Can’t Take A Joke

One of the most important aspects of being able to deal effectively with comedy is to not take oneself too seriously. In order for comedy as a genre to thrive, it is necessary that people be aware of the ridiculousness of life. All of us, no matter how serious we may be as people, can be viewed as the subjects of ridicule and laughter by other people. It is generally preferrable if we are in on the joke ourselves, and sometimes we can initiate the jokes in order to forestall other people doing it first and in a less gentle manner than we would mock ourselves.

Those who cannot laugh at themselves generally refuse to tolerate or countenance other people laughing at them. And when some people go to war against others who laugh at them and ridicule them, those people who would be inclined to tell a joke become aware that the world is not safe for that sort of gentle raillery and recognize that they themselves are viewed as a threat for removing some of the gas from the planet by which people puff themselves up. Comedy is, in essence, a deleavening project by which we make sure that we are not so puffed up by our own pride and conceit that we are unaware of how we are seen by other people. It is not the fault of those who laugh and joke that we can’t take a joke, that we do not have a thick skin, and that our hatred of those who mock our sacred cows leads us to look even more ridiculous and weak to those who would poke and prod us.

This is something that, as might be imagined, I have a fair bit of personal experience dealing with. As a person of some natural tendency towards a sharp and biting wit, I have long enjoyed poking at the pretensions of those around me. Similarly, being at least a somewhat pretentious person by nature, I have found myself to be target of the jests of others, taken in a spirit of mutual good humor in general. Those who wish to laugh at me had better enjoy me returning the favor, and I have found myself on my occasions to be paid back in my own coin when it came to the wit that other people have had at my own expense. There are quite a few people, though, who cannot bear to be a butt of a joke, and their response to this thin-skinned and vain nature is to act in ways that are a direct threat to the well-being of the greater world as a whole, by seeking to create a safe space for themselves where no one is allowed to chide, rebuke, or correct them for some sort of error and folly.

Unfortunately, this creation of safe spaces is a threat to the larger society as a whole, because those who do foolishly and wrongly deserve to be questioned and corrected for their own benefit, as well as the well-being of everyone else. Those whose behavior affects other people need to be accountable in some fashion to those people whose lives are improved, or more frequently, harmed, by their conduct. To seek to avoid the repercussions of one’s own actions is unjust. Comedy, for all of its unpleasantness at times, is an act of justice, in seeking to provide an instantaneous response that cuts through the pretentions and follies of existence and reminds us that how we see ourselves and how we are seen by God and by others is not the same thing. And often we need that reminder, for our own sake.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Can’t Take A Joke

  1. Catharine Martin says:

    I totally agree that humor is all about seeing the quirkiness in everything around us, the foibles of human nature and the need to draw upon our own lives as its source. It is this quality that gives us the strength to withstand ridicule from others. Acid-tongue humor is not funny. “It was only a joke” is never an excuse for a put-down, even when sincerely meant in jest, because every word we say must be edifying, so that it ministers grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4:29).

    There is that joke in which a stand-up comedian called the ruler of his country a fool. He was promptly arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison. It was calculated this way: one year for defaming his king and 24 years for divulging a state secret.

    • Quite true, ridicule is not really humor, and being mean-spirited is not funny either. What is funny is the reframing of that which is awkward and uncomfortable in a way that allows us to see the comedic potential of our lives and the world around us. I don’t know if making lese majeste jokes would be something I would find funny, but such a joke would hit uncomfortably close to home when talking about a great many leaders in the world today.

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