What’s so funny about being funny?

Miriam Nelson
News Editor

Music may be the universal language, but there is a lot to be said for humor.

I watched an interview with John Cleese of “Fawlty Towers” and “Monty Python” fame. He said on one of his trips to Asia, he came across a “Fawlty Towers” episode on TV dubbed in the language of the country. He knew the sight gags would be funny but marveled at why the dialog of the story would appeal to that market.

When so much of a storyline or even a punchline can get lost in translation, I’m sure there are also times when the translation surpasses the original.
We all want to relate to the human condition. Even though many of us go through life worried our flaws and insecurities will be exposed to the judgment of our peers, we take great delight when we’re watching a comedian bare his or her soul to the delight of others.

I’ve been following a British comedian online, and after I wipe away the tears from laughing so hard, I try to analyze the why. His delivery goes against many of the theatrical trainings I’ve had. He speaks way too fast and keeps that frenetic pace throughout the show. By the time the show is over, you feel as though your brain has sprinted to the edge of the world, and you can only hope the rest of you catches up.

He also paces quickly from one side of the stage to the other. If you watch him with the sound off he looks like one of those ducks or bunnies you try to shoot out in a midway arcade game. You rarely think a moving target would be fun to watch when you’re trying to absorb the verbal message, but there it is and you can’t help laughing.

There’s another comedian who pokes fun at the English language or rather, our use of it. With his thick eastern European accent, he lists the way we’ll use a certain swear word in a variety of ways to convey very different meanings.

Wherever I’ve worked or whatever board or organization I’ve been involved in, I’ve always worked best and enjoyed it most when the people around me have the same sense of humor or at least appreciate mine.

I think back to my very first job as a travel agent. The owner of the agency was the most humorless man I had ever met. I adored the other two women in the office, but I could not wait to leave the agency.

When I worked as a temp on a project at a major airline with a major IT consulting firm, I stayed three years — partly because I kept trying to get a permanent job with either company, but also because I had a built in audience for my sense of humor.

Not everyone has a universal understanding or appreciation of humor, but those who do help make the world a better place to live. We all exit the same way. We might as well have a laugh while we’re still here.