I was invited to write comedy. This came as something of a shock to me, and I ran myself through the mill trying to remember when I had written anything funny enough to merit the invitation.
And, what even makes something funny?
It’s Hard to Be Funny (On Purpose)
Deliberately being amusing is something that has always proved elusive to me.
My actual sense of humor is very subtle. We’re talking so subtle that people don’t realize that I’m making a joke. Most of the time, when I get the biggest laughs out of people, I think I’m just telling it like it is. (There’s one person alive that gets my sense of humor. Every time I tell a joke, he shouts, “oh, that’s good because …” and then explains the whole thing to everyone. He and I should hang out more.)
I was recently at a meeting that was being broadcast over Zoom – an experience that I imagine will prove familiar to many. After the meeting, one of the other in-person attendees asked if anyone knew how to turn off the system. I told him to click the red button on the surge protector (which would hard shut-off everything). I thought that this was hilarious until I had to stop him from actually doing it.
After that same meeting, that same character and I went to lunch together. My fiancé was there and, when the bills were brought separately, asked if she could give me cash for her lunch if I paid with my card. I told her that I could cover her lunch – I was pretty sure that we were at that point in our relationship. The table burst out laughing at what I thought had been a simple transactional discussion.
There’s Nothing Funnier Than a Simple Transaction
Of course, transactional discussions tend to be the most amusing.
I recently received an email from my bank saying that my account had been locked because of unsuccessful login attempts and that I should immediately log in and reset my password. To me, this raised two questions: how to log in without knowing my password, and how to log in after my account had been locked.
Of course, that’s not fair because banks are always hilarious.
When I was a young(er) man, I wanted a loan to purchase an automobile so I applied for my first loan. The loan officer denied my loan because I had no credit. I asked how to get credit, and the loan officer suggested I take out a loan, so I left. I ended up getting a credit card with criminal interest rates, so now I have no money but excellent credit – so I often need loans and always get the loans that I apply for.
These kinds of observations have led me to believe that it’s not me that’s funny, it’s everything else. People just need that pointed out to them sometimes. To be fair, my brain works a little differently than most.
Maybe it’s the World That’s Funny
When my ex-wife and I were under eight minutes into our first marriage counseling session, the counselor asked if some of our problems might arise from my being autistic. I had never been diagnosed with autism and she wasn’t qualified to diagnose me, so off it was to the specialist.
I took a test and passed – I am “on the spectrum.” I kept going to that therapist to learn how to live a more normal autistic life, but our sessions didn’t really help. If you want to meet a real weirdo, you should meet my old therapist.
He recommended that I read Catch 22. I thought it was homework for our sessions, so I bought the book and read it for our next meeting. I told him that I had finished it and he asked me what I thought. I told him that I greatly enjoyed it, and then he never mentioned it again.
He was also always trying to take my IQ.
He said that this was more for his curiosity than mine because he was very good at guessing IQs – his guess was always within 10 points. I told him to tell me what his guess was, and we could just assume that he was correct within 10 points without my taking the test. This is another example of a serious suggestion met with laughter. But, he never told me his guess. I think that means I pass the test.
I didn’t end up seeing him for very long because my ex-wife left me, and she was the only one that seemed adversely affected by my condition. We’ll never know if that was why our marriage didn’t work out because, while I was officially diagnosed with autism, she was never officially diagnosed with being a tramp.
Where Does Humor Come From?
Sometimes, I think that a sense of humor is like anything – you kind of pick it up over time. But, you can’t learn it from watching it – you have to be in the room as it’s actually happening.
From watching films and things, I feel like my particular sense of humor is just … old. It’s antique. My kind of schtick is best on display in black-and-white features. But, I don’t think that’s where I picked it up. I think I picked it up from hanging out with genuine old people.
I don’t have any friends. Friends are trouble. They don’t laugh at your jokes, and they sleep with your wife. But, that doesn’t mean I’m in my house all day. I go to church and Alcoholics Anonymous every day of the week. That means that I am almost always the youngest person in the room – and the least amusing.
One of the old fogies that goes to church every day typically makes the coffee that we drink together after the service. On the rare occasion that someone else makes the coffee they’ll be asking him how it tastes. He’ll take a sip, smack his lips, and say “brown.” That’s the kind of thing that cracks me up. But, all of those old fogies are a riot.
Reading one of my articles, you might think that I talk a lot. That’s not actually the case. I find typing a lot easier than talking and hardly say anything out loud, even in a social setting like coffee after church. One of the old church ladies often asks, “sometimes I wonder what he’s thinking over there.” Another responds “He’s just listening. I bet he goes home and writes articles about us. Comedy articles.”
(I won’t tell any AA stories here, but check out an open meeting in your area sometime. “Open meetings” let in people that don’t have a problem but want to know what the program is all about. Even if you honestly say “I heard you guys are pretty funny, so I was curious” they’ll probably be happy to have you. We are not a glum lot! “Closed meetings” are only for people struggling with addiction.)
Am I Funny?
I hope so – after all, I’ve been contracted to write at least three more of these. I hope that you liked this little introduction. I’m still feeling out the space, so future articles will be some more of this but (in addition to hopefully being funny) will also usually at least touch on health and wellness. Laughter is the best medicine, and fighting sickness is often worth a few laughs itself.