Friday, December 11, 2015

The Uses of Humor

It's good to be funny. Funny can help in a lot of ways.

I suppose it can be considered conceited for one to simply say that he is funny, but, after all, I was voted most humorous in my eighth grade class. So, there is some documentation that I am, in fact, a knee-slapping, laugh-riot.

That said (you be the judge) I have found humor to be a wonderful tool in various like situations.

As a kid, for example, I used to dread going out with the family to get the Christmas tree. It always turned into a verbal brawl as to which tree to get. This went on for years, until, around the age of fifteen, I started saying, "Well...time to go fight overt the Christmas tree..." Everyone laughed and, strangely, everyone stopped arguing. We satirized ourselves into harmony and tree-picking became a pleasure again...

When once asked to speak to the students at the school (in which I am the vice principal of academics) about uniform dress codes, I surprised a former principal by doing what amounted to a stand-up routine that satirized kids for thinking they are being rebellious by not tucking in their shirts. The students laughed through the whole presentation; then a documented decrease in uniform infractions occurred.

I have used satire and humor with my sons to make lasting points about life. For instance, a previously mentioned episode in which, after my son -- ready to go into seventh grade -- heard an adult say that "after seventh grade, the real problems start..." I broke into mock sobbing and lamented that fact that he would stop being my friend as soon as the school year started. We both laughed about it then; we still laugh about it; we are still close.

As recently as yesterday, when, in class, one of my high school juniors threw a container of Mott's applesauce across the room, I used humor as a tool. Did I yell? Did I "write him up"? Did I express outrage? No. Using the dramatic silence presented by the thrown fruit treat, I quietly and circuitously lamented the fact that my life -- a life driven only by the desire to teach literature and to help the youth of our country -- had come to this. A monologue followed, concluding with a speculation about how I would tell my wife how my day went: "Well, there was one incident in which a sixteen-year-old threw applesauce, but other than that..."

The class laughed; the missile commander was sufficiently satirized (and affected) and the class went on...with no further problems...

Perhaps we all jumped to the serious too fast. I know a lot of parents and teachers do so. sometimes a good joke is your best lesson, your best illustration; or, even, your best punishment...


  1. Yes, humour is a gesture of friendship and, if done in the right spirit, an act of humility. If people don't respond, the best thing to do is avoid them.

    1. Yes -- there's nothing sadder than a humorless person; or, more frightening, for that matter.