Humor is tricky. What’s funny or telling to some is something else entirely to others. What do you think of these examples? Read More
But it's hard to be against someone making fun of their own situation.
On the subject of the kid picture, I don't necessarily need an excuse to leave early. I love my work and I am dedicated. However, I do expect the size of the pay check to match the dedication. If I add more value, I expect more return. And I don't mean if I work more hours, I mean if I add more value.
Bella de Paulo went to a supermarket She picked out her items and went to the cashier.
The cashier looked her items: six single serving frosen dinners, one bar of soap, one toothbrush, one quart of milk, a small loaf of bread, a package of individual serving cereal boxes, and a copy of Jane magazine.
Then he said to Bella, "You must be single."
She said, "Yes I am. How did you know?"
He said, "Cause you're ugly."
Though humor tends to be fairly individual, I think that most people recognize that biting, insulting humor isn't a statement about the group or individual being targeted but rather it's a comment about the "humorist(s)" who created or spread it. I work with very young children and, therefore, they are obviously immature and their thinking skills are still at the beginning stage of development. Their reactions to feeling threatened or "less than" tend to be very immature as well. They use humor that targets those that they are insecure about as their means of feeling better about themselves and their own situations. Most would expect them to because they are so young. When adults do it, imo, it simply means they never moved beyond that stage of development in their emotional growth.
When the humor isn't insulting but rather bringing to the forefront some irony about a situation, as Jerry Seinfeld is famous for doing, it does tend to strike a chord for people, especially those involved in the situation. Then it can be very funny. I think the cat poster and the use of mannequins falls into that category. They're funny because the societal stereotype/expectation that they are based on is so silly. No one is being targeted; it's the expectation or stereotype that is being blown apart.
And I like your analysis. It will help me evaluate other things like that. Remember the celebrity roasts in the 80s? Most of the time they were funny, when they poked affectionately at the subject; sometimes they got hurtful and it wasn't funny at all. We all kind of know where that line is. I can think of one time I used comedy to wound someone and what I said would have been hilarious if the subject hadn't been standing right there. Even though she richly deserved the dig, I wasn't proud of it.
"A jest betrays something serious." --Sigmund Freud
When we hear a funny joke, we laugh because of the true absurdity of human nature that is revealed by the joke. Many cultures, including some Southwestern US Native American tribes, considered their clowns and comedians to be holy people. By pointing out what was absurd, they instructed the people in how to live properly with others.
The grain of truth revealed in a joke can be hurtful or funny, depending on whether it targets one person or people in general. Ethnic humor is a minefield. Jewish humor is some of our funniest, mainly because it's mostly used by Jewish comics to poke fun at themselves. When it's in the wrong hands, not so funny.
Singles humor has gone stale because the stereotypes it plays with aren't true any more, if they ever were. Funny singles humor now pokes fun at the mother of the happy single woman who nags her to get married, that sort of thing. Years ago there was a sketch on Almost Live, Seattle's local comedy that used to air before SNL, called "The Fugitive In Seattle." You can probably see it on YouTube. In it, John Keister as Dr. Richard Kimble takes his search for a one-armed man to Seattle, where he's baffled by the crazy culture. One of the things he finds is "desperate single women," and it cuts to a shot of comedian Tracey Conway at Starbucks, reading a newspaper with Kimble's picture on the front page, and she says to him, "Aren't you the doctor who killed his wife?" Keister hems and haws, and Conway says, "So, you're a doctor..." and moves in closer. That was hilarious to me because I knew women who were just like that and it was so refreshing to see them called out. And it was the late 90s. That joke might not play so well today, but I don't know, speed dating is still going on.
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Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., is author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. She is a visiting professor at UCSB.
When and how should we open up to loved ones?