Thursday, 13 May 2010

Make ‘em laugh… or maybe not

I challenge you to make me laugh. Go on. Try it.


Mr A. is only too aware of how difficult this is. I have been known to sit through an entire comedy programme without even smiling while he is falling off his chair with hysterical laughter.

imageWhen someone says, ‘Have you heard the one about...?’ I feel an instant pang of anxiety and the minute they start to tell their little gem of a joke I start to worry in case I don’t ‘get it’.

clip_image001[4]I worry so much that I hardly listen to the joke and then I force myself to laugh because I don’t want to offend them. Not so long ago I laughed before my friend reached the punch line which turned out to be even more embarrassing than not ‘getting it’.

Apparently Stephen Merchant collates and treasures stories of ‘discomfort and embarrassment because it’s so human and there’s so much pathos and connection and empathy...’ I hate embarrassment. I hate to be embarrassed. I hate to think that I have embarrassed somebody and I hate watching other people be embarrassed. A lot of TV sitcom humour seems to rely on embarrassment as do most TV sketch shows. Is it any wonder I rarely laugh during an evening of TV viewing?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a misery, not all the time.

clip_image002Holding my new grandson makes me smile.

Watching kittens roll over and over play fighting makes me giggle.

clip_image005And I once asked the ice cream man for a large cornflake instead of a large cornet with a flake and I laughed so much that I had to sit on the pavement because I couldn’t breathe.

But put a ‘guaranteed to have you rolling in the aisles’ film on the TV and I barely manage a smile. I think it’s because they try too hard and it’s why I’ll never try to write comedy. If one of my stories elicits a smile then that’s a bonus but I believe that the best comedy happens by accident and I’m not talking about a banana skin accident.



  1. I also hate cringe humour, or accident humour. What's funny about that?

    I had a joke to tell you, but I've forgotten it...

  2. And I think I'm relieved that you have forgotten it, Merrilee, or I'd have to get anxious again. ;-)

  3. I'm much the same way! My husband will be guffawing all over the place and I'll just sit there, silently. The only show that makes me laugh out loud every once in a while is Seinfeld.

  4. That's interesting, Talli. I wonder if this is a male/female issue. Are there any females out there who fall into fits of laughter at your average cringe-making TV sitcom?

  5. Hmm...I do find some sitcoms funny, but it's more when they're poking fun at stereotypes. I don't like watching physical pranks/injuries at all...America's Funniest Home Videos is rarely ever fun for me to watch. I'm too busy feeling bad for the people getting hurt.

    I like verbal humor, and witty banter. One-liners will send me into gales of laughter. And my dogs make me laugh like nothing else can. They're too cute for their own good.

    I'm with you - the best humor happens on accident... :-)

  6. I would never laugh at a reality show - I don't find real life embarassment at all funny.
    But put on a Fawlty Towers re run and I'm in hysterics and I can quote the whole script together with the cast by now.
    The'odd' thing is that even my Israeli born children love Basil and Manuel and quote lines out of context at all sorts of 'wrong times' causing me a good deal of embarrassment.

  7. I generally don't like jokes because they always seem to be at someone's expense. Most people think I'm a little odd because of that... :)

    My stories will never have laugh out loud funny moments - definitely not my forte!

  8. The comedian's a bear.... I will say no more and leave everyone else wondering ;-)

  9. "No he's a-not. He's a-wearing a neck-a-tie!"
    You win KFC. You got me to laugh out loud but that's cheating because, as you well know, SON, it's my favourite line from the Muppets!

  10. Thanks for the visit, Jamie, as you can see from my response above I too like the occasional one-liner and Josh-the-dog can always make me laugh.

    Hi Ann, I liked the first viewing of Fawlty Towers but I rarely laughed out loud at it. How funny that your children have picked up the lines though. There is something special in quoting well-known lines, especially ones that make your Mum laugh. (Excuse me, Ann, this is an extra note to my son here!)

    No, Jemi, you're not a little odd for disliking jokes at other people's expense... because that would make me odd too!

  11. I agree about Fawlty Towers. Just because I don't laugh out loud doesn't mean I don't think it's funny!