Friday, May 04, 2007

The Best Medicine

My husband loves to laugh. It is a desire that is at constant war with his other main passion: sleep. To sleep? Or to stay up and watch the Colbert Report? It is a constant dilemma.

By contrast, I seem to have an unusually low humour-seeking drive. When I flick on the TV, I don’t automatically go to the Comedy Network. Although I enjoy laughing with friends, I don’t deliberately seek out friendships with people because they make me laugh. My favourite kinds of humour are personal, anecdotal, self-deprecating – there is a kind of sidelong quality to the things that make me laugh, as if they’re doing it by accident.

To illustrate this point, I asked hubby the other night to name the "Five Funniest Things." After what I considered to be a lot of needless quibbling about the exact definition of the word "thing," he responded by making a number of increasingly fine distinctions: Stephen Colbert back when he was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, or Sarah Silverman in the first episode he saw of The Sarah Silverman Show but not the second. Finally, he settled on this:

and this:

Then the question was turned on me, and I mentioned this book:

and this one:

and (most recently) this one:

(Have you noticed that books-based-on-blogs are actually funnier than the online versions? Is it because we can really immerse ourselves in the blogger’s voice? Or is it that we can read them while supervising exams, struggling to contain our snorts of laughter so as not to distract the students?)

Despite our divergent senses of humour, hubby and I can agree on at least one thing, our joint nomination for Funniest Man Alive:

(The first picture was too small, so I picked out another one - but then I thought, why not have both? Because it's Hugh Laurie! Except that you'd be surprised at how many photos of Hugh Grant and Hugh Jackman come up when you do a Google Image search on Hugh Laurie. Not that that's a bad thing. All Hughs are good, really. I would have named Bub Hugh if hubby hadn't vetoed it.)

Besides being hilarious in roles ranging from British fop (Blackadder, Jeeves and Wooster) to American smart-ass (House), Hugh Laurie is also the source of my favourite definition of humour. In Maybe Baby, when his character comes up with the brilliant idea of writing an autobiographical script about infertility (without his wife’s knowledge and against her will), he describes it as "a real modern tragi-comedy about life and the absence of life, with jokes too, but proper jokes – sad jokes, which are the best kind."

I’ve always remembered that line because for me, too, the best comedy is character-driven and more than a little dark. I get stressed out when the sole purpose of something – a book, a television show, or a blog post – is to be funny. We call people brave when they write honestly about difficult or shameful feelings, but that kind of writing is safe and conservative compared to that produced by the true risk-takers, the humorists. What if nobody laughs? It’s always nice to have a fall-back position: "Oh, I wasn’t being funny! That was a serious philosophical analysis of the construction of snot and poo in post-modern Western culture."

It’s a losing game, this business of being funny. The funnier you are, the more people expect to be amused, entertained, and startled into gales of laughter (you can see the dilemma: how do you keep startling people who come to you expecting to be startled?). It’s easy to be funny when nobody’s expecting it – in the midst of a serious post, you tuck away a little zinger that takes readers by surprise. To be consistently funny through an entire post – much less an entire blog – is a gargantuan task, reserved for the truly courageous.

I admire humorists, but I don’t usually read their blogs. In most of my favourite reads, wit is the appetizer rather than the main course. But every once in awhile I like to go to one of those restaurants where you can forgo the main course altogether and order a platter of bacon-wrapped scallops and breaded mozzarella sticks with a side order of spinach dip and Thai spring rolls. The ROFLs are kind of like that for me – Mrs. Chicky and Metro Mama pull together all the best laugh-out-loud moments from a blogosphere that is about so much more than just being funny.

The post I’ve nominated for this month’s ROFL awards is a great example of my favourite kind of humour – it is real, and personal, and shot through with sadness. Cinnamon Gurl chronicles the closure of the All-Night Breastaurant with a journalistic detachment that made me laugh so hard I felt like crying.

April '07 ROFL


While we’re on the subject of humour, here are my celebrity look-alikes. After Mimi referred to me as Scully-esque, I enthusiastically uploaded several photos, only to discover that (a) Gillian Anderson did not show up as a match, and (b) the only person who did show up consistently was Hillary Clinton.


Weekend Discussion Topic: What’s your list of Funniest Things? And what do the things you find funny reveal about you?


Mad Hatter said...

Excellent choice!! Most excellent.

I always struggle with humour on my blog. I used to love doing the Baby Daisy schtick b/c I found it funny. I was also spontanious and completely directed by my toddler. Now it seems forced. I much prefer writing the sad/beuatiful slice of life posts that, if I am on my game, can squeeze out a smile here and there.

I never laugh out loud when reading blogs. I don't know why but I don't. That doesn't mean that writers like Alpha Dogma or Oh the Joys or Mrs Chicky or the Red Neck Mommy... don't make me smile and nod knowingly time and time again.

As for what I find funny: black humour and adsurdism. What I thought was my funniest post, only two people commented and they seemed a tad horrified. Just b/c I imagined my daughter murdering me...

Mad Hatter said...

ooops "IT was always spontanious". Shucks, I seldom am.

Mad Hatter said...

Oh and one more thing. I am a comment whore. Humour is tough b/c I think people are less likely to comment on humour. Afterall, what is there to say other than "ha! you crack me up!" There's only so many times you can say that.

Major Bedhead said...

Mmmm Hugh Laurie. Have you seen the stuff on YouTube with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry? If not, look for it. I nearly peed my pants while watching it.

I often find dark things funny. My favourite type of movie is a black comedy. I like self-deprecating humour and snarky wit. I'm not a huge fan of slap stick or bathroom humour. People like Jim Carrey and Will Farrel leave me cold (except that Landlord thing currently making the rounds - that's funny).

Mad Hatter said...

Got enough of me yet? I also need to add that Hugh Laurie is a comic genius in addition to being a honey.

You are far more Scullyesque that Clintonian any day. Mimi really hit the nail on the head with that one.

Virtualsprite said...

OOOH! I love Hugh Laurie. Ever since the first time I saw Blackadder, I've been in love with him. Yes... every blog needs more pics of Hugh.

I have a really dry sense of humer that my family doesn't often get. I also love British humor. The Vicar of Dibley, Coupling, Graham Norton... all so funny I almost wet myself.

kgirl said...

your celebrity look-alike tree is awesome! my list of funniest things would have to include my own celebrity look-alike chart, which includes Barak Obama.

Pieces said...

I'm going to have to give this some thought. I'm not sure what I think is funny. I suspect I am more like your husband and I just want flat-out, crack-me up humor. Sadness and poignancy just ruin it. I nearly cried when we cancelled our cable, thereby cancelling the Colbert Report.

Did you see Little Miss Sunshine? It was hailed as comic brilliance yet when we watched it I kept thinking--where's the funny? Yes the end was funny but it was not a laugh-fest for me like people said it would be.

Pieces said...

Ahem, I wasn't done yet.

Your post helps me understand why some people would find that movie so funny. It is the way the humor is packaged that reaches different people.

Okay, now I'm done.

nomotherearth said...

Hugh Laurie is a genius - absolutely. As with others, I find dark comedy much more funny than slapstick or bathroom humour. My ideal comedy usual involves sarcastic wit or self-deprecation. Here are some things I find truly humourous:

1. Plays by Christopher Durang
2. Bridget Jones' Diary
3. Pseudo-documentary movies like "Best in Show", "Strictly Ballroom" or "Waiting for Guffman"

Strangely, I do find Will Ferrell funny. I hate his kind of stupid movie humour, but the fact that his comedy is completely natural and spontaneous is very impressive. I admire talent wherever it may be found.

bubandpie said...

Pieces - Little Miss Sunshine! How could I have forgotten? That is probably THE funniest thing I've seen in ever. All the way through, Olive reminded me of the Pie, even though she was eight years old - her wonderful unself-consciousness, her vulnerability. It was a terribly sad movie - and so funny I was wiping the tears off my chin. EXACTLY my kind of humour.

cinnamon gurl said...

Wow, I'm totally floored! Thanks!

And I need to bookmark this post for the books I haven't read and the things I haven't seen yet.

Still in shock... must digest.

Robbin said...

I have really found a gender divide when it comes to comedy - far more men seem to be into the slapstick variety than women.

I am of the dry humor type. Like mad hatter, I am into absurdism. Not sad humor really, but humor based on the little stupidities we take for granted everyday. I like the kind of humor that points out how bizarre everyday life can really be when we think about it. I think it has to do with my vague feeling of passing through life more as an observer than a participant. The writer who can make me laugh to tears almost every time I pick up a book is Bill Bryson, because it is like hearing my internal voice.
The movie Fargo cracked me up.

And I love, love, love Hugh Laurie.

Beck said...

Hugh Laurie! Oh yes.
Other things I find funny:
1. The movie Anchorman. I have NO SHAME! My husband and I quote this to each other all the time:
Ron: Look! It's the world's most beautiful rainbow!
Veronica: Do me on it!
My idea of humour? Oh yes.
I also like the books of James Thurber, knock knock jokes told to me by my five year old and my husband, who consistently makes me laugh way too much.
But being funny is sort of a sticky issue - if you're TOO funny, people don't take you seriously.

slouching mom said...

I have the biggest crush on Hugh Laurie. If you were to look in on me while watching House, you'd see a goofy grin plastered to my face for the entire length of the show, a grin with no regard for content.

Wait -- the show has content?

Thank you for posting those gorgeous pictures of him.

I am swooning.

mamatulip said...

I want to have your celeb lookalike wheel. My lookalikes were Michael Jackson and ELTON JOHN.


Sandra said...

I love Hugh Laurie!

And yes, there is definately something Scullyesque about Mrs. B&P.

Missed you xo

TrudyJ said...

Oh, things I find funny ... I think I have done a whole blog post about this somewhere. Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Princess Bride. The "Bulbous Bouffant" routine by The Vestibules. Early "Friends" episodes (first four seasons or so). Any of "House." The best of the Sorkin-written "West Wing" episodes. ("Smallpox, the disease?" "No, smallpox the dessert topping.")

That I love Hugh Laurie hardly needs to be said. But I agree with you about all the Hughs. A bouquet of Hughs, please.

I find that people tell me I'm funny in real life, but I find it very hard to write funny, on my blog or anywhere else. It must be a different skill set.

Momish said...

Ahhhh, Hugh Laurie is a master and genius, I completely adore him and House is my favorite show! My kind of funny is acidic wit with a tinge of the pathetic. God only knows what that says about me.

I love the ROFL! Although I keep forgetting to get my nomination in on time. (yikes, I think the tinge of pathetic is probably because I can relate!) I must go read now!

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I'm the odd one! Only slapstick makes me laugh out loud... If I am in the right frame of mind, a good slapstick skit will make me hysterical with laughter. Fall to the floor gasping. The Simpsons can always make me laugh.

I, um, haven't ever seen Hugh Laurie in anything. You all make me want to watch House.

NO WONDER no one ever laughs at my blog!

flutter said...

I adore Hugh Laurie. I think I find quick wit and black humor to be the things that make me laugh the hardest. Oh yeah, and body functions, nothing better than a good body function. *erp*

Aliki2006 said...

I love Laurie too, although I can't stand House. I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but I just can't stand the show.

I LOVE the Adrian Mole books--they are, hands down, some of the funniest books I've read. And the Fawlty Towers show still keeps me in stitches, although Monty Python didn't. Have you seen any versions of The Office? Too funny...

kittenpie said...

Do you know what? I did one of those collatges, or tried to. And? I'm going to post about this, because it is making me ponder: Apparently, I DON'T LOOK LIKE ANYONE! No one. At least no one famous, because people on the street ask me all the time if I am so-and-so's sister. But no one famous. Pah.

kittenpie said...

(Oh yeah, go t distracted from original comment about loving Hugh Laurie and other Hughs as well.)

Mimi said...

Oh god, I'm always playing it for laughs in real life. But not on the blog? Hm.

Hugh Laurie: yum. And also, I have a newphew called Hugh. He's the only one in his daycare and at school. He wears his name with gravitas.

You are totally Scully-esque. You have her skin! Her shiny hair. This software is obviously stuck on your brunette-ness. Cin agrees with me. And you're short like her, too! That's it. I'm uploading me now, too. If I don't get an Uma Thurman, there's gonna be hell to pay.

Funny? I just bought a David Lodge novel for beach reading. I"ll get back to you ...

bubandpie said...

Aliki - See, The Office is exactly the sort of humour I'm not fully capable of appreciating. It's too much ABOUT the fact that it's funny.

Jenifer said...

I was here earlier and had to leave before commenting...a little late to be witty so I'll keep it brief.

Seinfeld always makes me laugh in a smart way and movies like Four Weddings and a Funeral...I am a sucker for all things British. He is the only Hugh I love! Sorry I don't watch House and haven't seen his movies. Oh and 30 Rock has me chuckling too some nights.

I do laugh at "stupid" humour in spite of myself sometimes too.

Christina said...

LOVE Hugh Laurie! While I adore House, I loved him back in his Blackadder days, too.

Funny things for me: The Princess Bride, The Daily Show & their book, America: The Book. I just realized that we don't own a lot of comedies in our DVD collection. When it comes to stand-up comedy, I like Ellen Degeneres and other comedians who make us laugh by pointing out the absurd in everyday life.

Bon said...

i loved the all-night breastaurant post...clearly you have a great sense of humour, since it concurs with my own. ;)

i find words funny...and absurdity. we're still in London, and i've just seen Little Britain for the first time, and something about it's Python-esque silliness pleases me way more than anything i've seen on North American tv in a long time.

Oscar could have been a Hugh, too...

Karen said...

Parenting and blogging at the same time. Perfect ROFL award this month, I agree, so it's nice for me that you nominated her as I still find awards a mystery and am always surprised when it's time again. I can't come up with five quickly, but my number one top Funny Thing of the moment is this Colbert dance at the end of Strangers with Candy.

mcewen said...

thanks I'll look into those blogs later. Tempted by the books, but my night stand is already currently overwhelmed.

mcewen said...

Had to come back again and check that I really understood your reference to the books being funnier than the blogs as I kept thinking it should / would have been the other way around.

The blog wouldn't have been professionally edited [I thought] and cut a lot of the work. But now I've had a few more moments to think about it [my brother's a professional ed] that the right way round afterall.
Best wishes

Mary G said...

I love the sideswipe kind of humour you're so very good at (damn you!) The kind of thing that makes you go 'Yessss' and wish you'ld thought of. But the ROFL post about the Breastauraunt was a perfect choice. The kind of thing you laugh with, and feel. Very rare and Cinnamon gurl is amazing, always, and inspired in that post.

I am scared to do the celebrity looks alike thing -- I suspect my closest matches are the Queen and a pug dog.

NotSoSage said...

We just watched Little Miss Sunshine the other night. I loved it, too...I think we have a similar sense of humour (although my father's genes still hold clout and I can't resist a little Python-esque humour now and then).

And yet I'm definitely drawn to people who make me laugh. Joe and I had a six hour drive to Montreal (sans child!!) and he had me laughing much of the way. I love that...and I love that I get to see that part of him because he's so shy he doesn't often share it with other people. Our first few dates were so sombre.

Susanne said...

Okay. Five funniest things:

1. Terry Pratchett books (that's actually about 28 things or so)

2. Douglas Adams books

3. L.A Story (That's a film. With Steve Martin. Who's that Hugh L-type?)

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Um. That was four things, wasn't it?

Karen said...

back to report on my second funniest thing: Firefly, quote from Mal: "My days of not taking you seriously are definitely coming to a middle." And all other humorous Firefly moments, only funny cause the story is so beautiful and tragic - can't believe it slipped my mind before!
Also number three funny thing: Sports Night. I apparently like a decent helping of sad mixed in with my funny...

Lady M said...

Love Hugh Laurie too. I'm so used to him as Bertie Wooster that it's a shock to see him as House. I read about his Emmy acceptance speech - too witty for this planet. Have you seen it? If not, I'll dig it up for you.

Kelly said...

Good choice for ROFL.

Haley-O said...

Look at you! Beautiful! Great look-alikes, too! I got a MAN...some dude name Frankl.... ;)

I love Will Ferrell!!! And, WOW, Adrian Mole was the best! Thanks for the laughs! Hugh Laurie is awesome.... :)

theflyingmum said...

some of the older SNL and SCTV stuff, and the most fun I've had lately at a film was "Night at the Museum." Yes, that Ben Stiller is one funny guy. Oh, and Owen Wilson too. And Jack Black in "School of Rock." And Ellen Degeneres makes me chuckle...

Oh, The Joys said...

I laugh at a lot of things. I think it would be easier for me to list what I don't think is funny - like humor at someone else's expense.

Twice I have made mistakes on my blog, for example, where I meant one thing by a post only to later realize that it could be interpreted another, more hateful way and this made me feel ashamed and horrified. I prefer when people make fun of themselves rather than someone else.

lildb said...

you're adorable, G. you know that, right?

please say you're going to blogher.

Sanjay said...

What a great the best Medicine I always struggle with homouur on my blog.