Monday, December 24, 2007

Oh, Get A Sense Of Humour This Christmas

It’s actually quite rare for people to have no sense of humour. Often the phrase ‘get a sense of humour’ is used by someone who has unexpectedly and rather fantastically sawed their foot off and stuffed it down their mouth by making some joke or comment that has resulted in him or her being called an evil and offensive bastard/bitch. As ‘get out of trouble’ phrases go it’s pretty weak. Most people have some kind of sense of humour. Osama Bin Laden is renowned for his dry wit. Hitler was a great fan of Chaplain. Even Mary Whitehouse, I’m sure, laughed at some things. Probably black minstrels being set alight by Wombles in Klan robes because deep down I have no doubt that she was a weird twisted bigot, but there was still something in that dark coal mine of her soul that tickled her fancy.

That’s a comment that may offend supporters of Mary Whitehouse. Although I’m probably safe on this one because it must be quite hard nowadays to find anyone who still believes in her radical views of what is and isn’t offensive. She thought that Tom and Jerry cartoons should be banned for fuck’s sake… But still, there’s the potential that some Mary Whitehouse groupie reading this may be offended. Which is the annoying thing about humour (yeah, that’s what this is…): it’s bound to offend someone. And the quality of the humour also has no relation whatsoever to the level of offence caused. Jim Davidson is statistically half as funny as cancer and obscenely offensive, while Derek & Clive recordings are some of the most obscene comedic tapes available and also some of the most hilarious. That’s what I think, but each person’s definition of what is and isn’t offensive can vary massively. The same person who is tickled pink by an anecdote about Jesus getting buggered by a crucifix will actively try to eviscerate you for laughing at homeless folk. Saying ‘get a sense of humour’ to someone who’s offended by what you say is pointless, they already have what they term a sense of humour and if what you’ve said doesn’t fit into that definition then it probably never will.

There are some people though who come pretty close to having no sense of humour. I know a couple of people who hate watching comedy. They take no pleasure in it, they never laugh at what the entertainers have to say, they just sit there getting angry and pissed off because what’s being said is clearly not funny and why is everyone else being so stupid and laughing along like the idiot sheep that they are? It sounds like quite a depressing condition, but the people I know who feel like this are themselves charming, lovely people who just have very high standards of what they think is funny.

The real freaks do exist though. People who actually have no sense of humour. Those who have no knowledge of what it means to be funny, what funny is, or how to react to something that is funny. I know only one person who suffers from this condition. Don’t worry, it’s no one you know. I’d be very surprised if she is reading this as she has the technical competence of a medieval maggot. It’s a crippling disease that harms all around her.

I recently finished watching the second series of Dexter. For those who don’t know, Dexter is an excellent show about a serial killer who only murders other killers. It’s a brilliant, dark and comic piece of television. Dexter, like all sociopaths, has no feelings or emotions. He is entirely blank inside, hence the reason he can kill so easily. But in order to fit in to the world around him he has to pretend he has emotions, to put on a mask of humanity so that people don’t suss that he is a psycho killer.

Watching Dexter, it suddenly became clear to me what this person (let’s call her Naamah because that’s a reference so obscure I’ll be amazed if anyone gets it) is. A humour sociopath. A humiopath if you will. Or don’t. It’s not an official medical term or anything. She has no idea what ‘being funny’ means. She observes it but does not understand it. She knows that laughing and joking are an essential part of human interaction, but she has no means of comprehending the ways to achieve this. The place in her brain where humour is processed is a complete blackspot, more devoid of activity than the Moon on a particularly slow day. So she attempts to fake it, to put it on. The results are nothing short of hideous.

She feels most comfortable attempting to be humorous when the rest of the room is laughing and joking along at that nice regular pace that banter (apologies if you hate that word) is sustainable at. Then, just as a topic is reaching its peak, in she will leap with a patently obvious banality that acts like a machete to the Achilles tendon of conversation. *slit* goes the knife, *smack* goes the conversation’s chin into the floor, spurting proverbial teeth and blood all over the shop. People try hard to muster a laugh or a chuckle, cos gorram that kind of silence must be embarrassing for her.

No, apparently not. Given that she doesn’t know what is and isn’t funny she has no way of knowing that her joke has fallen way short of its target. So she ploughs on with another ruthlessly bad observation. And another. And another. She’ll just keep filling the silence with crap observations and much-repeated anecdotes. Maybe this one will include some kind of stereotypical view, as she has half-observed that some people find stereotypes funny. And just to top it all off and make it clear that what’s been said is meant to be jovial and lighthearted, she’ll finish with a high-pitched laugh which tapers off into the phrase guaranteed to bring blood to the tear ducts, ‘oh dear…’, pronounced in as drawn out a way as possible, with an optional shake of the head and in the tone of voice that implies such phrases as ‘it’s just too funny for words’ or ‘life eh? Tch!’ but in my head is filled in with the haunting cries of ‘Despair. Despair. Despair.’

It really is remarkable how off suit her sense of humour is. I mean, the vast majority of people aren’t hilarious comedians, but almost everyone I know has amused me or made me laugh at some point. Not Naamah. I simply have to conclude that she doesn’t have a sense of humour. She is entirely clueless. Her comments and attempts at jokes cause the opposite physical reaction in me to laughter. My brain feels like it’s trying to implode in on itself, my muscles tighten, everything goes red and for a brief moment I want to take the nearest sharp object and plunge it into my bladder in some desperate attempt to make the pain stop. It’s extraordinary. Every single aspect of her sense of humour is wrong. The timing is, metre for metre, precisely off. Her intonation emphasises words in exactly the wrong way, making you cringe before the gag has even started. Her material is meticulously misjudged in its offensiveness, relevance and wit. It’s like someone’s taken a mirror to the souls of all the great comedians that have ever existed and shone their reflections on to this person, creating in the process a Devourer of comedy. A vacuum acting on all that is funny and rib-tickling.

It’s not her fault though. It must be difficult, seeing something that brings such joy to others but never being able to touch it yourself. So this Christmas, when people are sharing festive joy, japes and larks, spare a thought for those who can’t do the same. And also for those who are forced to spend time in their presence.

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