Hide Your Ha Ha: Notes On When To Stop Joking

    There are many a pleasant thing to be besides hilarious. I’ve learned, through one million repetitions of skewed punch lines and various degrees of humiliation, that being the funny girl is, oddly enough, not much fun at all. For a little insight I suppose we should go back to the root of the problem: Mrs. Frank’s 4th Grade class.

     Having proven to the cruel play yard my kickball deficiency, my wee brain searched for a social “in”, the key to showing the toothless jerks my value in the world. There was the week I tried my hand at competitive tree climbing. Out of clean skorts to wear,  I made the fatal mistake of sporting a legitimate skirt to school one day. I felt the breeze across my bum as I tumbled through branches.  I refused to lift my face from the dirt. I wouldn’t flinch a finger to so much as shield my underpants from the sun. I would just die here, please. Just die right here with this leaf logged in my tooth, twigs forming a ceremonial wreath of mourning around my pony tail. Kids huddled around to sneak a peek at the heart-pantied dead girl.

    I kept a low profile after The Accident. I decided my strength would be intelligence, so I took to quietly reading books with the bespectacled crew during free time. I could hardly engage in conversation with the witty girls with their big words coded in meek, squeaky voices. I just sat, still and brainstorming and occasionally distracted by the pretty colors on their airbrushed My Little Pony sweatshirts. “Um, it’s a reference to the original chariot horses of the Shang Dynasty,” one of the brains shot snarky eyes in my direction. She went on to give a lecture on the various ways horses were sacrificed in response to the deaths of key members of society. It was 12:34 on a Tuesday afternoon when I learned that the academic clan was not my place of calling.

Pretty Pretty Work Horse?

     The bookish girls avoided contact with me after having discovered my wits were as genuine as my tree-scaling skills. And it was weeks before those lucky enough to see the epic fall would stop joking about it. Joking about it? Joking about it! I could be funny! I is to be funny right now! No athletic prowess or smarts required!

I started by writing tidbits of hilarity to share with my class. My teacher, so thrilled at my enthusiasm for story time, was kind enough to allot a section of class for me to read aloud. Things went smoothly, kids chuckled and high-fived me as I painted a wordy picture of a various comedic instances that mostly began or ended with the following:

“But the bear had toilet paper stuck to his butt!”

” And then she accidentally ate a booger!”

“So they called him Fart Face!” {A particularly genius tale of a boy named Bart Bace who suffered from a speech impediment which, in turn, caused his new classmates to call him Fart.}

   Alas, their communal chuckles signaled my brain to DO. MORE. FUNNY. The last episode of Tori’s Tales was swiftly yanked from the air when my desire to win approval from my peers outweighed my understanding of social decency. Suffice to say, openly mocking a teacher by changing her name from Mrs. Oonk to Mrs. Oink (complete with pig squeals and fat jokes) was not classroom-friendly material.

   I held the Lesson of Going Too Far in my pocket as I wandered through the doors of a new high school, across the graduation stage, and into a cinderblock dorm room of a fancy university. I managed (mostly) to win friends and influence by using my comedic skills for good. I entertained sip-happy cohorts with reenactments of New Kids On The Block dances. I sang improvised songs about making up songs. I made a point to not take the concept of costume-required frat parties too seriously. It was at one of these parties, dressed in a makeshift toga, that I met a boy. We dated mostly because he laughed at my jokes and I looked pretty stellar in hot pink Greek Wear. It was love, and laughs and laughs and more love. He invited me to a family function, a gesture he took quite seriously. I spent a week picking out an outfit and rehearsing conversations to win the hearts of the family of the boy who had won mine.

     Immediately upon entering his grandmother’s home, I felt the gut punch of panic. Her home was pristine, gold-plated, and smelled of wealth and religion. Angels and cross-shaped decor glittered from the walls and tables, reminding me to leave my “Jesus walks into a bar” joke tucked out of sight. Midway through dinner the adults began a discussion of education which flowed into politics which flowed into religion which told me I should’ve learned more about those godforsaken Shang horses and taken Sunday School more seriously. Just as I settled on telling them I speak Spanish fluently, the conversation screeched to a halt at my place mat. The boyfriend bragged about my humor, my ability to make anyone laugh. I was pleasantly surprised to see smiles on their faces, a general expression of approval for Tori, The Ha-Ha Funny Girlfriend. I loosened up a bit (mostly in the Alcohol Intake Department) and found that I was enjoying the company of these seemingly stiff-necked folks. I felt so at home, it seems, that I proudly graced my new friends with a trademark joke:

What did the cannibal do after he dumped his girlfriend?

Astonished by my blue-ribbon humor, they stared in awe rather than offer an answer. Are you ready to laugh, Aunt Gertrude? You better be!

He wiped his arse. {stunned silence} Get it? ‘Cause he eats people.

   I was never invited to another family function again mostly because I was not ever invited to be his girlfriend again. It was a comedic flop that has translated into my personality and writing to this day. Trying to impress folks is a sure-fire path to destruction, and it is the desperate act of grasping for a laugh that ironically sucks the humor out of the room. It is best to approach comedy with subtlety, hiding it away just enough that people who want to laugh will find the funny. People who want no part of the punchline will chock  your talk up to an interesting commentary on the animal sacrifices of the Shang Dynasty.

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32 thoughts on “Hide Your Ha Ha: Notes On When To Stop Joking

  1. I tend to find that people think I’m funny when I have no clue that I am being funny. If I try to be funny . . . splat! Crash! Burn!

  2. Great post, as usual. I’ve been in way too many situations over the years where people say to me “You are seriously the funniest person I have ever known.” Then they back out of the room, very very slowly.

  3. Funny. My family would have welcomed you with open arms with that joke. Good thing you found out early that they were not the right family for you. I find that being laughed at is not as fun as being laughed with. Someday I’ll be funny on purpose!!

  4. Being funny isn’t an easy job, is it? Personally I think you were very clever to change Mrs. Oonk to Mrs. Oink. You just said what everyone else was thinking! My husband has always had a knack for taking the names of my children’s teachers and making them quite humorous. I always feared this funny play on words would come back to haunt us.

    • Luckily I left my fart joke phase behind in gradeschool. It still holds true, though, that I will always think something is funny when it is really horribly offensive!

  5. Hilarious – I could just imagine that scene, you getting comfortable and then laying one on them. Maybe I’ll pull that one out at Easter dinner with my in-laws – they might choke on their turkey!

  6. This is the funniest post you’ve ever written! From Fart face to flying under pants to the dumper- HILARIOUS! I’ll be laughing about this ALL DAY! Thanks for the belly laugh- which is still jiggling long after the laughter has faded….

  7. I did the same thing in elementary school. I didn’t stand out for anyting so I tried my hand at making a handful of seriously undersocialized girls laugh. And that gut panic you mention, I still have it when in social functions, ’cause I never learned what most adolescents learn – to keep my mouth from speaking what I’m thinking.

  8. What do cannibals make out of politicians?
    Bologna sandwiches.

    What did the cannibal get when he was late for dinner?
    The cold shoulder.

    What’s a cannibal’s favorite type of TV show?
    A celebrity roast.

    I’ve got a million of ‘em! And boy, would your ex-boyfriend’s family have hated me…

  9. You’re so wonderful, Tori! :) I, for one, laughed at the cannibal joke. I laughed even harder at the “get it? ‘Cause he eats people” explanation. That’s hysterical! Do you ever invite people to laugh at your jokes? I often find that I have to invite my students (especially brand-spankin’-new ones) to laugh at my jokes. It might go something like this: “Blah blah really lame pun blah blah.” Stunned silence….. “Guys, I know I intimidate you by my intelligence and quick wit, but it’s okay to laugh at my jokes. I’m pretty funny.” That usually gets a chuckle or two…but I think more out of fear that I might fail them if they don’t at least try to let out some kind of laughter-like sound.

    For what it’s worth, you often make me laugh. Regardless if the joke is blue-ribbon or just plain blue. You’re a funny lady, lady! :)

  10. Funny! Thank goodness I did sports, so I didn’t have to rest on my (lack of) humor. One thing I can say though, is my sister and I had three neighbor girls we played with all the time, and shared the same sense of humor. Normally it involved acting out strange scenes and completing outrageous dares. Nothing better than finding people who share and appreciate your style of humor! :)

    • I had a funky neighborhood gang, too (Note: We did not carry guns, engage in violence, or even have a hand sign. It was all just innocent kid stuff!). The highlight of my childhoos was fitting in with the neighborhood kids, acting like my normal, idiot self and still being accepted for it!

  11. Hahaha– oh, Tori, too funny! I’m OK with transmitting my “special” brand of humor via the written word, but nobody really gets me in person… still (after all these years!) Most people can never tell if I’m being serious or sarcastic. :(

    • On rare occasion that I am being totally serious, someone will inevitably laugh or shoot me a OMG!ROFL!LMFAO! message that makes me want to cry. When I am joking, some poor fool will pat my shoulder and try to console me, thinking my story about the cannibal eating my family was really true.

  12. I agree it’s best to approach comedy with subtlety. There are many people I’ve known for years who’ve never heard me make a joke and wouldn’t describe me as a funny person. At a party I don’t want to be the center of attention and I would never set myself up by saying I had a joke. Most likely I’ll be in a corner making odd observations to the one or two people who get my sense of humor.

    • The corner is my safe zone… normally with the Pony Sweatshirt girls in glasses. I’ve learned enough about the horse sacrifices of The Shang Dynasty to sound educated for a solid ten minutes :)

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