Bill Cosby, blondes, clowns, Elephant Man, Holocaust, humor, inappropriate humor, Jerry Lewis, leprosy, Smaktakula's hatred of clowns, Telemundo, the French, unfunny people, Why am I so unfunny?
Humor is a strange and wondrous thing. Wondrous, of course, because of the warm, community-building emotions generated by humor, it is at the same time strange, as humor is one of those enigmatic and elusive qualities so hard to compare and quantify. Why, for example, do the French find Jerry Lewis uproariously funny when to the rest of the world his tired schtick is the humorous equivalent of nails on a chalkboard? Likewise, non-Spanish speakers watching Telemundo might be forgiven for failing to be delighted by a fifty-five year old man in a propeller cap, sucking on a lollipop and pretending to be a six-year old boy.
But despite humor’s slippery nature, there is sometimes broad agreement as to what does or does not tickle the funny bone. For example, most people regard blonde jokes as moderately amusing, while the Holocaust is nearly universally judged to be unfunny. Bill Cosby? Funny. Leprosy? Not funny at all.
Of course, some people are naturally funnier than others. You’ve seen these animated men and women holding court at parties or in the break room at work, effortlessly navigating the rocky shoals of the conversation with witty bon mots and amusing anecdotes. The responsive laughter is unforced and organic.
Likewise, you’ve no doubt encountered the funny person’s far more common polar opposite–the odiously unfunny person. This strident, braying jackass is a comedy-killer who can usually be counted on to stun a lively crowd into a benumbed and uncomfortable silence with his mistimed jokes, painfully unfunny observations and stiff, rehearsed cruelty.
Because the bulk of the population falls somewhere in the wide ‘moderately funny/moderately unfunny’ middle between these extremes, most people don’t realize that these two creatures–the wickedly funny and the desperately unfunny–are more alike than at first they seem. In fact, despite the completely disparate results of being funny and unfunny, the two share a common raison d’être. The trick to being really funny is surprisingly also the very thing which motivates the human buzzkill: the secret to both is to think you’re really funny.
And you’re too kind. Thanks COF!
What? Necrotic digital stumps teeming with Mycobacterium leprae aren’t funny?
Well, kinda they are. Honestly, I had a hard time finding something that WASN’T funny. Off the top of my head, I know a few jokes about leprosy:
1) How do you know a leper’s been in your bathtub? Your soap has grown.
2) What did the leper say to the hooker? Keep the tip.
3) Did you hear that the captain of the doomed cruise ship was a leper? Yeah, when things turned ugly, he fell apart.
Remember, I said I knew a few jokes about leprosy. I didn’t say a thing about knowing any good jokes.
Leave it to you to know leper jokes. Loved #2! Gives a whole new reason for condom use.
All this leper talk has brought “Papillon” to mind. May have to watch it again. “How do I look?” Not great, Steve, not great.
“Papillon?” That means butterfly. It must be a French nature movie.
In all seriousness, I find it ironic that of the many roles in which I have seen him, Dustin Hoffman’s least irritating character is a sneaky French convict.
4) Did you hear about the leper pirate captain who called for all hands on deck?
5) Tried going to a leper hockey game last night. It got cancelled after the first period because there was a face-off in the corner.
A couple awesome additions, THM! And if I’m ever hard up for more, I keep a copy of Blanche Knott’s delightful volume, Gross Jokes, in my office for just such an occasion.
El Registraro De Perverto Sexual
I am peeing myself laughing.
Thanks, Anastasia. We’re delighted to cause humor-based incontinence.
El Guapo said:
I thought we agreed to wait until Jerry Lewis was dead to start making fun of him.
We did, Guap, we did. But I’ve found I simply can’t wait that long.
Cakes and Shakes... said:
My boss is a notorious Joke murderer and general anti-humorous force. He tells a joke and there’s nothing but silence and pitying looks. I get a great laugh out of mocking him for this though, so maybe he won’t go to hell for crimes against laughter… Once, famously, a really nice old Professor I work with and I were chatting about his dog that just passed away after a long battle with doggy cancer when my big fat German boss walks up and starts telling the most horrendous joke about a dog that goes to the vet and gets raped by all the other dogs even though it is a boy dog. I’m telling you I will never forget the look of incredultity and horror on the poor victims face and still my boss had no idea he’d offended anyone till I explained, rather caustically…
Waitaminnit! Are you telling me than an Irishman (by which I mean Irish person) works for a Kraut and it hasn’t been made into a sitcom yet? “Fritz & The Wee Folk.” “Leprekaun Raus!” “Lederhosen & Bloody Noses” — Seriously, this thing writes itself!
Your boss sounds really atypical though. There are two things I know about the Hun: 1) They are a VERY funny people. 2) They have a deep-seated respect for all life.
Thanks for the great comment, C&S!
Cakes and Shakes... said:
One of my former colleagues is actually noting down all the weird stuff he said and did for the purposes of a screenplay (there is acres of good stuff, like the time he kicked me in a meeting under the table and everyone at that meeting knew as it was a small room, or the time he ran over my foot in his jeep outside a trade show and didn’t realise despite my loud screeching at him ‘reverse you fat fuck’ or whatever it was I said at the time, or the time we got drunk in a dodgy Jamaican area in London and… well there’s too much to go into). And not to mention all his bad-English catch phrases and tendency to stutter.
I’m now the longest lasting employee of his, at seven years, which says alot about my thick skin and my lack of desire to work for someone normal who wouldn’t tolerate my own brand of BS in the workplace (continually goofing off, etc.).. Oh and the boss is not a purebred : )
Alex Autin said:
And please don’t forget the effect of alcohol when mixed with humor. Some who I’d never think to be funny are a riot after they’ve had a few….and they’re even funnier after I’ve had a few as well.
This, by the way, was funny even without alcohol. : )
Oh, yeah–I get WAY funnier with alcohol. Other people can’t always see that, but it’s true.
Beauty also improves after a few stiff drinks.
Alan Weischedel said:
Well here’s a funny leprosy sketch…
Thanks for the comment! I laughed so hard my fingers fell off.