Saturday, June 8, 2013

A sense of humor?

After a long stint of hunting for jobs, Ajay bags one with a call center operation and rings up his close friend to share his joy.
"Dude! I got a job with ...."
"Pleeaase tell me you are not calling me to sell me insurance"
Ha Ha Ha
Ajay let his friend down badly by not laughing heartily at this sally. A shocking lack of a sense of humor! His friend was aghast.

Vinay's boss was at his home for a dinner.
His wife says, "You know Vinay is the only guy I have seen who can add two and two and bring out a different result every time. I am surprised that he works in finance."
You have no idea how ridiculously serious men can be. They just cannot take a joke on themselves.

Rahul and his wife are at a party.
"You look gorgeous"
"She'd better after the fortune she paid to the beauty parlor"
Well! If men cannot laugh at themselves, women are worse!

There have been occasions when Indians have been accused of lacking A Sense of Humor due to the manner in which they reacted to some comments. That link there constitutes my own rebuttal to that accusation in the-NRI - the only guest post that has not been linked from my blog and, thus, the only one that very few of my readers would have come across. A strange piece for a so-called humorist to have written!

The whole point about a sense of humor is that people do not have a uniform attitude to all jokes on themselves. Every person has some sensitive areas and someone who can take a joke on his baldness may be unable to see humor in his physical ineptitude. As a generalization women do not take to jokes on their looks while men find it difficult to laugh off a joke on their ability at work. Such sensitivities change over time but, whether they are gender-specific or not, sensitive areas do exist.

Some jokes cease to amuse at some times. Like in the first case, a joke about call centers is unlikely to be amusing when the concerned person is expecting to be congratulated. Some jokes are misplaced depending on the audience. As in the second case, where the wife's joke characterizes the husband as inept in front of his boss.or the third case where the husband jokes about his wife's looks in a party.

In my mind, there is a difference between a wit and a humorist. A wit is someone who makes people laugh and, for him, it does not matter whether he makes people laugh at someone or not. That sort of wit is abhorrent to me (though I have been carried away by a line and done it too often myself) since it is a joy that comes out of someone's hurt and any sensitive person is bound to feel guilty even as the punchline makes her laugh.

A humorist on the other hand is someone who makes people laugh with him. Normally, the joke is an alternative lighthearted way of looking at circumstances rather than a dig at the foibles of people. To me, this is the best part of humor. If a humorist can succeed in making people take a lighthearted view of life, he has contributed more to the happiness of people than if he made them laugh at someone else.

Satire, for example, is a dig at people and Society. There is no denying the fact that it hurts the target - but, then, it is intended to since it seeks to drive in a message and, perhaps, alter the behavior. Theoretically, a joke that hurts a person may well be said in order to change behavior - though jokes about height etc. do not seem like they can be very efficacious in changing anything. As in everything else in the grey area, the perpetrator alone knows his motives - but to accuse the target of lacking a sense of humor when you full well know that your joke would hurt him seems like a bit of cynicism.

I do not intend saying that everyone who reacts badly to a joke is correct in doing so. There are too many people in the world who really do lack a sense of humor and go out of their way to seek injury where none was intended. I only intend saying that when a 'humorist' accuses another of lacking a sense of humor, there is a good possibility that it is the 'humorist' who was lacking in sense.

18 comments:

  1. The only humour that is palatable all the time is the self depreciating sort. Otherwise egos get damaged, enmity is fostered. And sadly - since I normally indulge in the self depreciating variety, I get taken for a flake or worse - a soft target. There you go - humour is a difficult job

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    1. Tell me about it :) Now you know why I prefer self-deprecating humor and thank God that there is so much to be self-deprecatory about :)

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  2. And you promised to be away for a while Suresh ;)!!

    But seriously where do get the topics of your posts from?
    Another wonderful write up ..Infact an intelligent write up !

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    1. Well! I got a PC to use here thanks to the fact that my friend's sons are away on holiday :)

      Glad you found this interesting.

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  3. True, Suresh. But sometime when something occurs to you spontaneously, it is difficult to stop and think which type of humor. What can be avoided is choosing some victim and hounding him/her. Often bosses in office do that. They think they are being funny but the opposite person does not retort due to fear of the position even though he can think of a fitting reply.

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    1. Don't I know it? :) I have been guilty often enough of spouting a line without regard to how hurtful it can be. I can only say that I do not accuse the other person post facto for lacking a sense of humor when he fails to laugh.

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  4. Unfortunately, most of the times people can only crack jokes at the expense of some poor chap. And to be honest, how many care if the victim is happy?

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  5. The last line nailed it. Yes, some people go way too overboard without keeping in mind, the audience and the target person's feelings. That is when humour turns 'fume'-our!

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  6. Very nice article with sense and humor. Liked the way you write...keep it up

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  7. Self deprecatory humor is safe & enjoyable for the reader;but i also love satires on on corrupticians.

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    1. I was talking more of conversational humor Indu :) You will note that I too have talked of the need for Satire.

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  8. I agree Suresh. Sometimes this sort of making jokes out of someone would have an underlying jealousy or inferiority complex in the mind of the 'Humorist'. Also, some who laugh may be doing so to avoid being the odd one out. Btw, i thought would be making some poor sadhu in the Himalayas laugh right now. You managed to find a computer?

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    1. I am in Delhi now. Will be bothering the Sadhus only after the 15th :)

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  9. Like others, I feel self-deprecatory humor is the safest bet. We all like to laugh as long as the joke is not on us. And you are right, there is a time, place and occasion for everything. Sometimes people play to the gallery and crack really lousy ones. Unless one knows the people involved really well, humor can be a tricky terrain to embark upon.

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    1. Very tricky indeed :) Thank God I have much to be self-deprecatory about :)

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