258. A Sense Of Humor

Being funny is like being confident: if you have to try, you’re not.

(the same it is with a lot of other things: being sexy, being chill, being clever, being savvy… yep)

(also, pop songwriters take note: this is how you do similes)

An important part about being a writer – nay, an important part about being a human being – is in having a sense of humor. It’s a great, versatile thing. Like sugar. It helps to lighten the mood, it helps to connect people, it can turn a frown upside-down, and it can get you out of many a sticky situation.

A little bit like telling stories, except classier.

(if there are aliens reading this in an attempt to understand human culture, I accept donations in cash, preferably in US Dollars)

Jokes don’t get the recognition they deserve. Anyone who has tried to tell a joke would understand how difficult it is to get it right: the timing, the tone, the rhythm… There’s a good reason why we flock around people who makes us laugh. The Shawshank Redemption can boast all it wants about being everyone’s all-time favorite movie, Breaking Bad can go on about how groundbreaking and unflinchingly visceral it is; but given a choice, everyone would choose to watch that new Jim Carrey movie or The Big Bang Theory first.

I don’t care what Abraham Maslow says. I believe jokes, like stories, belong right on the base tier of the hierarchy of needs, along food and shelter. We need them to survive. We literally require them in order to face the drag that is daily life. Take jokes and stories out of the equation, and I guarantee mass suicides all around the world. We’re just not programmed to function without them.

(and now for a naturalist fallacy argument: Did you know that chimps gather around to tell jokes to each other? See – even nature confirms it!)

But being funny, like being confident, seems at times to be a gift rather than a skill. I don’t doubt that. There are just people who are inherently funny; and people who just project that aura of confidence wherever they go. The same it is with charisma. While the rest of us are struggling to keep up by learning the techniques, they just go on and make it look so easy. It’s almost like they’re taunting us.

But here’s what I know about being funny: it comes out of you naturally. If you have to stop and think about it, you’re either doing it as a living, or you’re not doing it right. See, being funny is a primal thing, and 90% of the time, it’s all about the timing. An art form, basically. Overthink it, you run right into the centipede’s dilemma and fudge up the whole delivery. You just need to go with the flow. You need to feel the moment. And if you find yourself thinking whether it’s a good idea to say it or not, most of the time, it’s not. Don’t.

Ultimately, I think we have a responsibility to talk about things that makes us laugh. Not things that we think might make other people laugh – but things that we ourselves find funny. Hey, it makes the world go round, okay? The world runs on laughter. And the conservation of angular momentum, but mostly laughter.

So please, by all means: make us laugh. Tell jokes.

Unless you suck at it. Then don’t.


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