I do believe that humor is a keystone to friendship. We are drawn to people who laugh at the same things we do, who make jokes that make sense to us and who, best of all, laugh at our jokes. I also believe that there is a lot of crass and unkind humor in our world, the prat fall, slapstick sort of humor that may begin with surprise and silliness, but too often descends into laughing at the misfortune of others. It’s a fine line, I will admit, but think of the many comedians (I will not even discuss the moronic ‘humor’ in many dumb and dumber films) who may start with self-mockery and then quickly are trashing ‘others-ness’ for a cheap laugh. Yuck and shiver.

Oh, wait… For a moment there I thought that I had moved away from the issue of body size, but ‘duh’, there is no humor more ubiquitous and taste-less than fat jokes. In addition to being crass and unkind, fat jokes are lazy, uncreative and lacking in wit, as well as humor.  And they are flipping EVERYWHERE. Do not try to tell me that they are not. A large man or woman is automatically seen as comic… a butt shot, an eating scene, so many endless visuals in the media. Slap, slap, slap.

Okay, moving back to the friendship and humor theme, I wonder, is there any such thing as an un-hurtful ‘fat joke’? Can the stout tell jokes on themselves, among themselves? Perhaps, but the slippery slope is that any such ‘in group’ witticisms are at immediate risk of becoming self-shaming, because they are overlaid with the prevailing sense that size is an acceptable target for mean-spirited humor.

Had to pause to look up the word ‘wit’ in the online dictionary, because the computer didn’t like how I spelled witticism. Found this interesting distinction:

            If you’re good at perceiving analogies between dissimilar things and expressing them in quick, sharp, spontaneous observations or remarks, you have wit.

Humor, on the other hand, is the ability to perceive what is comical, ridiculous, or ludicrous in a situation or character, and to express it in a way that makes others see or feel the same thing. It suggests more sympathy, tolerance, and kindliness than wit…

So, perhaps my personal definitions of wit and humor are somewhat at odds with the dictionary, but that’s neither here nor there. What I find interesting in this quote is the idea that humor intends to ‘make others see or feel the same thing’, which goes back to my opening thoughts about humor as a foundational part of friendship. When a humorous comment strikes home for me, I know that the speaker sees the world in a way that is similar to my own outlook and I enjoy that.

The other phrase that really struck me in this dictionary note (which attempts to draw distinctions between wit, humor, irony, sarcasm and satire) is the statement that ‘ [humor] suggests more sympathy, tolerance and kindness.’ Really? That is a fascinating idea. Is that to say that wit is the quick, sharp jab of comedy and humor is a gentler creature? I’m all for tolerance and kindness, that’s for sure. I’ll have to think on that a bit.

If anyone is reading this… what say you?

And in the Not Laughing department:




6 thoughts on “Laughing

  1. Thanks for your offering this morning, giving us lots to think about. I come from a family that seemed to prize wit over humor — the faster you could respond with a quick retort, the better the parents enjoyed it, it appeared to me as a child. It didn’t seem to matter how ‘witty’ it was — just being able to give a snappy reply, showing how fast the brain worked, therefore how ‘smart you were’, seemed to be the goal. I’ve held on to that trait for far too long, and have seen the consequences of my ‘spontaneous’ observations unintentionally hurt others too many times. The damage of thoughtless words, once released, take a very long time to repair. I hereby make an amend to all those I have hurt in the past! I think you (and your dictionary) distilled the distinction between humor and wit into one word: jab. A jab connotes a sharpness or a wound. ‘Restraint of pen and tongue’ is something to strive for and I’ll be working on that, gentling my wit down to a more humorous level. Thanks for posting your thoughts.

  2. I think that laughter is the best cure for what ails you. I love to laugh. Humor where no one is the butt of it is rare in comediens . But among friends humor can be kind, or ‘black’, or gossipy, without being malicious. Thanks for writing this, Cathy.

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