Sunday, March 30, 2014

The nature of funny

I used to work with two guys who had a joke between them and if they liked you they assumed you would also think it hilarious.  What was the cause of their hilarity?  There was a woman in the office who wore voluminous dresses that they termed caftans and they liked to rewrite songs to include the word caftan.  Dozens of songs, including obscure arias from operas that were no longer performed.  They are two sweet men who really shouldn't work together ever again because they wound each other up and kept winding each other up until the spring wound down and then they would wind it up again.  They were very proud of themselves about this whole thing except that it was funny to just them.  They found it so hilarious that they didn't understand why other people stopped laughing.  It amused them and it didn't hurt anyone but, really, only they got it.  I think I said Ha Ha Ha many times because they were quite clever but, again, it was their joke.

A few years before this I worked with a man who faked an English accent (faked it very well, too) and would tell people to pack their things as they were fired.  Every single day for months and months and months and months.  And every single time we laughed because it was charming and always said at just the right time.  If someone wasn't amused we didn't know about it because he was a very nice guy and quite popular with his coworkers and, seriously, it was a very good accent.

And so we touch on the nature of funny.  Not everything is funny to everyone.  Audiences went crazy for "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," and I was sorry I spent money to see it but not as sorry as I was to see "Throw Mama from a Train."  (My friend called it "a toilet fish."  I didn't disagree.)  A friend suggested I might try "This Is the End."  That movie was every kind of wrong and hilarious.  When it first came out, a friend convinced me I wanted to see "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" at an evening show -- not my beloved bargain matinee -- and I had no expectations at all.  I was charmed and delighted and laughed and laughed. 

There is no telling what someone might find funny but there are paid comedy writers who do seem to get it right on a nightly basis.  Great gig!  Good for you all!  I am envious of your confidence and skill.  There are many very good comedy shows and sitcoms with stellar, smart writing that sometimes carries on for years.  But one man's love of Jon Stewart is another man's bitter pill.  I don't suppose a tea-party conservative would care for Mr. Stewart and his liberal views and for him, "He's not funny."

I am the only person I know who doesn't like the movie "Office Space."  Coworkers and dear friends quote from it and laugh about it and one of them is the proud owner of a red Swingline stapler in the original packaging.  They joke about wearing enough flare.  And I just don't get it.  No, maybe it's better to say that I get it but I don't think it's funny.  (Same with the hyper-longlasting "Two and a Half Men," which, for me, has never been funny for even 30 seconds.)

I took a class in college that one day brought out the point that "If it's real to you, it's real, to you."  Same thing with comedy -- I am happy you find something funny; be happy that I find something funny.  Funny is personal and we can't take it away from each other.  And the two guys with the caftan joke?  They still think the whole thing was insanely funny.  The end.

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