Just watched this week’s episodes of Modern Family (“Earthquake”) and The Big Bang Theory (“The Zazzy Substitution”). And I guffawed.
It’s been a really long time since I remember a time when I’ve laughed so hard my stomach ached and I couldn’t breathe. Most of the things I find funny nowadays barely merit a chuckle (especially in movies). Maybe it’s the onslaught of youtube videos. We see trailers well ahead of time (most of them containing the funniest bits) We have comedy at our disposal. Much like the monarchs of old would call upon court jesters and command them to entertain. If they attempt comedy, much of their output would be forced. Unless they’re really good.
That’s because comedy relies on surprise incongruity. We laugh because we encounter something unexpected, and our souls are upended, and laughter spills out. Sometimes so much laughter flows that that tears follow.
Nowadays, I feel like comedy writers and comedians have to work harder to make me laugh. Because I’ve been to movies where everyone around me laughed like crazy, and I was barely chuckling. Either I felt like I’ve seen the gags before or the jokes are just not funny, or are just plain contrived or gross. I chuckle merely out of courtesy. Or to not look crazy.
Which got me to thinking – Am I losing my sense of humor? Maybe a bit of that is true. But I realize it’s not just that. I think it’s collective experience and exposure to different types of gags and jokes that the effect is somehow diluted, and surprise is harder to come by. I’m growing up, and I’ve evolved. And so did my sense of humor. Sometimes I feel like jokes need to have a context, but for jokes to have so much set up, sometimes they lose their charm.
I have huge respect for Comedians and Comedy writers. I think they have the hardest jobs. As making someone laugh could be a flash in the pan/lightning in bottle moment.
Random Tangent 1 – A friend recommended that I watch “Monty Python: History of the World Part 1”. I finished the movie, and nary a chuckle. Maybe it’s a generational thing? Everything was so forced and the punchlines can be seen a mile away.
Random tangent 2 – I remember laughing so hard at the “extras” at the credits of “A Bug’s Life”. That was unexpected. That was funny.
Random tangent 3 – I love William Shatner. I remember having laughed so hard with his role as Denny Crane in Boston Legal. But when I watched the pilot of “$h*! My Dad Says” on CBS, I remember thinking to myself – “I should be finding this funny – Why am I not laughing?” I remember laughing at some of the tweets by Justin Halpern. It’s feels like the comic timing is a bit off? And this from the creators of Will and Grace, where I heard one of the lines on TV that I found really funny at that time:
Karen: to Candy: Here’s a question that I’ve been meaning to ask you that only you can answer – Is sixty sexy?
Candy to Karen: “Of course, don’t you remember?”
It was funnier when Karen Walker delivered it. Which shows how tricky comedy is.
Random tangent 4 – A friend forwarded me the following video a few years back. It was at the end of an exhausting day, and I felt really down. Until I pressed play:
Ha ha ha!
Just food for thought. What if you can forget everything? Start over? And hear all these jokes, view all these sketches, laugh at all the gags and incongruities all over again?
That’s why when people ask if I had to pick an age to “go back in time” to. I pick 11 years old. At that time, I still found lots of things funny, as the incongruous stuff I encounter actually matched the growth in my understanding of the world. I laughed quite a lot.
I hope to be less jaded. I can dream.