You Need to Laugh More

Maybe it’s because this blog just looks so black and white, so straight and hasn’t a proper title indicating what my writing style is that some of my readers don’t pick up on the fact that almost everything I say is rather tongue-in-cheek. If you know me personally, or have been around since the days of my old blog, then you’re well-acquainted with my brand of humor. I may have to change the look of this place, however, to give newcomers some idea of what’s in store for them. But here’s a pret-ty solid rule of thumb: if I’m complaining, I’m most likely embellishing the actual situation or my life in general, and things aren’t half as difficult as I make them sound. I appreciate your concern for me, but really, I’m OK.

While contemplating the general style of my personal humor, it occurred to me I might need to do a little research. Do I even know what kind of sense of humor I have? Do you know what kind you have? First of all, I ran into a lot of sites containing long lists of the different types of humor, but these weren’t about how we approach life, they were about comedy.

I’ve never been a big fan of stand up. I much prefer spontaneous humor over someone’s ability to deliver a pre-written, memorized, and well-timed anecdote or joke. There are exceptions, of course. I really love Ellen Degeneres and Billy Connolly, but nothing can make me seriously Laugh Out Loud like watching the old Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts on YouTube. The newer roasts aren’t funny to me in the least, because they’re so mean-spirited. There’s no sense that these newer comedians even remotely like each other whereas the older comedians’ “taking the piss” out of each other just oozes with genuine affection.

But back to defining one’s personal sense of humor. Here’s a little list, borrowed from Psychology Today and tailored to suit my purposes…

Put-Down Humor
This aggressive type of humor is used to criticize and manipulate others through teasing, sarcasm and ridicule. When it’s aimed against politicians, it can be funny and mostly harmless, but in the real world it has a sharper impact. Put-down humor, such as telling friends an embarrassing story about another friend, is a way to deploy aggression and make others look bad so you look good. When challenged on their teasing, the put-down joker often turns to the “just kidding” defense to avoid responsibility even as the barb bites. Wankers. There is no evidence that those who rely on this type of humor are any less well-adjusted, but it does take a toll on personal relationships. I don’t like put-down humor, usually, unless it’s delivered by Don Rickles, but even he can make me cringe. In the wrong hands, it’s nothing but a form of bullying.

Taking The Piss
This less aggressive type of humor is used by friends through good-natured ribbing. It actually means they like each other. Often, someone will say, “If I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t tease you” or “I don’t waste my energy on people I don’t like.” I like this kind of humor as long as it isn’t hurtful or masks a secret dislike, but I don’t often practice it for fear of being misunderstood and inadvertently hurting someone.

Bonding Humor
People who use bonding humor are fun to have around. They say amusing things, tell jokes, engage in witty banter and generally lighten the mood. These are the people who give humor a good name. They’re perceived as warm, down-to-earth and kind, good at reducing the tension in uncomfortable situations and able to laugh at their own faults. Ellen DeGeneres embraces her audience by sharing good-natured, relatable humor. Her basic message is, “We’re alike, we find the same things funny, and we’re all in this together.” This is probably most like my humor than any other on this list. Nonetheless, bonding humor can have a dark side. After all, a feeling of inclusion can be made sweeter by knowing that someone else is on the outs. President John F. Kennedy and his brothers often invited a hated acquaintance to vacation with them. They’d be polite to his face, but behind his back the brothers united in deriding the hapless guest. Not my cup of tea at all. This is what I call “clique” humor, something I’ve been victim to on too many occasions to name. This, too is just bullying. You can have it.

Self-Deprecating Humor
In this style of humor, you make yourself the butt of the joke for the amusement of others. Often deployed by people who are eager to ingratiate themselves, it’s the familiar clown or “fat guy” playfulness that we loved in John Belushi and Chris Farley—both of whom suffered for their success. A small dose of it is charming, but a little goes a long way: routinely offering yourself up to be humiliated erodes your self-respect, fostering depression and anxiety. It also can backfire by making other people feel uncomfortable because it may remind others of their own tendency toward self-criticism. Farley, who died at age 33 from an overdose, had a streak of self-loathing. “Chris chose the immediate pleasure he got in pleasing others over the long-term cost to himself,” his brother wrote after his death. The bottom line: excelling at this style of humor may lead to party invitations, but it can ultimately exact a high price. There’s nothing funny about self-loathing, or laughing at someone who suffers from it.

Laughing At Life
When we admire someone who doesn’t take him or herself too seriously, this is what we’re talking about. More than just a way of relating to other people, it’s a prism that colors the world in rosier shades. Someone with this outlook deploys humor to cope with challenges, taking a step back and laughing at the absurdities of everyday life. This is my second style of humor. “If I didn’t have a sense of humor, I would have committed suicide long ago,” as the saying goes, and this kind of humor is the very foundation of my existence. If you can’t get this about me, you’re never going to get me. Sorry, but dem’s da fax.

Judging from this list, I’ve discovered that I possess a combination of Bonding Humor and Laughing At Life humor. I suppose the former might be the outcome of exercising the latter: in both the so-called real world  and on this blog, I laugh at my life in an effort to show you we’re all in this together and that we can’t take life too seriously.

Now, go thee hence and laugh at something while I try to figure out what I want to change about the look of this place!

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3 Comments

  1. Bonding and Laughing at Life are probably my dominant styles as well. And although I can be mildly sarcastic at times, I’m not given to cruel or mean-spirited sarcasm. And often when I deploy it, it’s directed at myself. My biggest problem with other peoples’ humor is that I can be quite literal and so often someone else’s humor is lost on me, especially if it is sarcastic.

  2. I struggle a lot with a form of “taking the piss” that seems to be common around here – the “they tease you because they like you” humor. I had too much experience as an unpopular kid with being the butt of all that jokes that nearly all teasing feels hostile to me even if it isn’t.

    people who know me and really love me don’t tease me, period. I can tell when someone understands me, finally, because they quit teasing me.

    I like “bonding humor” and that is totally what I do, with a side of “laughing at life.”

    1. I agree with you so much! Teasing, even if over-used by people I love, feels passive-aggressive. I’d much rather be in a room full of people who laugh at life than people who laugh at others.

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