Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Comedians Sleep At Night

It is a rarely recognized disability, but it does exist: there are people out there, this very minute, who were born without funny bones. 

It is not something that should be made little of; these humorless individuals sometimes do not realize their handicap and, under the misapprehension that they are "funny," joke irresponsibly.
However, true comedians, as an astute observer will realize, base the majority of their zingers against themselves. They have no limit on self-punishment. Whereas those devoid of wit often believe that comedy is simply mocking others.

Like the guy who sits next to Luke in shul. "He just doesn't get it," he shakes his head sadly. "He thinks being funny means being insulting. Then he's surprised when people get insulted." 

A youngish mother was sitting next to me by a shiur. The speaker was saying how parents should joke with their kids. "But my kids don't like it when my husband is being funny," she protested. I know her husband; he has never been "funny" a day in his life. He has been mean, however. 
I have a relative who I find hysterical. True, she will mock others, but mainly on that list of targeted individuals is herself. As long as someone is willing to point out their own absurdities to the world, she is funny. 

In walks the applicable article, "Avoiding Joker's Remorse" by Henry Alford. 
So, how is a joke-maker to proceed? Generally speaking, if someone self-deprecates about an aspect of his own persona, or if he appears to be amused when other people joke about this same aspect of his persona, then we sense a possible comedic opening.
But this comedic opening should not be mistaken for carte blanche. As they said at Yalta, “Boundaries, people!” 
As a self-deprecating individual, I certainly have been on the receiving end when a comment made at my own expense is used against me by an unfunny/mean companion. 
Many joke-makers think status is an important factor here. Joan Rivers said: "My husband was English and he always said, ‘You only yell at or tease your peers because they have the right to yell or tease back at you.’ The playing field has to be level or above you." 
My policy is, "If you can give it, you can take it." Duck.   

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