Being Loved and Appreciated Increases Your "Funny" Quotient

The Comedian by the author
The Comedian by the author

Right up front, let me say that I don't claim to be a comedian. Also, I don't try real hard to be funny. (That's partly because the harder I try, the less they laugh.) I just want to put forth, here, things I've learned about what helps a person to like you enough to laugh at your jokes.

In another hub, I talked about how my self-esteem was lacking as a kid. In that hub, I described some of the things that began to help me out of that stifling rut. After I got over my shyness and received a few booster shots of self-esteem, I found out I could make people laugh, occasionally. So I thought I was funny; true comedian material, for sure. It kind of helped me when I decided to travel the country and do caricatures of people. My humor was incorporated into the funny things the people were doing. I’d draw big heads, then draw a body under the head that was about one-fourth the size of the head. That, in itself was quite funny, actually. Exaggerating facial features also brought a few laughs.

So when a rich farmer presented his “hot” daughter to me, I thought I was ready to woo her when she asked me to say something funny . . . sort of.

Here’s the setting: I was doing caricatures in Oregon for their Oregon Trail Days celebration, charging about ten dollars per caricature, and putting out about five or six of them per hour. That amounted to about 50 to 60 dollars an hour I was making. I noticed a man in high-classed cowboy wear and new boots watching me for a while, from under his Stetson hat that appeared to be about ten minutes old.

When I came to a lull in the client requests, the man came over and asked me a few questions, like was I married, and so forth. I answered his questions, including a No - but divorced on the married part. Next, he offered me a piece of paper. It had a feminine name on it. He said, “When your day is over, I’d like you to go over to the restaurant here, next door, and tell this young lady . . .” as he pointed to the piece of paper, “. . . that I sent you. I’d like you to do her caricature there.”

After a few more directions, and a winding-down of caricature requests, I packed up and went into the restaurant, not completely sure what I was headed into. When I found the object of my search, I was astounded at what was looking back at me: she was simply beautiful, an elegant portrayal of a waitress that should have been a model.

When I told her of my “mission” from the man who sent me, the young woman clicked her tongue and rolled her eyes: “Oh! That’s my father, and he isn’t going to give up in trying to match me up!” I spent the next few seconds in mild and somewhat blissful shock as I soaked in the possibilities. Then she said, “Okay, well, let’s see what you do with my face. And don’t make me ugly, okay?”

Well, the pressure was on. And I mean pressure! There was a “princess-bride” at stake, and only if I completely and successfully changed my rendering style of doing caricatures, so I wouldn’t be making her “ugly.” The odds mounted up against me as she told me about her current boy friend while I began to draw. She had said that she was happy with him, but that her daddy didn’t like him.

Then came the ultimate: she said, “My boyfriend is really funny! I can’t see why my father doesn’t like him.” After a significant pause, it came: she said, “Say something funny.”

Any comedians out there? Any laugh gurus who could have stepped right in and handled the situation like a duck takes to water? - especially with all that pressure and a close-up view of what was at stake? I felt like Don Knotts. Well, I should say I felt like the characters he played. Don, himself, probably would have walked away with a new bride. But the characters he played were all embodied in the poor caricature artist sitting behind these feeble attempts at a daVinci wanna-be.

As I think about it, I bet Johnny Carson would have rattled something off that would have brought down the house. I’ve always admired how he could take an unexpected situation and run with it. Tim Conway and Robin Williams - maybe even Jim Carey - are other masters.

But why are they funny? Better yet, why do we laugh at them? Hold that thought while I finish my story.

My story ends with . . . I didn’t walk off into the sunset with the farmer’s daughter. I think I blocked out my attempt to say something funny.

In retrospect, I pulled together a few philosophical ideas over the whole concept, and also things I could have said (hindsight always brings the most ideal things to do and say, right?).

So the philosophy I learned was: “No matter how funny you are, people won’t laugh if they don’t like you.” You could be a likeable person, but if someone doesn’t know you, and you try to be funny right off, you probably won’t get a laugh.

One way I figured this out was by remembering my past life: I often said things that weren’t really meant to make people laugh, but were said in metaphors - sometimes - designed in such a way as to make my point in a hurry and quite effectively. Once, after such a statement, my brother guffawed out a laugh, which surprised me. Others in the room who didn’t know me as well, did not laugh. I’ve seen this happen quite often.

The pattern then came clear: When I try to be funny, I get fewer laughs than when I’m just myself. I found that when I try to be funny, I sometimes abandon my genuine self, which removes one of the most important things in the humor package. People don’t like people who aren’t genuine, or who pretend to be someone else (unless they’re doing an impersonation, but that’s another story).

When my self-esteem had been at about zero, I used to pick someone in my life, and act like them. I had no confidence in the real Sam, or in his ability to effectively contribute to the world around him, so I picked someone who seemed successful. I did it so much, that I lost perspective and became careless in this act of “hiding.” But, thanks to God who gave me the ability or gift to perceive certain clues, I was able to put two and two together and see what others were really thinking about me.

Bill Cosby, about being yourself

After I realized all this, I was no longer afraid to just act like myself. I figured God made me a certain way, and that if people didn’t like the way God made me, that was their problem, and not mine. I also figured that the kind of person that would like me as I am was the kind I would be very happy with. Finally, I decided that almost everyone should like a person who was genuine. I had seen people who weren’t photogenic, but because they were genuine, I liked them. I saw people who could have been low on the IQ scale, but because they were themselves, I liked them. So now, I had no problem in being myself.

When I settled into the real Sam, I got more dreamy glances from the ladies, and more genuine laughs, even when I wasn’t trying to be funny.

In addition to being yourself, it wouldn't hurt to "be prepared." There are ways you can prepare yourself in the field that interests you, or that you believe God prepared you for. Read biographies of the people who inspire you, to find out how you can do what they do or did. In the video above, Bill Cosby adds the extra advice of being prepared as you are striving to be yourself.

One thing that might help you, is a trick I dreamed up, one day, after deciding that people weren't going to put words in my mouth, any more. It makes you appear to be able to think on your feet, and become "quick-witted" overnight. I call it "pseudo-wit." Below is the link to the hub I wrote about how to get this talent overnight. Nobody need know that it's a type of cheat. I've tried it on people, and I've gotten raised eyebrows and healthy laughter by using it. Above that is another link; it connects to another hub about how to use come-backs to sarcasm or insults.

Getting back to my story, and thinking back, I think it was a good thing that I didn’t pass the test. Now that I’m over the infatuation, I can see that the young lady was stuck on herself, worrying too much about her face and her hair, and her make-up. There was always a mirror flashing parts of her face or hair at various times of the night. Not only that, I think there would have been a confrontation sooner or later over my supposed income. When her father saw me raking in the money, he probably didn’t realize a couple of things: This was Oregon Trail Days, and a higher-than-normal volume of people were milling around. Bigger numbers at a gathering always results in more sales, no matter who you are. Also, this was a Saturday or Sunday when this happened. The weekends were always more busy than the rest of the week. If the rich farmer had seen me on a Monday or Tuesday, he probably wouldn’t even have bothered to give me a second glance.

These issues – her narcissism and my income, to name a couple – surely would have reached a critical stability level that would have overshadowed any desire to engage in or enjoy humor.

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