NOTE: Nobody told me to stop giving advice about how to be funny after I wrote Chapter 1, so I am taking that as a sign that I will not be hit over the head with a baseball bat for going on about the subject. If you do hit me with a bat, please use one of those inflatable ones. My brain cells have suffered enough already.
Chapter 2: How Not to Be Funny
Some people have a talent for making people laugh. Others have a talent for making people want to stuff used rags in their mouths and cover them with duct tape. Here is a little manual describing how to be one of the latter type.
Tell an idiotic joke and laugh at it yourself.
Some very intelligent people do this, which is ironic, because this is one of the best ways to make yourself look like an ass. If you are ever on a spy mission and your assignment is to impersonate a moron, this is one way to do it.
In some deep part of his psyche, the jokester must know that what he is saying is lame as freakin’ hell, so he laughs at it, because that way he gets a response from someone, even if he has to do it himself.*
If you say something genuinely funny, it’s okay to laugh at your own joke. Your companions will laugh, too. Be aware, though, that they will be laughing more at you laughing than at the joke itself, especially if you have a funny laugh. I call this the Arnold Horshack Syndrome.**
If you do tell a funny joke, explain it right after you tell it, even when it’s obvious that everybody got it.
Picture this: you and nine other people are sitting at a table in a restaurant. You have just told a hugely funny story. You told it just right, and delivered the punch line with both fists. Everyone at the table dissolves in laughter. The woman sitting next to you snorts wine up her nose because she is laughing so hard.
Then, in the midst of your own paroxysms of mirth, you begin to explain the joke to everyone. One by one, they stop laughing and look at you as if you had two heads and one of them was upside down. The woman next to you starts to choke on that wine. You have just killed the joke you worked so hard to bring to life.
Please don’t do that. Ever. Just don’t.
Use a lot of puns.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but to me puns are something you have to be in the mood for, like eating chicken livers or watching old episodes ofFull House. Even then, the best anyone is going to get out of me is a giggle followed by a rolling of eyes and, maybe, a groan. When it comes to humor, puns are strictly filler material. They don’t make good punch lines.
The only exception to this happens when a couple of people start a game of punning one-upmanship. For some reason, two people shooting puns at each other one after another can be funny, especially if everyone in the room is drunk. Take those same puns out of that context, though, and they will be as stupid as any other groaner. I don’t know why that happens, so please don’t ask me.
Walk around with a sour face all the time and have a terrible sense of humor.
You won’t get any laughs this way, but you might find yourself the butt of the jokes of other people who do know how to get laughs. This is not an ideal situation to get yourself into, unless you are a closet masochist looking for some abuse.
There is one thing for which you have a great talent: making everyone around you miserable. You could throw a wet blanket over a New Orleans Mardi Gras, without even trying. Most people not only can’t do that, they don’t even wish they could do that.
On the other hand, a straight face can be funny, especially if the mouth on that face is saying outrageous things. If you look like you have a face full of Botox, you can surprise the hell out of people if you say something funny, especially if you are able to keep from cracking up.
Poke fun of someone else in the room.
Remember that scene from Goodfellas, where they’re at a bar and Billy Bats makes fun of Tommy, the trigger-happy maniac? Billy Bats gets big belly laughs from his buddies, but he doesn’t last too long after that little brouhaha. Trying to get a rise out of someone with a bad temper is never a good idea, unless you have a death wish and want to get killed in a more complicated way than just jumping off a building.
Fortunately for the human race, most people are not trigger-happy maniacs. But if you ever decide to humiliate someone who happens to be within earshot, be aware that the laughs you are getting from your built-in audience might not be worth whatever revenge your victim comes up with.
Besides, embarrassing another person qualifies as cruel, not funny. Just saying.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that there is nothing embarrassing about you that your victim can, in turn, bring out into the open. The same idiots who were laughing with you earlier will be happy to turn around and laugh at you, especially if the other person is a lot funnier than you are.***
More to come – maybe.
You know I’m going to put footnotes in this thing, because I’m compulsive that way.
*Notice that I just turned one sentence into a paragraph. This is not an accomplishment. It’s a run-on sentence. I did it, anyway, just because I can.
**That’s because I’m old enough to remember Welcome Back, Kotter. I won’t say any more.
***Another thing — never get into a battle of wits with someone who has a quicker, funnier wit than you do. You can’t win, even if the forces of right, goodness and abject terror are on your side.