Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened

I remember the first joke I wrote.

Knock Knock.
Who's there?
Dragon Boss?
Dragon Boss Who?
You're fired.

I don't remember how old I was, but I'm going to be generous and say I was 5.

I attended a lecture at BYU where the speaker expressed his view that a joke is when your mind connects two previously unconnected points of data forming a new synapse. To be honest, I'm not sure I can get behind his neurobiology, but I like the idea. My attempt as a child to connect office procedure and mythical creatures failed in that it wasn't funny, but it followed the basic formula of a joke.

I don't think I was funny until I was about 16. Obviously some would argue that I never became funny, but I think I did. Before that I tried connecting these data points and only produced weirdness. I remember having a running joke about mutant mice with my friend Jeremy, which just consisted of drawing deformed mice on each other's papers. I had a joke with another Chris where we'd chant "WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE WHY HOW" during dodgeball games. Why did I do those things? I don't know. As I said, I only succeeded in being weird.

But in late highschool I figured out ways to connect things that other people found humorous, not just disconcerting. I started testing myself by seeing how many different variations on a theme I could make, such as different campaign posters, or different answering machine messages in college. I started understanding what I thought was funny, and how this material wasn't the same as what most people thought was funny, and started to be able to decide which type of joke I wanted to make.

I told a joke this morning at a breakfast gathering and a friend asked me how I could tell the joke without laughing at it myself. My answer was that I had told the joke in my head a few seconds before, so had already heard it by the time I told it. This is true, but also I think it was just a joke that wasn't one of MY type of jokes, just one I knew other people would connect with.

I want to be funnier. Some people are born funny, but most are made funny by their life. Some become funny instinctually, others as a concentrated effort. I think I am funny, but I need more variety. Some people don't react to witty or droll or sarcastic, and I don't have a lot of range beyond that. And if humor is just a skill, it's one that I haven't spent much time practicing in recent years. And it's one I'm going to start practicing.

Bonus Post:

Funny Rumble

1. Always Sunny
2. The League
3. New Girl
4. Community
5. The Office
6. Parks and Rec
7. Whitney

Winner: New Girl (with a close 2nd to Always Sunny.) Schmidt is hilarious. He's not believable as a person, but as a character he has a lot of opportunities to amuse. Having Zoey step back and become the secondary story was a good choice. Always Sunny was also very funny, with an in medias res approach. If you hadn't seen the show before it would be confusing, but if you have, you can clearly understand each characters dysfunctional thinking. Worth noting, Parks and Rec had some great Denmark bits, as well as Model UN jabs, so is worth watching as well.

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