The other day I asked Jillian (it being the Comedy Festival in Melbourne where I live), what humour meant to her.
“Something that makes me laugh”, she quickly said.
“OK.” I passed the baton back to her. “What makes you laugh?”
Not unexpectedly she replied, “Something that is funny.”
There you have it. The perfectly circular argument.
“What is funny then” I asked thinking this in itself is a funny question. Or did I mean strange?
Again not unexpectedly, she replied, after a fairly long pause, “I guess I don’t really know.”
Must be tough to be a comedian. Pretty simple for a washing machine salesperson to figure out what his/her client wants. They all have clothes to wash. But a funny man? What makes a person laugh? They don’t know themselves. So how can you figure out what to say that is funny. WTF?
Anyway, after a few moments discussion, we figured we both like very similar things. We both find the unexpected funny. Words or situations that might have gone one way, but didn’t. Stories where you can see the very obvious ending but the narrative takes a full 180 degree turn for the punch line.
"One of the situations that still makes me laugh: Jillian reminisced, "is a Mother's day card I received from my quite young son one year. It was headed: 'To the beast mum in the whole world.' Now that is what makes me laugh." she said giggling away all over again.
Jillian, like me, doesn't usually find racist or sexist ‘jokes’ funny. Religious comments and jokes about disabilities are usually not what either of us considers good content for comedy. That being said, we are both very big fans of Steady Eddie. He has cerebral palsy and has a whole show and several recordings of his comedy that centres around his inability do the the kind of stuff we all take for granted. One of his routines concerns an online airline booking where it seems the airline has placed him in an escape row seat so he can help others in an emergency. [Editor note] I think it is called Airports or something. His comments are hilarious.
Steady Eddy: https://www.facebook.com/guruofcomedy
So yeah, we both find self-deprecating humour funny. Makes us laugh. The deal with that is tricky, though. Is it being done purely for the unexpectedness or inappropriateness of the story, and therefore the funniness, or is it a cover for hurt and a cry for help? Who knows?
Adam Hills jokes about his missing foot. Ruby Wax talks a lot about her fights with mental illness and depression.
“One of the things that gets me,” said Jillian, “is the continued ranting and swearing. I mean I don’t have a problem with the words themselves, but I don’t understand what is funny about the word F$%^ all by itself. And I am not sure why many people seem to think anger is funny.”
“Yep. I agree.” I said. “Speaking of swearing, can you remember the Elliot Goblet joke?” I asked. And she knew what I was talking about right away. He is an Iconic Australian Comedian known for his one liners all delivered in his traditional deadpan style.
“This is a family show. I only say F$%^ once. <longish pause>. That was it.”
We both shouted it out together and fell about laughing. Now that was FUNNY.
You can check him out here on Facebook: www.facebook.com/elliot.goblet
Let me ask you, my readers, “What do you think is funny? What is humour to you? What makes you laugh?”
Send in some comments and let’s have a discussion on what is humour.
I think we need to talk more about this. Jillian must have seen some funny things in her life and therefore we will have some more on funny, humour, laughing etc next time?