Someone posted a you tube clip on my Facebook wall the other day. I could not help myself. I laughed until the tears were streaming down my face. I asked my husband to watch it. His mouth slightly twitched but he was largely unmoved.
“Didn’t you find that funny?” I asked, incredulous that he had remained almost straight-faced.
“Mildly” was his reply. He went on to explain to me that I had an Australian sense of humour and laughing at pain and other discomforts humans experienced was a large part of the Australian humour psyche.
It set me thinking about humour. British humour is quite different to American humour. I recalled that many of my friends did not like my husband, because of his sense of humour, until they got to know him. They thought he was being “nasty” to me. I also recalled that some Scottish friends said after a night out with us “…. it was so good to have someone else who understands our humour.” I would say that British humour is very much self-deprecating, sarcastic and taking the piss, usually cleverly with words with understated actions. When I started going out with my husband he used to complain that I did not tease him, pull him up on his shortcomings. He reads the Guardian and rolls around laughing; when he reads the article to me I often don’t see what he’s laughing at.
American humour seems much more upfront and politically correct. I often feel I am being told what I am to laugh at in television programmes. Humour often revolves around those accidental trip ups, minor accidents. Not quite slapstick but on that side of things. Mind you Seinfeld and Frasier I found truly funny.
So where does Australian humour fit? Somewhere between? Perhaps there are many different types depending on your heritage. My father was a minister with a great sense of humour. He taught me that only the insecure can’t laugh at jokes about themselves and things they believe in. (I’m sure he would draw the line at some jokes). There was no political correctness in our household.
In the Scientific American http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ask-the-brains-why-do-we-laugh William F Fry gives three scientific reasons for laughing when someone hurts themselves. Briefly they are:
1) it is in a play frame and there are no serious consequences come from it.
2) that it is unexpected in the context.
3) that our neurons illicit a mirror-like response which makes it funny.
So why didn’t my husband laugh? Surely it must be due to where his sense of humour came from. Or do I just laugh easily? Did you find the video funny?
“laugh and the world laughs with you”
(the challenge stated we had to have images and it seems I am the only person that laughs and has their photo taken.)
I really enjoyed this post Irene. As a Brit who was married to an American and lived in America for 20 years I can really relate to this, and I was also very interested to read about your take on the Australian sense of humour too! The thing is, watching this video, my first reaction was one of shock and then, oh my goodness, I hope the poor guy is ok!!!
My daughter (who is 21 and has Asperger’s) would find this absolutely hysterical so I will show it to her and prove my point! She has that kind of humour anyway. For instance, once I was in town with her and I slipped off the pavement (the heel of my boot caught the side) and I went down like a ton of bricks on both knees, bum in the air and my mobile phone skimming across the road. Right in front of a bunch of painters and decorators who were doing up the local department store. To say my pride was more hurt is an understatement. Daughter couldn’t stop laughing, but she kept saying sorry over and over and was concerned for me but she finds this sort of thing very funny. She was brought up in America until she was 11 years old and prefers the slapstick sort of humour.
Both my boys grew up in America but love the British sense of humour. Interestingly though we used to love Sienfeld and Frasier too – have you watched Curb Your Enthusiasm by Larry David, who produced Sienfeld? It’s brilliant!
Thanks for your reply to my piece. I found it as enjoyable as I hope you found my post and helps confirm what I had presumed. I feel for you falling for you in front of all the workman. I wonder whether I too would have laughed. Perhaps there is an element for your daughter, who may be clumsy because of the asperger’s, to find clumsy style accidents which happen to other people funny because,thisis what normally happens to her. I am going to keep an eye out for Curb your Enthusiasm. I don’t think it has aired over here.
Irene, I thought your husband laughed too much. I think you would like Curb your Enthusiasm. For me it lasted longer as funny than did the pool video. I loved Seinfeld.
Oh dear, you may have just blown my theory out the window as you are an American. 🙂 Two votes for Curb your enthusiasm I’ll really have to get it. Hope you are surviving the cold snap we here you are experiencing.
Not quite here yet. Going to below zero in the next week. It is a warm teen something today.
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Irene very nice post and an interesting and fun topic. It has really got my mind whirling as I love to unravel cultural social anomalies so I may end up writing something of my own off this idea. Wonderfully fun and insperational,
Thanks as always.
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Thanks Dysu. Look forward to your take on this fun. Iw19
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I thought the video was funny. I think it was the unexpected nature of it, since I thought it would be about how painful the cold water would be. I’m American, but I love British humor, the dry understated aspect to a lot of it, but then the super-silly aspects too.
Thanks Marcy for commenting and glad you found the video funny. Humour is such a personal thing and I think you are lucky if you can see the humour across a number of spectrums. 🙂