Three stages of joking

I’m not sure how everybody else develops a sense of humor and learns to tell jokes, but for me it came in three distinct stages.

  1. The bullied stage

As a child, I was what you would call an easy target.  I was that kid that you could always get a rise out of.  My main repertoire consisted of variations of “I do NOT!!”  I mean, it’s no great tantrum or anything, but hey, bullies have to start somewhere, amirite?  Anyway, I was better amusement than Tim who would just go cry in the corner if you called him an idiot.  Tim was always getting kids in trouble for bullying.  I was a safer bet.

It was pretty easy too, since I was TERRIFIED of doing anything stupid or acting in any way that might be considered embarrassing.  Meaning that if you said anything that suggested that I did those things, I would get very worked up indeed. For example, I was constantly teased about LIKE liking my best friend, which, as you might recall, is pretty much equal to waterboarding when you’re in second grade.  So naturally, I whipped out the old “I do NOT!!” which is the teasing equivalent of giving a mouse a cookie.  Thus it continued.

It was pretty standard stuff, punctuated by the occasional pep talk with my parents who encouraged me to go to the teacher, which became a vicious cycle… (“Tattle tale!” “I am NOT!!”)

2. The sarcastic stage

In middle school came the golden age.  I learned about sarcasm.  Fortunately, everyone else was still figuring it out too, so they had no defense! No longer was “You totally LIKE him!!” a nightmare…it was easily banished with a “Oh my god, you’re right. We’re so in love, I’m going to marry him tomorrow.” It was like magic.

Since sarcasm had been such a successful tactic, I thought that it could be used for everything.  Everything was funny if you said it sarcastically.  I could get away with murder! (Note: if you are on the stand for murder, I do not recommend using sarcasm, and I’m also confused as to why you are reading this post. Shouldn’t you be hiding the evidence or something?)

But then I hit high school and people stopped laughing at my sarcasm.  I wasn’t bullied, but I also wasn’t funny.  Not knowing what to do, I kind of reverted back to my elementary school self who refused to get involved in anything that could potentially look stupid. Ever.  Like I literally used the “oh, I forgot!” excuse when the rest of my cross country team came into school wearing skirts over their pants and mismatched shoes for “team spirit.”  I was pretty sure that being seen in anything other than unadulterated jeans and a tshirt would ruin my non-existent social status forever.

3. The self-deprecating stage

I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but one day I discovered self-deprecating humor (it may have been around the time I came in 110/120th place in cross country…).  It really blossomed in college when everyone else thinks they’re so great, but here I was cracking jokes about how my greatest life achievement was holding onto the same pen long enough to use up all the ink.

People think it’s hilarious when you make jokes about how you have longer relationships with snack foods than with real people, or how your paper was so bad that the professor had to add specific grading penalties to the next assignment to make sure nobody ever did what you did, or how the best dish you know how to cook is microwave macaroni and cheese.  Only two out of three of those statements are actually true, but the great thing about these jokes is nobody calls you on it!  And if they do, they have to prove you wrong BY COMPLIMENTING YOU (“wait, no, you’re a great cook!!”)!  Win, win, win.

So now, it’s pretty hard to embarrass me.  While I still am an incredible suck up and desperate people-pleaser, I’m hard to shame. Whenever something happens, I just think “This is embarrassing as fuck….hey I bet I could make a killer stand up routine out of this.”

And that’s still where I am today. Anybody have similar stories? What do you think makes a comedian?


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