I've probably talked about this before, but any ability I have to be intentionally funny, I've had to work for it...and I have a lot of work to still do. What didn't help was how I got more interested in being verbally interesting, so I liked finding non-standard ways to express myself and still be understood. The problem was, those times, people thought I was trying. I still remember once in a high school science class I'd said something like that to a girl seated at the same table as me. She gave me the withering look so many high school girls are good at and told me to "go buy a sense of humor." Since, um, I hadn't been trying to be funny, I came up short. That's what I sounded like? Argh. Admittedly that's how I sounded to a hard-to-impress high school girl, but dammit, I got sensitive to that. And did try to get funnier.
It still feels a little like heavy lifting to me, but I try to do it.
But I'm predisposed to not always be funny. I've had MUCH MORE EXPERIENCE being serious. (Time travel to my youth and watch and laugh. I was moody and serious. I was funny, but only unintentionally.) And I'm rubbed the wrong way by people who always seem to be trying to be funny. Like Moe (not his real name), a former house mate in the house near SE 50th and Hawthorne where I lived from 2001 to 2002. Middle-aged guy, divorced father, living by himself in the house...and it felt like whenever I asked him something, he'd first give a joke answer. I'd have to ask again to get a real answer. Sometimes I wanted to say "We're not doing improv! You're trying to be clever for the sake of trying to be clever!" I think about that too much, it can start to make me sad. Like this:
The trouble is --
Can't say what I feel
Everything becomes a joke
Know how much I love you?
First man says to the second man "What's that lump in your sock?"
Second man says to the first man, "That ain't no lump."
Honey, I'm sorry.
- Randy Newman, "Interiors"
It's a skill, being clever and actually meaning something true and sincere with it. I strive for that. Many of you do that very well. Y'all give me a goal to reach.
This entry is brought to you by my kind of wanting to tell a Twitter acquaintance of mine "You don't have to try to be funny every single time. It's getting off-putting. At least to me."