Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On Being Funny

Everybody knows that feminist are not funny. But there's a way in which I'm especially not funny, a kind of surrealistic field of humor where I think I'm laughing all alone.

For instance, I really want to write a book called My Life As An Old Man. And I want to troll blogs under the pseudonym Olive the Omnivorous Ovary. Not a fanged vagina, just something that nips the very tip....

That's just what you would glimpse from the door of my Insane Humor Room. I'm not going to tell you the other types of things which make me laugh, except that sometimes laughter is the only real self-defense against the vicissitudes of life. Well, perhaps I could mention that I really love the idea of titles which have nothing to do with the article or the post or the book they have been glued to, and I have no idea why that is funny to me. But when I imagine a book about, say, nuclear warfare, being called "Tea And Pancakes" I howl. Howl.

So why are feminists not funny? Or rather: Why is accusing someone of not being able to take a joke a legitimate form of defense? A lot of jokes are boring or contrived or just not very funny. A lot of jokes base the laugh-line on a shared understanding that Other People are stupid. Take the Blonde Jokes, for example. Those jokes are only funny if you really think that women with fair hair are very stupid people. I might not laugh at them for a very personal reason, a reason which has nothing to do with my sick sense of humor. Or its absence. Or hair color.

Can funniness be analyzed and understood? Probably not in the sense of creating a formula that would always work, and the very work of doing so would be extremely unfunny. But all humor depends on surprise. How that surprise is delivered varies, and different folks laugh at different sources of surprise: slapstick, situational comedy, word puns, story jokes and so on.

The surprise is needed. It also needs to trigger the laughter reaction. Why feminists don't find certain surprises funny is for the same reason that you throwing a cake in my face might make me surprised in a way not conducive to laughter. You, on the other hand, might get a nice belly laugh out of that. At least until you have figured out what happens to people who throw cakes in the faces of goddesses. Burp.