Tuesday, February 26, 2008


In an e-mail this evening, a friend made a comment that I thought would be an interesting subject to explore. He stated that humor is a personal thing and listed the things he did and did not find funny.

It made me stop and think a bit about what I do and don't find humorous and then I considered why

Humor is a powerful thing. It unites and it separates. What people laugh at defines relationships. It attracts and turns off. The men who've I found most attractive throughout my history were all what I considered "quick on the draw", telling funny stories in good taste, who would act out silly scenes with me and who were not too self-conscious to be goofy in public. Men who tease and play practical jokes with sensitivity to other people's feelings were sexy as far as I was concerned.

In our home we encourage our kids to tell funny, off the cuff stories, and are quick to laugh at one liners as encouragement. (Today in the doctor's office I handed my youngest a form to sign. "What am I signing, Mom?" he asked, carefully applying each letter of his name. "Nothing much, son. Just admittance papers to the military." "Oh, good," he said without looking up or missing a beat. "Will there be cookies there?"). Gary and I play with them frequently and use jokes to aid them in remembering important messages, ease disappointment, and help them past moments of insecurity. Behind closed doors we act out momentary skits, wear goofy things on our heads, leave funny pictures and notes on each other's computers and so on. We do this because this is who we are when no one's looking. But we also believe a good sense of humor, not taking one's self so seriously that one can't laugh at one's self, is a very important survival skill.

The question I put to anyone who stops by is what do you think is funny and why? And what do you not find funny? My list is below.

Literary humor: Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, Simon Haynes, Douglas Adams, Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry and probably others who's names aren't coming to mind.

Stand up: Eddie Izzard--I'm the only one in this house who finds him funny--my husband can't get past the cross dressing thing--, Lewis Black, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Foxworthy, Robin Williams, Paula Poundstone, George Carlin, Wanda Sykes, and Bill Cosby.

Actresses: Lucille Ball, Carole Burnett, Sandra Bullock, Ellen DeGeneres, Brett Butler.

Actors: Jim Carrey (sometimes), Robin Williams, Danny Devito, Adam Sandler (sometimes), Kelsey Graham, David Hyde Pierce, Will Smith, Tim Allen.

Funniest movies/shows of all time: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, (Most Monty Python, actually), Airplane, Naked Gun (all of them--but not every minute of them), Police Academy, Princess Bride, Blazing Saddles, MASH, Cheers, Cosby, Fraiser, SNL (sometimes), WKRP in Cincinnati, Grace Under Fire (major favorite of mine), Blues Brothers, Oh Brother Where Art Thou.

I like knock-knock jokes, most Blonde jokes, and a well-told "story" jokes. Conversely, I am not good at telling any joke that has more than a handful of lines. I have exactly two jokes in my arsenal that I tell well and I had to practice them at length before I could carry them off.

What I do not find funny: humor which hurts or targets another person's weaknesses with no consideration for how they are receiving it (As I tell the boys, "If person you're teasing doesn't think it's funny--then it's not.") Bodily functions humor--just not into it. Excessively, in your face crude humor is not my cup of tea and there's a limit to how much foul language I'll listen to or read before I close the book or change the channel. I've long hated dead baby jokes. I never, ever got what was supposed to be funny about those. Dead cat and Helen Keller jokes are generally not funny either. Thank goodness people don't tell those much anymore.

Your turn:


Scotty said...

This is a subject close to my heart, Mary, and is so expansive, and so subjective, that I'm gonna have to come back to it - what I can say for now is that without a sense of humour, I don't think I would have survived the deterioration and ultimately, the final breakdown of my marriage. I'll gather my thoughts on this one and get back to you...

Mary O. Paddock said...

Scotty, I'm really looking forward to your take on this.

Anonymous said...

Humor makes you carry on in life. But of course it's the perspective that matters and it varies from person to person.

Scotty said...

So, now you have my perspective; can we still be friends, lol?


Mary O. Paddock said...

Even more so, Scotty. :)