I like to laugh, chuckle, be animated and engage with people, and if I have one significant disappointment in this very diverse environment, it’s inability to laugh readily, of many.
Why this reserve and conservatism? Humour and laughter are about feeling good all over, and letting it show in your face.
It’s almost with some folk, as if the default setting is to look for offence.
And the thing about humour is that if you miss it, it’s gone.
If someone is “having a laugh,” with you, it’s certainly not the same as making fun of you, which is just another more subtle, style of bullying. No.
Sharing laughter is a wonderfully engaging coming together, a sign of implied admiration and respect really.
Comedian and concert pianist Victor Borge, known as ‘The Clown Prince of Denmark,’ was someone I will never forget.
When we first got a television set in the 60’s I never missed him.
He was a musician, from a musical family, and was adept across the classical genre, but he had the ability to make people laugh as well, once saying that “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”
He could play a piece of music, turn the page upside down or back to front, exactly as he saw it, which isn’t easy at all.
In one performance he stopped, mid tune, and asked a member of the audience if she liked good music? She said “Yes,” and he responded, “Then you’re in the wrong hall!” Or when he told an audience, “I don’t play Beethoven that well. But I play Debussy a lot worse, and Beethoven’s pretty happy about that!”
But while Borge perhaps epitomizes much of the way I feel about life in general, there is a definite gap here that is maybe a ‘lost in translation thing,’ about jokes, laughter and humour. Or maybe the cultural, linguistic and national divide is just too great?
For example, this one: “How come the Belgians got ‘Pommes Frittes,’ and the Middle East got the oil? Because the Belgians had first choice!” Now that’s a wee chuckle, but try and work out who should take offence.
That’s right, you can’t, because nobody should, it’s a double edged sword, and everyone can chuckle and nod knowingly.
The Brits among us could be upset at this observation that, “The British version of diplomacy is the ability to tell someone to ‘Go to hell,’ and have them respond by asking for directions.” It is being subtly critical, and grudgingly appreciative, at the same time.
Of course, national stereotypes are fertile ground for humour: “What’s the difference between an American and a pot of yoghurt? After time, the yoghurt develops a culture!”
And the French get nailed with this one: “After God created France, he thought it was the most beautiful country in the world. But, he worried that other countries were going to get jealous, and to be fair decided to create the French people.”
And this one: Customs officer asks a visitor, “Nationality?” The visitor responds, “German.” The officer again; “Occupation?” To which the visitor replies: “No. Just visiting.”
For something different, England doesn’t have a kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
Some humour is probably unintended too.
Last year, Saudi Arabia awarded citizenship to a robot, Sophia.
Even vocations are fair game sometimes, and here’s a teacher joke: “What’s the difference between a cat and a comma. A cat has paws at the end of its claws, while a comma is a pause at the end of a clause.”
Then there’s the psychiatrist’s one, maybe from ‘Frazier?’ “My suitcase started crying, I was carrying emotional baggage.”
Laughter really is very good medicine.