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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Is That Funny?

I think the thing that cracks me up while watching a TV dating show or reading a classified ad is the notion that he or she is looking for someone who has a "sense of humor". The most dour person I ever worked for was very high on her own (alleged) sense of humor. Almost everyone believes he/she has one. The question: what's funny to you?

ITEM: The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun by Julie Brown, which I have on some Dr. Demento album. Funny? Used to be funny in a pre-Columbine country, but not anymore? Never funny? I still chuckle at "Throw down your gun and tiara and come out of the float."

ITEM: A friend of mine, who's Irish, referred to herself as a "mick", but to her husband as "Italian".

ITEM: Former Irish leader Mary Robinson was in Albany on Monday where she told this joke (again), according to a woman I met in the elevator who had attended the event. What was REALLY funny, though, is the fact that the woman in the elevator blew the punchline, and said, "Bono doesn't think he's God." Now THAT was funny.

ITEM: There was a TV show about black America on TV Land a couple months ago. One (black) participant said: "I have an idea for a TV show. It would be called 'Good Morning, Black America'. It would start at noon." It got a big laugh from the other (black) participants. But I'll contend that, say, Trent Lott ought not to try it.

One of the bloggers I know got a comment that said, essentially, that everyone should be able to say whatever funny thing they want, regardless of their race, gender, etc.
That is patently silly.
There are things that one can say to your tribe, whether it be your friends, family or however one defines that, which simply is NOT universal.
There was an episode of the TV show The Office in which Michael Scott was doing a Chris Rock routine (and badly), which led to everyone complaining to upper management about him as insensitive.

Some people engage in ethnic humor, or humor targeting the physically impaired or women or gays. If I object, and I'm told, "Oh, you just don't have a sense of humor." I reject that categorically. I like humor, but it should actually be funny.

I saw "Young Frankenstein" ("That's Frankensteen") when I was in high school, and literally fell out of my seat with laughter. I can watch the end of "Animal House" - from Belushi's "Germans bomb Pearl Harbor" speech on - almost any time.
There are any number of episodes of the Dick van Dyke Show, the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Barney Miller (especially post-Fish), Taxi, and any number of well-written TV shows and movies I enjoy.

Conversely, I think that Punk'd type shows deal more in shock than in actual humor. (I always thought Punk'd was Candid Camera on steroids.) On one episode of an NFL pre-game show a season or two ago, someone stole a player's expensive car. Surprise - he reacted with anger.

Seinfeld could be funny, but it could also be a pretty nasty show, never more so than when George seems gleeful when his fiancee dies from poisoned stationery. It was better for me when it really WAS about nothing, such as getting lost in a parking garage.

Benny Hill was just dumb, and I never understood why my father watched it.

Any statement, followed by "LOL", is rarely funny, in my experience.

If America's Funniest Home Videos is a reflection of what's supposed to be humorous, then the terrorists really HAVE won.

And you don't think that that last comment wasn't funny, that's just the point: it isn't that people don't have a sense of humor, it's that what one person considers funny, another does not. This SHOULD be obvious, but the way the "must have a good sense of humor" mantra is bandied about, I'm not so sure.

Again, it's so individualized. Funny Nazis? Hogan's Heroes. Funny Hitler? The Producers. In fact, the only really funny thing I remember of Mel Brooks' amazingly unfunny "History of the World, Part 1" was Hitler on ice skates. (The movie seemed to be full of urination jokes.)

Here's a site with some pretty funny Photoshopped images, and a few...well, you judge.

The source of the photo above struck me as funny, for some reason.

One thing I can't do is tell a joke. I can't remember the punchline to any joke that I've heard since I was 10. Conversely, I remember all the jokes I learned when I was 10. They were all convoluted and ended with a terrible pun. Like this one:

An old man was out tuna fishing and discovered a couple porpoises in his net. They had the same marking as those he remembered from his youth. He turned them over to some biologists, and they confirmed that in fact, these animals were thousands of years old. So, the biologists took them to a secluded island, and put two nasty lions out front of the building to scare people away.
Some evil people heard about these remarkable aquatic creatures. They commandeered a boat to the island and took out dart guns to traquilize the ferocious felines that had been guarding the compound.
As they walked past the big cats, what crime were the evil folks guilty of?

(Block to expose.)
Crossing staid lions for immortal porpoises.

I NEVER said it was funny.


Scott said...

I never really thought about the "they have a good sense of humor" comment before. It is very relative.

My line of thinking is that people "have a good sense of humor" if they can laugh at themselves, can understand when someone is trying to lighten up (not be serious all the time) or do it themselves, and they don't revert to sick and disgusting things as humor.

And bad puns CAN be considered funny, but to a select few, like my wife and her Uncle Joe. Actually, your joke sounds like something that Uncle Joe would tell.

Steve said...

Like so many things, perhaps this is subjective. Like you, I know many people who consider themselves to have a good sense of humor, but I apparently am incapable of seeing it. I would surmise that humor is good if you can, like Scott says, laugh at yourself and enjoy the situation around you. I don't know what exactly is "funny," but I know what makes me laugh, and I know that many people accuse me of having a terrible sense of humor.

This is an interesting site, I'll have to make sure I come back. I found you through a comment you left on English Professor's site.

Booksteve said...

The example I always use is Andrew "Dice" Clay. During his moment in the spotlight, he pushed the envelope pretty far. The problem is...he wasn't funny!I don't care how dirty or distasteful a joke is if it is actually amusing on some level!His were not.
I agree completely on Benny Hill and I'm an anglophile. I love the Carry On films with their similar leering humor but I never even smiled at Benny.
A current favorite of mine is Bill Bellamy whom I found on an uncensored concert on TV one night at 2 AM when I couldn't sleep. An intelligent, self-confident, truly witty man who eschews the popular "black" comic attitudes and by doing so makes considerable comment on them. He makes me laugh!