman was to wise-crack their way through a date, wondering why you’d politely side-step both the goodnight kiss and/or a suggestion for a second date. I’ve never utilised the “emergency phone call” methodology to get out of a date, and I’m well enough brought up to smile politely even when I don’t find something funny. The problem was that was often mis-read as some form of lady-like behaviour. I always wondered how they thought I came by these
wrinkles laughter lines – it certainly wasn’t from smiling politely 😀
I never enjoyed jokes which relied on stereotyping of any sort – blond or sexist jokes being as unwelcome as racist or any other form of -ism. I like cleverness, so wit is my preferred form of humour, and observational humour is right up my alley. Self-deprecating humour – sending yourself up for the entertainment of others rather than picking on someone else – works for me. Yet tell a wise-cracker this and they just keep on wise-cracking… Because unless you share the same sense of humour, there tends to be an assumption that you either don’t have one, or are being stuck-up, or a prude, or whatever.
So, what does make me laugh? One way to clarify might be to give examples.
When I was young, my father loved old style monologues. He was a huge fan of Jonathan Winters, and he also bought a few LPs (remember those) by Bill Cosby. Yes… him. And they were funny, they really were. Would I still find them so – I don’t know. Would I be affected by what I now know about him – yes, absolutely. The problem is that they were observational and witty and self-deprecating, so I’d be conflicted over whether I’d rather spend an hour listening to them or to the determined but unfunny wise-cracker.
As a family, we’re very sarcastic., so I admire great one-liners and witty put-downs – but you have to really know (and love) the people concerned, and they have to know (and love) you back. For sarcasm can go badly wrong when mutual love isn’t present, and humour which hurts simply isn’t funny.
Terribly British stuff like Monty Python and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy just passed me by – I was (and remain) utterly bemused. Most British comedy on TV from my youth I found cringeworthy, but ones I recall finding amusing were Only Fools & Horses and Dad’s Army. Later it would include Absolutely Fabulous and Blackadder. Most recently, Derry Girls has provided a few giggles – mostly at the expense of the Catholic church and sectarianism. Of American shows, the ones which come to mind are The Golden Girls, and M*A*S*H*. All share a common theme of being either clever, witty, gently observational, or inviting you to laugh at themselves.
David Niven’s The Moon Is A Balloon stands out as a wonderfully funny piece of writing. While it caused me so many moments of laughing that hard I was grateful I didn’t have a full bladder, it also didn’t avoid subjects of sadness and loss. To this day I’ve never forgotten the tale of the fancy dress party, the goats and the olives…. (if you know, you know). Funnily enough, I found out only this week that Himself felt the same way upon reading it.
I tend to avoid most of the stand-up comedy on TV but, before COVID, went with a friend to see Sindhu Vee perform in a small live Soho venue. I didn’t have high expectations, or much in the way of expectation at all – but I found her really funny. I did actually LOL – and quite a lot. Her humour included a fair bit of culture blending (she is Indian and her husband is Danish), which worked really well for someone with my background. She’s also meets my cleverness pre-requisite, having degrees from the Universities of Delhi, Oxford, McGill and Chicago. I’m also currently fairly amused by Jack Whitehall. He sends himself up rather well, making fun of his poshness and the fact he still calls his parents Mummy and Daddy. But I’m beginning to suspect his parents could be just as funny…. if not more so.
Broadly speaking, I tend to give organised humour a miss. I have laughed till helpless on occasion, but it’s more often the scenario than the individual which caused me to so do. Himself regularly cracks me up – by being a blend of clever and silly – which makes him perfect for me. But as humour is so individual, I fully expect there’s plenty who’d wonder why I’m laughing….
What’s funny in Films/TV/Netflix/online right now? We all need a dose of humour and Himself can’t bear the responsibility for making me laugh all the time!
© Debra Carey, 2022