My oldest son had a fish pond on his property which he converted to a sandpit for his kids. He sent us a photo on the WhatsApp family group of the finished masterpiece – a big circular sandpit packed with sand. To which my second son dryly commented, “I hope you removed the fish.”
Subtle, unexpected humour is like a treasure found in a junk yard. Like a ten cent coin on the footpath. Like a lolly in an old coat pocket. (Wrapped.) Or other foolish similes.
One is surprised by joy (misusing CS Lewis).
People with that dry gift are diamonds in their own right. Some find a career in it – comedians or script writers. The Airport, Naked Gun and Hotshot movies were saturated with the whole gag suite: the subtle and the obvious; the unexpected and the twisted; the background and the stage-centre … so saturated that some gags are happening simultaneously, and you miss them; you have to rewatch several times.
In a Naked Gun sequence, cops are ransacking someone’s office; one searcher opens a drawer and shouts, “Bingo!” The others all look up and the guy raises a Bingo card he’s found.
In an Airplane movie, the key character tells his sad back-story whenever he can, usually to strangers, and they always end up trying to top themselves in various ways. In the beginning of one such, on a plane, agitated, he sits next to an elderly woman. Concerned, she says, “Are you nervous?” He nods, looking very nervous. “First time?” she asks. “No,” he says, straight-faced. “I’ve been nervous before.”
Or the scene on the aircraft carrier (in Hotshots) where a wounded sailor needs an urgent blood transfusion and a fellow sailor is roped in, to lie beside him. They’re hooked up and, while the injured man perks up, the other one’s body deflates and caves in. (A so-called ‘sight gag’.)
As a school teacher I tried to use humour quite a lot. It always failed, but in a sort of good way. I’d be jeered, and became known for my ‘dad jokes’, but it was worth it. It kind of invited the students in, to a real – if clumsy and awkward – human being. I doubt it ever contributed to good exam results, but it seemed a hospitable way of teaching, and it stupefied the students into thinking learning could be fun!
So, if there’s a point to this blog at all, it’s: don’t be afraid to give humour a go. It’s worth it. You can’t fail! Doesn’t matter how cheesy you are. Humour is a human thing. In a way, it’s what makes us human, and separates us from the actual animals (along with – yeah? – self-awareness, altruism, and a capacity for critical thinking and deeper feelings). So, I say, be ever ready with a pun or a one-liner or a humorous self-deprecating story. (We must be able to laugh at ourselves. Maybe that’s most important of all.)
Some humour, I must add, is not appropriate, let’s be clear. Smutty and toilet humour, humour that depends on profanity or sexual innuendo, hurtful sarcasm or the sort of ‘joke’ that ends up making someone feel awful. (Annoyingly, the above-mentioned movies had too much of these.)
No. Constructive, optimistic, illuminating and joyous humour is what I’m championing. Stuff unexpected, that makes pleasant company lift and live. Try. It’s worth it. Don’t demur and fear adverse reaction. Suck it up!
Suggestion: learn a couple of really good jokes, and share them.
A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)
There was a blind contestant on a recent episode of The Chase. Bradley asked him some obscure question. The guy looked blank for a few seconds, shook his head slightly and said, “Bradley, you might just as well ask me the colour of your shirt.” I cracked up.
That’s real humour.
Footnote: Mobilising my best intentions, I’ve started a new page on this website entitled Left Field, where various jokes and quotes and ridiculousness are going to appear from time to time. Check out the first entry there now.