Things Jane Says: the Jest Edition

I jest with Jane. Jane jests with me. You might have picked up on this.
Publish date:
October 7, 2012

“Especially you … Tyler, with your, with your metaphors and your—what do you call it ?—poetry!!!”

I jest with Jane. Jane jests with me. You might have picked up on this. It is our most operable form of communication. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell, even between the two of us, who is being serious and who is parlaying modest humor into a fortune of complacent sarcasm. Oh jest, oh verbosity! This is the fun part of figuring out what makes a person hee into the haw, that at times you just have to test it, to cut out reserve and risk comfort by ungloving humor. I’m going to speak about common misnomers and thin lines regarding both jesting and writing. At what point do you start baring your humor in a relationship, friend or partner-wise? I ask this because I find that of all the things people hesitate from doing, at least when first meeting others, that holding one’s sense of humor back is near the top (relieving it is also at the top but let me get back to this). This could easily be a defense mechanism—we are our most raw when laughing, smiling, and carving a quip, so why give ourselves away, right?—and as such there are formalities to wade through before shuffling into banter. Yet this often brews misconception, holding back, for when the banter does begin it seems sudden and at times out of nowhere and perhaps false. I’m thinking of certain particular circumstances in the past where friends or dates have said, “I didn’t realize you were funny” or, “I’m just now understanding your sense of humor.”

I want to believe this is one of those it-depends-on-the-situation situations, but I’m tired of that phrase. Also, I think that there’s something to be said about these hesitancies, something beyond categorizing things in either sharing a sense of humor or not getting one’s humor. There’s always the risk of someone not getting your humor, but this seems to be more about forced humor. If you’re trying to be funny it can always be sensed, called out and discarded. Whereas natural humor is just that, natural; why then, do you think we often hold back? Of course, there is the opposite, which is to try and augment your humor to match what another’s is perceived to be—this is the type of humor that falls into “bad joke” zone, a characteristic scenario being high school or college-aged kids laughing at then possibly adding to jokes that are, way more often than not, offensive and childish; additionally, there is humor as the first active mode of communication, whether out of nerves or some other reactive compound, which all relates.I realize now, in the middle of writing this, of course, that there might not be a way of talking about this without someone saying “to each their own” or some other banal retort (banalitort … let’s make up words?) and that there is so much more to say. I’d like you to say it though, readers. Aside from the type of jest we use while flirting, sharing favorite quotes from movies and shows, the type of jest I’m wishing to define and uproot is the kind that just happens on its own and connects you to another person without explanation. Quite often dry humor fits in such groove, and I think it’s because it is rarely followed with explanation and often whinnies inward, obfuscated by its own arrival—think of your uncle or aunt or most people’s fathers, uttering witticisms between breaths, cracking themselves up and not ever asking “did you get that” but instead waiting for the laugh that might trickle in minutes later when somebody gets it or, as is most often the case, letting the crack slip. With jest there always arises the thin line between a joke and a lie and this is where it all gets tricky. What is the difference? Should there be a stronger delineation? I fib, I kid, I jest, this is all jive. This might be where I wanted this exploration to arrive, in trying to figure out when a fib becomes too much. Certainly, the easy answer to this is “when it harms or deceives another” but I know many people, artists mostly, who could care less and might say, “we are all capable of guarding our own beliefs and discerning between truths an non-truths so why cater to others?” But I also realize that some people, if not most, just aren’t funny, and that an inability to tell whether or not another person is being funny, trying to be funny, or just kidding around, is absent and therefore it’s superfluous to attempt humor with strangers and we all intuit this and therefore have, as mechanism or maneuver, knowledge enough to hold back, to hesitate.How often do you allow little lies through? If you let them through and they aren’t found out are they just forms of kidding around?I mention both jesting and writing because writing is the easiest place to shinny the line between jesting and lying and I’m fascinated by how quickly people react to this, on both ends. Non-fiction has been the new fiction (please don’t allow me to say “new” or “the best” again) for some time and with the many controversies that have occurred (James Frey, etc.) I think that there’s more room these days for waltzing between these lines, though not always as intentional strut. Think of memoirs. I’m reading one right now by Thomas Bernhard and he specifically says that there’s no such thing as objectivity anyway, so there you are. If there’s no such thing as objectivity in recounting one’s past in writing is there no such thing as objectivity when asking if something is funny? Did I just do a runaround?

Tell me about jesting and lying. Lie to me if you have to.

Cheers, Tyler