Some People Wouldn’t Know Humor if It Slapped Them in the Face

Man holding his face after being slapped in face
There may be a good reason why your reader doesn’t laugh.

Humor Me, Please

I may need to press the pause button before I jump to conclusions about people who either (a) don’t ‘get’, (b) can’t appreciate, or (c) who are haughtily harrumphing what I think is great comedy.

I was called to task for my prejudice not long ago when I stumbled upon another author talking about humor—more specifically , some people’s lack of it.

The author’s name is Scott Adams, and he’s been drawing a daily syndicated cartoon series [Dilbert] that is translated into 25 languages and appears in 2,000 newspapers in 65 countries around the world. The cartoon column is called Dilbert. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

The points he made caused me to think that I may need to adjust my perspective.

Here’s what Scott said that gave me pause:

“One of the most mind-boggling discoveries I made while becoming a professional humorist is that a large segment of the general public has no sense of humor.

I mean that literally, in the same way, that some people can’t tell the difference between good wine and bad, and some people are tone-deaf.

Humor appreciation is like every other human capacity. Some have it, some don’t. …

It is estimated that about a third of the public don’t possess the capacity to even recognize humor when they see it. They often pretend they do, for social reasons. …

We all have different skills and different capacities for enjoying different things. So let us not feel superior for having one type of appreciation that others do not.

None of us have the full stack.”

I will chew on that one for a while.

Close up of cow chewing on grass

What To Do?

I shouldn’t go any further until I send an open letter apologizing to the faceless folks I already imagined reading my work and condescendingly snorting from behind their half-readers.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to write the sober sophists among us off as being stuck up. The problem is at my end. I need to up my game and reconsider my audience.

Maybe I should start inserting rumble strips at various intervals throughout my writing to signal when I’m speaking in jest—similar to how manufacturers include tags on blow dryers to clarify: “Not to be used while bathing.”

A Genetic Mishap

Perhaps many readers are exactly as Mr. Adams described them —unable to recognize humor and parody. If so, it really may not be their fault. They can’t help it if they were born without a humor gene, any more than I can help that I got multiples of them.

But then again, it’s more likely that I shouldn’t be expecting most folks to be my reference group where humor appreciation is concerned. Either way, my heart will go on.

The Cutting Floor

I thought I’d be clever and end this post by inserting a clip of Celine Dion singing the song, ‘My Heart Will Go On’. But then my humor imp reminded me that it was the theme song used in the movie Titanic.

Um …. yeah …. never mind. I decided to end with this song instead:

YouTube player


Living just a little … Laughing just a little … Ain’t easy
Living just a little … Laughing just a little … Ain’t easy
Some fools might plan, though life’s gonna change sometime
Yes sir.

Songwriters: Thom Bell / Linda Creed
Living a Little, Laughing a Little lyrics © Warner-tamerlane Publishing Corp.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply