Humor is relative. What I think may be a knee slapper, you might deem good for nothing but an eye roll. A variety of factors play into what makes the joke or punch line actually funny. One of the things that comics work on is timing. Pauses and expressions can turn an ordinary funny story into a hilarious experience.
Someone has stated that, “What we laugh at tells something about us.” There’s an apparent lack of good quality humor out there, which has been replaced with degrading attempts to entertain with a smorgasbord of junk food that should be thrown in the trash. In other words, what I would call bad humor, plain and simple. The obsession with making sex the preponderant theme for a stand-up routine feeds a culture that can’t seem to get enough of it in movies, magazines, and jokes at the water fountain.
One of the factors that plays into the quality, or lack thereof, of a joke is at whose expense is this one-liner being cracked. Is it humor if it uses an obvious negative story or weakness of an individual? Is it really funny when someone tells “fat” jokes, “dumb blond” jokes, or ethnic jokes as an attempt to stereotype a person or group? If you need to send the children out of the room to tell the joke, is it really appropriate to share regardless of the reaction? Zingers or one-up’s can be funny if the targeted person is in the room, and they feel like they are being laughed with and not laughed at. One of the ways I know Pastor Kevin Burkholder loves me is I am often the target of his zingers. They are never obscene, disrespectful, or meant to embarrass. I love being around him and listening to his punch lines. He could teach a few comedians the art of good and appropriate comedy.
I had an interesting conversation with my 9-year-old granddaughter, Ella, a few days ago, and the topic of conversation was what movies she had watched lately on the big screen. She told me she had watched Incredibles 2 and then her next statement was that twice they used bad language, the “h word” and “d word.” Out of the mouths of babes can surely come wisdom, and Ella proved this to be true with what she said next. It was something like, “They use adult humor as a way to be funny.” Did you catch that? A 9-year-old understands we live in a day where, in her words, “adult humor” is used in children’s movies.
On the other hand, there are few things more painful than to be around someone who thinks they are funny and everyone in the room silently agrees this person is anything but humorous. The truth is that humor can be a cover up or mechanism to hide internal pain. I’m reminded of Chris Farley and Robin Williams, two comedy icons, who tragically took their own lives because they could no longer stand the pain. They could make everyone laugh except themselves. Have you ever seen a picture of a clown with a tear or two streaming down their face? I think that’s symbolic of people playing a comedic role but being internally broken.
So, what’s the point of this week’s “Ford for thought?” (Did you like my little pun? Did you find it punny?) It’s simply that all of us need to take a fresh look at what amuses us. Laughter is one of God’s gifts to us when applied appropriately. If every idle word is being recorded and judged by God, the quality of humor we share or entertain is worthy of our focused attention. Let’s be careful what we’re watching and listening to that is passing as humor, but let’s also be careful in how we may be knowingly or unknowingly using humor at the expense of others. Each person is a human being, created in the image of God, valuable and worthy of being treated with respect.
James chapter 3 reminds us of the power of the tongue. “No one can tame the tongue, though. It is a restless evil full of deadly poison. With it we both bless the Lord and Father and curse human beings made in God’s likeness.” (James 3:8-9 CEB)
Would you join with me in endeavoring to laugh and enjoy life but to do it along with blessing others and not making them the butt of our jokes?
Well, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, I’m at my word limit or I’d leave you with a joke from my treasure trove. So, just pretend I told a humdinger and start laughing. That’s my parting gift to you this week.