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Are These Challenging Times for Banter or Spontaneous Public Humor

Political correctness, politics of rage, ADHD, literality, TMI

     
4:19 pm on Aug 24, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Maybe I'm just loosing my touch or maybe I've never had one, but I find myself being increasingly cautious when it comes to banter, leg pulling, humor.

Why? Hmmm . . Let me count the ways . .

    Unless "X" knows me he/she may "take me seriously", no matter how many facial clues I offer, perhaps because people's s skills for accessing real time social-facial clues are eroding? (Maybe I should just send a banter text? Argh, no, that's even worse.)

    There are so many topics that invoke political (in)correctness, politics, sensitivities

    The number of "literal folks" appears to be on the rise. (Can you say "autism spectrum disorder"?)

    People's background stress levels may be highter than in the past

    After a generation of "everyone gets a trophy" there may be a vast amount of sensitivity to anything perceived as "negative". Unfortunately, feigned or postured negativity - as a set up or prelude - is a common approach to versions of humor

    Adult ADHD - "Huh? What did you say?"

    Human tuning for "input overload", i.e., excess application of filters to inputs

    "Don't make me think!", as an approach to messaging, may have planted its roots a bit more deeply than expected. Unfortunately, humor often requires a bit of thought.

    Is general skepticism on the rise? (What's he saying? Why? Leading to a failure to appreciate . . "he's kidding".

    A generation or two, raised on "stranger danger" are simply not open, at first thought or "gut response", to "seeing the funny at first glance", in the stranger - ergo the "deer in the headlights" response when I attempt a public pun, exercise in ironic statement, etc.

    The startle response that comes from being so tuned into earbuds, smartphone screens, etc. that a real time human contact or attempt at outreach often has to first oversome the system reset needed to pull the person back into the real world. This puts a damper on real-time "observational humor" when so many . . aren't observing.

    The user of digital devices as a tool to turn off the world, as if erecting a digital blinking sign "Don't bother me I'm doing something important! I'm updating my FB page!" That is, there is literally a shrinking base of humans to engage in the here and now.


Or maybe I'm just lousy at banter, humor, jesting.

I know people value and perceive humor, but of late, it appears that those whose livelihood is built on wielding humor often resort to extreme gestures, over the top imagery, contorted facial expressions, etc. Think "John Stewart". Sure, he can be subtler with the already primed and senstized in crowd but even he often resorts to over the top measures to "make the funny point".

Is it just me or are these challenging times for punsters, ad hoc humorists, common jokers, foils, wits?

And, yeah, yeah "It's just you!" is forthcoming in this thread . . . but is that the best YOU got? Really?

Okay, well, you gotta start somewhere . . . "A trophy for you!". :p, :-/

Are we primed to laugh or are we primed for something else?

Is funny funny as ever or has something changed?

What does it take to be funny in 2015?
4:44 pm on Aug 24, 2015 (gmt 0)

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What does it take? Even Seinfeld doesn't know.

[mediaite.com...]
5:35 pm on Aug 24, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I agree, all the PC crap has gotten out of control. (Well, it's been out of control almost from the beginning, but it's gotten even worse.) I think (hope?) we've reached the tipping point now that someone as non-PC as Trump is getting high marks for making anti-PC comments and not backing down.

NOTE: this is NOT an invite to bring politics into the thread- just a comment that this particular politician is taking on the PC crowd and hopefully can generate enough social inertia to reverse the PC trend, regardless of what happens in next year's election.

"everyone gets a trophy"
I agree- I always felt this was going to backfire big time and create a generate that would collapse any time their feelings got hurt. And since a lot of humor requires someone (or some group of people) to be the butt of the joke, that means someone's feelings might get hurt. Horror!

I've felt that most sitcoms on the major networks have been going downhill for years. Most seem to stooping to more and more obvious and hit you over your head stuff. I usually prefer more subtle comedy, which is apparently to subtle for most people these days, resulting in low ratings, cancelling what I consider the good stuff and leaving the muck that's targeted towards the lowest common denominator.

Actually, I can only think of one or two comedies that I regularly watch. Everything else seems to be dramas, with a rare "reality" show (Shark Tank, Biggest Loser), although a lot of them have a lot of dark humor. And most of the dark humor is pretty subtle.
4:26 am on Aug 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I've worked for years to be considered a wit, it must be working because my wife continually says I'm halfway there.

A laugh track recording available for playback at the punchline of a joke would probably cue many people in to the expected response. :)
5:01 am on Aug 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Sadly, the education system in the Western World (and I include France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Greece, UK, US, Canada, Australia, but not New Zealand and probably dozens others) has let liberal arts education change the once "can do" of previous generations into to an "entitlement professional victim generation" who can never be satisfied, or even Educated. And this change has been coming on for the last Fifty (50) years. These "kids" wouldn't know a joke it if bit them in the ar$e because it would be deemed, hateful, racist, sexist, and whatever else victim hood can be attached by their little 1984-style thought police brains.

When one of these young "jokers" tries to tell a joke I ask them to leave. I'm always asked why. "You're not funny. You don't know how to be funny."

"Yes, I am!"

"Banana peel."

"What?

"Part of the joke. Do you know why? If you don't, go back and learn 'comedy'."

Usually I get the long stare, then the challenge. "Well, do YOU know any jokes?"

"Yes. Thousands. You won't like or appreciate them so I won't waste my time unless your driver's license says you're at least 55 years old."
5:10 am on Aug 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Extension:

I've been listening to a bunch of OTR variety shows recently. This thread reminds that much of Charlie MacCarthy's humor would make college age kids cringe and foam at the mouth... but much Amos and Andy, Jack Benny, even Arthur Godfrey. These guys were FUNNY!

And as much as I have been enjoying these while coding pages, I can't help but mourn the death of the Funny Bone (particularly in American colleges and universities), UNLESS (as on bundled cable) the show is THEIR TURF and those which are made the butt or scapegoat are their political Enemies.... yet those shows would not exist were it no for bundled cable where they get a slice of the consumer payments because they surely could not stand alone on normal advertising revenue.
1:28 pm on Aug 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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There's a concept from Norbert Elias, a German sociologist from the 1930s called "the threshold of shame".

The idea is that things are so far beyond the pale that we don't talk about them. Then they become things we talk about obsessively. Then they go away again. It's when ideas are being contested that they sit in the threshold of shame and get talked about. Some ideas come through the door and some get sent on their merry way, but they eventually leave the threshold. He looked among other things at the history of advice and manner books from about the 15th century on.

It's always a useful concept when looking at something cultural and especially when looking at a generational divide.
1:41 pm on Aug 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Yes Webwork, that last line is saying that you (and I) are "old" now by the standards of these kids.

Another thing I see as a historian. People tend to think trends are linear and they usually know their experience and their parents experience and maybe their grandparents. But there are cycles and the United States always has a Puritan legacy that fears contamination. I believe that Puritan legacy drives a lot of the conversation on immigration, but it also drives these conversations on language where people get hung up on particular words.

Go back 400 years and the most shocking things someone could say was "Jesus!" or even "Mary!" or in French, a common one "Sang Dieu!" (Blood of Good). Words like that could literally land you in the stockade.

By the 19th century and for most of the 20th century, though, the worst things you could say were not blasphemy, but profanity. This is why our swear filter stops words like "#*$!" as the worst word in the English language.

You have to realize that is shifting again. For my parents "#*$!" was a horrid word that would hurt their ears, but <snip> was only mildly offensive. For the generation now in college, "#*$!" has no impact whatsoever. It's like me saying "Mary!" But if you say <snip> it is to them what <snip>was in the 16th century or "#*$!" was in the 1950s.

These evolutions are very slow and I would expect that you should settle in for 100 to 200 years of sensitivity to racist and sexist language. When the legacy of Jim Crow laws fade, the culture will start to find a new set of "bad" words, but I think this is the future of language for the near future.

TL;DR
blasphemy -> profanity -> language we don't even have a word for yet, but which evokes the history of racism and sexism in Western culture.

[edited by: lawman at 8:38 pm (utc) on Aug 25, 2015]

1:46 pm on Aug 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I find it "interesting" which words do get through ( and which words do not get through ) the "filters" here..
3:37 pm on Aug 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I know. I'm appalled there is no <snip>filter. That could literally get you thrown in jail in 1550.

[edited by: lawman at 1:20 am (utc) on Aug 26, 2015]

8:10 pm on Aug 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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My last breath will be a quip, so I know wherefrom thou art coming. Joking is a delicate art. Always has been.

Humor is native to humanity. I don't see people as thicker. I see more people interacting who used to not interact. Because forums are public, you're talking to folks of different generations, cultural backgrounds, etc. As your audience evolves, your language should, too. You learn cues to tell people who are not of like mind that this is tongue-in-cheek. Unmistakable ones. And there are always limits - people who've never been exposed to the subtlety of the language you're using.

Also, what if the people who seemed offended were joking, too? Only not very adeptly. I've seen that happen quite often. More wars occur....etc., etc.

Here is a haiku.

That is not funny.
That is not funny either.
Heh heh, I'm joking.
8:28 pm on Aug 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Oh, yeah, one last thing. Jokes are powerful because somewhere inside them, they contain truth. Sometimes one sees the joke but is answering to the truth underlying the joke.

I heard a bestselling comic author speak several years back. The author made the point that every time you get someone to laugh, you demonstrate power over them. It's not necessarily an evil power, but it's power. So when people don't laugh at your jokes, it's often because they're unwilling to surrender to your power. When people get disgruntled at their jokes not being appreciated, it's because it doesn't feel good to be powerless.

So earning the recipient's trust is foremost in a potentially reluctant audience. If they trust you, they'll lose their wariness. If you can make them laugh, you can then influence them in countless ways.