I'm not a very funny person and don't know whether that's empowering or lame to admit. As a matter of fact, I take everyone quite seriously most of the time. That doesn't mean I don't have humor - people make me laugh all the time. My own jokes just often don't seem to land, even when I think they're hilarious. And do I even want to be making jokes? Does my personality allow me to do so? Is it okay not to be funny in a world that praises humor and wit?
My last blog post was quite a deep and vulnerable one. Then this week this thought entered my mind and I felt the urge to share it. Also quite vulnerable, just not as deep. Or is it?
I tried to think of a few reasons why I (or anyone else) might want to be perceived as funny:
it's a good way to connect with someone instantly
it shows charisma and makes people want to be around you
it helps to laugh through pain
humor can be a turn-on (or so I've been told)
funny people are often seen as intelligent
When I was in drama school, we explored various ways of using comedy in performance. These modules included Clowning - making an audience laugh by any means possible (sometimes this includes adopting an eccentric character); basically elevating your natural stupidity into an art form, Commedia Dell-Arte - an Italian form of improv that includes a list of stock characters, and Bouffon - which is a form of grotesque realism defined by physical and theatrical mockery.
I did not excel in any of these modules. In fact, I was mediocre at best. For some reason I could not express myself in the same way that others were able to. I tried to put on the most ridiculous costumes, put myself "in the shit" on stage, channel a part of myself that I'd never used before, but... I just wasn't as good as some of the other pupils in my class. And I just couldn't understand why. Maybe I'm just not funny, I thought.
Now I know the reason: I cared too much. It didn't matter that I was wearing a wacky professor costume and ugly clown nose, because I was still so preoccupied with how I looked on stage. That is the downfall of comedy - caring too much about how you look on stage or what others think. Because then you will never channel that true clown. A real vulnerable state of being on stage. That word is important to repeat: vulnerable.
Most of the time I am trying to be funny in order to blend in or be liked by others. But that is not the right way to approaching this. Because no one likes a comedian that is trying too hard, just like no one wants to watch an insecure clown on stage. It makes us uncomfortable, because at our core we do want to laugh. We want to enjoy seeing someone enjoying themselves. But if that person is preoccupied with you enjoying yourself, they will lack the actual part of having fun themselves.
It's not as simple as I am making it out to be, and there is of course a certain element of practice necessary. People who come across as funny have basically been practicing this their whole life, so much so that it's become a part of their identity. And then there's the fact that people are different and thus find different things funny. But at it's core, being funny is deeper than it is made out to be. In fact, historically it was used to cope with uncomfortable circumstances or even as a means to survive (jesters at court for instance). I am not claiming to know the key to being funny - if that were true, I would not be writing this blog. But I do understand that it has a lot to do with a certain openness, sharing and feelings.
So not a superficial light-hearted blog after all.