When I first meet someone new, there inevitably comes a critical point in our burgeoning relationship, usually fairly early on, in which I take a deep breath and brace myself for what I’m about to tell them. This is a moment that will make or break our future together. Will they accept me after they’ve heard what I’m about to reveal about myself?
“I have something important to tell you,” I say. “I don’t really like comedy.”
Without fail people look at me with a puzzled face, cock their head to one side, and exclaim, “Whhhhhhhaatttttt? YOU don’t like COMEDY? What do you mean?!”
Unlike telling people you don’t really care for chocolate or reggae or cilantro, telling people you’re just not that into comedy makes you immediately suspect as a human being. If you don’t like comedy, it stands to reason that you probably don’t like kittens, or world peace, or orgasms, either. You’re probably just a terrible person who hates everything good on earth. Clearly.
So allow me to clarify. I love things that are funny. I love laughing until my face hurts. I love joking with my friends until somebody laugh-snorts or a liquid painfully squirts out of someone’s nose. The women in my family are renowned far and wide for our loud, raucous cackles. And, for the record, I do like kittens, world peace, and orgasms (a lot).
When I was at the impressionable and tender age of 12, "Dumb and Dumber" came out in theatres. It was all that my friends could talk about. Instead of rushing to the movie theatre to see Jim Carrey and that other guy get snot frozen to their faces with all my peers, I opted to stay home with my mom and repeatedly watch "The Remains of the Day" on VHS. It was at this point that I really began to notice that either I was different from other kids or that “comedy” is really just one big peer pressure con.
Turns out, both things were true.
What I don’t like about comedy is the demand that I laugh at stuff that just isn’t that funny. In fact, I hate it. And there is a long list of things that other people find hilarious that I find mildly amusing AT BEST.
For clarity, here is a list of phrases that make my jaw/other parts clench up tighter than security at the DMZ:
-“Have you seen that YouTube video with blahitty-blah? It’s so funny.”
-“My friend has a stand-up comedy gig tonight. Do you want to check it out?”
-“Don’t you love the John Stewart/Stephen Colbert/SNL skit about [x?]”
-“Have you seen [insert name of new sitcom here]. You’d love it!”
-“Will you come see my improv show this weekend?
-“Don’t you just love cartoons?”
Most of the above can be filed under the category of “comedy.” That is, it carries an expectation that I will laugh at it because it is called comedy. The point of the experience is that you’re supposed to laugh. It is supposed to bring you joy and happiness. But when it doesn’t, what you get instead is a unique form of social alienation and torture.
Inevitably, there are times in life when I end up sitting next to someone I genuinely like a lot while they try to share something funny with me -- you know, as a way to bond. Nine times out of ten, this is an awkward, uncomfortable experience for both of us, as they look at me, laughing and smiling, expectantly waiting for me to laugh and smile along with them. After waiting what seems like an unbearable amount of time, I muster a “Ha Ha” and offer a meek and conciliatory, “That’s funny!”
Usually, I’m lying through my teeth, but I can’t come out and say, “I think this is stupid and beneath me as an intelligent human being.” Because that would hurt the other person’s feelings and create a gaping rift in our relationship (some people are so sensitive, I swear). Still, at this point it’s usually still too late. The damage has been done. I’ve ruined the bonding moment and it’s been revealed that I am a humorless weirdo with a chronic case of resting bitchface and no joy in her small, ineffectual heart.
Sometimes, other people take this as a sort of challenge to try harder. They queue up another YouTube video or search their memory for another corny joke. They think they just need to try harder to get me to laugh with them.
This is a patently wrong move. The more you push me to laugh, the less amused I will become. At this point, I find it is best to excuse myself, saying, “I’ll be in the next room reading Kafka and watching 'The Hours' in the dark if you need me.”
I’ll admit there was one time I laughed really hard at a stupid comedy. It was in 2004 and I was at a party and someone put on "Team America: World Police." In that moment I felt so normal, so included, so one with my fellow humans as we guffawed at the sheer stupidity on the screen. Puppets going at it doggy style, y’all. EXCEPT: I WAS STUPID WASTED OUT OF MY MIND. I probably would have laughed at my own arm being sawed off at that moment. So, there’s that.
Here’s the thing about comedy; It’s just trying too hard. Instead of making me laugh, it makes me uncomfortable. I feel sorry for the people who are working so hard to get a positive response from me the audience. I’m embarrassed for them. And, I’m embarrassed for you when you try to get me to laugh along with you. It’s all just so middle school all over again.
To me, the truly funny things in life are things that happen on accident or organically, like a snort-laugh or a cackle. The funniest moments on SNL are when the cast members break character and start genuinely laughing themselves. A spontaneous and well-timed sarcastic comment, pun, or bawdy remark is funnier than any pre-meditated comedic ploy for cheap laughs could ever be.
I don’t hate laughing, or joy. I revel in the funny things in life. That’s why I’m just not that into comedy.