Laughter Heals, Sarcasm Stings

Katie Young
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Wednesday - October 17, 2007

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

A man staggers into an emergency room with two black eyes and a five iron wrapped tightly around his throat. Naturally the doctor asks him what happened.

“Well, it was like this,” said the man. “I was having a quiet round of golf with my wife when she sliced her ball into a pasture of cows. We went to look for it, and while I was rooting around, I noticed one of the cows had something white at its rear end. I walked over and lifted up the tail and sure enough, there was my wife’s golf ball ... stuck right in the middle of the cow’s okole. That’s when I made my mistake.”

“What did you do?” asks the doctor.

“Well, I lifted the tail and yelled to my wife, “Hey, this looks like yours!”

This is a joke from an online website that rates jokes. This joke got an average rating. I thought it was pretty funny, though not “roll around on the floor laughing hysterically” status.

Do you like to laugh? Most people do, and they look for a good sense of humor in their partners and friends as well. I’d say it’s on the top 10 list of desirable traits for sure.

But what exactly is considered a “good” sense of humor? There are many kinds of humor, and something that makes one person laugh might not be funny to the next person. Finding something humorous depends on a host of absolute and relative variables including geographical location, culture, maturity, level of education and context.

Humor is a funny thing. My mother and I laugh at the same things. We make little jokes and

giggle at each other, and sometimes my fianc says he can’t figure out what we’re laughing about.

Mr. Pono, the wiener dog, almost always makes me laugh, even without speaking. It’s just the expressions he has and the things he does, like rolling on the floor on his back, thrusting his four paws up into the air simultaneously. That always puts me in stitches.

Most of us reason that someone with a good sense of humor is likely a happy, confident person with a good perspective on life. But humor can be a double-edged sword.

It is a way to communicate, and we all know how difficult it can be to communicate sometimes. You may say one thing and someone will take it to mean something else.

While humor can help you forge better relationships and cope with life, depending on the type of humor you use, it can also be corrosive, eating away at self-esteem and antagonizing others.

While humor is essentially a social thing, how you use it can say a lot about your sense of self, according to one website article. People who use self-defeating humor, making fun of themselves for the enjoyment of others, tend to maintain that hostility toward themselves even when alone. Similarly, those who are able to view the world with amused tolerance are often equally forgiving of their own shortcomings.

I have one friend who uses what I consider to be put-down humor. This is an aggressive type of humor used to criticize and manipulate others through teasing, sarcasm and ridicule. Sometimes I understand that type of teasing; most of the time I don’t. How is putting someone down supposed to be funny? I feel this type of humor is just an excuse for being mean.

Is this the socially accepted way to deploy aggression? I don’t think so. Saying, “I’m just kidding” after a put-down allows the person making the joke to avoid any responsibility for what’s been said.

I personally prefer people who use what is referred to as “bonding humor.” These are people who say amusing things, tell jokes, engage in witty banter and generally lighten the mood.

Being funny does not come naturally to everyone. But finding something to laugh at - something that brings joy to your life - is the best way to have a great day.

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