Well, here you are now! Let me entertain you.
Today’s Daily Prompt asks: Do you consider yourself funny? What role does humour play in your life?
Well, let me take you back to Grade 5 where a certain older girl in Grade 6 – let’s call her Molly (because that was her name) - invited me to her birthday party because she thought I was funny.
My role at the party was quickly made clear when every now and then – when there was a lull - she’d turn to me and go “Louise! Say something funny!”
It was actually pretty intimidating. But it was also my “in”. My currency, if you will. I was funny! It got me invited to the party. Literally. So I ran with it.
My family has always enjoyed witty back and forth at the dinner table; slightly off kilter humour; and humour to make a point. We’re not slapstick funny. We’re build it up – sometimes a wee bit dark and inappropriate - funny.
I’ve already written about my Grade 6 speech about wanting to be the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland so I could lob the heads off anyone I didn’t like. That sort of sums up our level of humour.
Another family favourite – for the “dark” case in point – would be when my then 7-year-old brother and me (then 10) got in trouble in the hot tub at the family resort we went to each summer. It was one of those old large wooden wine vat hot tubs. And the bubbles came out a big pipe that ran along the bottom of the hot tub.
My little brother and I (both quite good competitive swimmers from an early age) worked out that we could dive down to the bottom of the tub, latch on to the pipe and breath – thus staying underwater pretty much invisible and pretty much indefinitely.
So we started having fun staying under there and waiting for unsuspecting guests to get in. Then we’d randomly float up a seemingly limp little arm or leg. Suffice to say it resulted in our parents having to apologize profusely to the resort. But they did admit to us, once we were much older, that they had to try very hard not to laugh at the time. I’d also say, in our defence, that we floated up – totally alive – to explain how clever we were to the hot tubbers we’d duped. And some really DID think we were funny. But others didn’t.
So while I learnt from an early age that I could be funny – I also learnt that our sense of humour wasn’t always appreciated. In case the mixed reviews of “dead child in hot tub” didn’t hammer it home – while my Queen of Hearts speech met with rave reviews at my school, I lost out at the local Legion regional competition to some girl who gave a slapstick speech about dogs who wore earrings.
Seriously – three-minute build up to A. Dog. That. Wore. Earrings.
Not that I’m still bitter.
And looking back now? I pretty much learnt everything I needed to know about what most people think are funny from those early experiences.
Because my later experiences just kind of repeated those. Sort of like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
Fast forward to high school where I first wrote for; and then became editor of my school newspaper – mostly due to my ability to write witty little editorials.
Some of which – while funny! – got me in trouble.
Personal fave? Wrote one titled “On Assignment” about the inane school decision to assign seating in school assemblies (which of course resulted in not being able to sit beside your friends which – aside from getting out of class – was the whole #$#*ing point of assemblies as far as any student was concerned).
So I wrote an editorial thanking the administration for helping prepare us for the real world where of course we’d simply be assigned a number and just need to comply. I pointed out all the other value added aspects of policy: practice in cartography as home-rooms tried to figure out from the ridiculously vague marked up auditorium map where it was they were actually supposed to sit; applying physics principles when trying to figure out how to fit two students into one seat (given some seats were inadvertently double assigned); biology/sex ed/social skills because, again, some seats were double assigned and DAMN! he’s cute! etc…
I then suggested logical extensions of the policy: assigned lunch hours to solve overcrowding in the cafeteria (Grade nine lunch at nine; Grade ten lunch at ten etc…) and assigned audiences for various under-attended school functions (Yay! Full house on band night!) And so on…
Given the fact it made it to press, I’d like to think some of the teachers (like the one responsible for the paper) appreciated my satire. However, suffice to say the principal did not and I got a bit of a talkin’ to…
Fast forward to my late twenties (I’d like to thank journalism school for squashing about a decade of sarcastic creativity while simultaneously encouraging me to develop as a more serious writer – which is, admittedly, a valuable life skill) and I join Toastmasters to work on my (by this stage, somewhat rusty) public speaking skills.
I - surprise, surprise – write a humorous speech that my club puts forward for the local competition.
Topic? How the Running Room is a cult. [Full disclosure: I'm a happy member - they are great. We'll have words if you disagree]. But the speech focussed on how they were a cult. I mean, large groups of people happily getting together voluntarily to run hills? The way runners all wave at each other and say hello – to complete runner strangers – when they pass on the path? Commemorative running shirts and “collector” Annual 20 Minute Challenge hats? (Think I can find the stuff from the years I missed on EBay?) Idolizing the leader (even though he’s awesome)? Seriously? You can’t tell me it isn’t a bit weird. Maybe even straight up cult-like.
And in case you aren’t familiar enough with either organization to miss the irony of giving a speech about how the Running Room is a cult to a Toastmasters audience? Ralph Smedley or John Stanton? Whichever Koolaid. Same difference. [But again, they both rock. And I'll have words with anyone who says differently].
Suffice to say I was the prancing 11-year-old Queen of Hearts all over again and loving every minute of it. I had them rolling in aisles. I won my club contest. I won my local inter-club contest. I went to the district competition and gave a GREAT performance [Really - any number of people approached me to tell me they thought I should win....].
I placed second.
To the woman with the speech about how funny her last trip to the dentist was.
Don’t get me wrong. She was funny. But it was slapstick. At its predictable finest. Picture her re-inacting drilling.
So yes. Groundhogs Day. Dog with earrings. ALL. OVER. AGAIN.
What’s that they say about the definition of insanity?
Continually repeating the same thing and expecting different results?
I’m confident enough in myself to be good with it by this stage.
So to answer the question?
Yes – I consider myself funny.
So do selective other people.
The role it plays in my life? Well, apparently that’s enough for me to validate my existence.
And if you don’t appreciate my humour? To quote 11-year-old me as she paid homage to the Queen of Queen Bees? Off with your head!