How Niecey Nash Taught Us All Something About Self Deprecating Humor
As I watched Niecey Nash each week on Dancing With The Stars I loved her even more than I had loved her seeing her on her other shows like Reno 911, The Insider, Clean House, etc. While she may not have been the most dazzling dancing star on the show she made up for it with her bigger than life personality and comedic timing (which no one else has on that show). So in week one as she talked about her “jiggly parts” I laughed along with everyone else, when she and her partner Louis did a tango centered around fighting for food I smiled but as the rest of the cast (and guest commentators) began talking about Niecey’s food intake and jiggly parts I realized that although she had opened that can of worms they were now crawling about in an ugly way all over the show. How Niecey Nash taught us all something about self deprecating humor – Don’t Get Me Started!
Maybe what Niecey Nash was doing couldn’t officially be considered self deprecating humor as she seemed to not be making fun of herself as much as she seemed to just be putting herself out there celebrating the fact she wasn’t a size 2 and liked food. But as someone who for years has been the brunt of my own jokes only to see it snowball into allowing co-workers and the like to think that it was a way of me opening the door for them to make jokes about me I can tell you that the pattern is repeated by us low self esteemers time and time again.
The idea behind self deprecating humor is to get to yourself before someone else gets to you. If you were a kid who always got thrown in the dumpster (yes, I watch Glee) and you decide to throw yourself in to everyone’s amusement, sure you’re going to make everyone laugh at the moment but you’re also going to send a subliminal message to everyone that you think it’s okay to be thrown in the dumpster. So the next time someone throws you in the dumpster are they to blame or are you for trying to make light of it in the first place?
People tell me that within minutes of meeting me you find out (from my own mouth) that I’m Jewish and that I’m gay. I’ve had several people ask me why this is and why it’s the same for so many people who are Jewish and/or gay. Sure I can go to my past and cite the example of the kid who when my brother and I were kids played with us for weeks until one day he arrived on our doorstep to inform us that he could no longer play with us because his father had told him we were “dirty Jews.” So my reasoning has always been that I tell people up front about my being Jewish or gay because if you have a problem with either I want to know up front. I don’t want to have to wait a few weeks and think that we’re starting a healthy business or personal relationship and then find you think the holocaust didn’t exist and that gays are subhuman. I want to save us both the trouble. But because it seems a bit coarse to me to just mention it outright, I do it with humor. I let it drop in conversation, “That’s what having a Jewish mother means, she calls to find out if you make it home safe…every day from the office.” Or I say something like, “Yeah, I’m gay so I know exactly where every throw pillow should go.”
So while I think I’m being humorous what I find is that more often than not, suddenly the people I’ve been telling these jokes too suddenly become to feel as though they can say, “Let’s get Scott to call and Jew them down.” And that’s when you realize that for whatever reason you started telling those self-deprecating humor jokes the fact of the matter is that you’ve opened a sort of Pandora’s box for the people you’ve told to feel comfortable telling them too to you at your expense.
That’s what I think happened with Niecey Nash. When she first did her few jokes about food it was funny but then the tide started to turn. You heard things like one of the other celebrities in a joking segment talk about “getting the food away from Niecey” to get the advantage over her on the dance floor and by the time of her final appearance when they did the DanceCenter comedy sketch it seemed as though food and her “jiggly parts” were all that they talked about and it just made me uncomfortable.
What those of us have to realize is that while self deprecating humor is sometimes the funniest and quickest way to help people understand who you are and how funny you are and supposedly show just how comfortable you are about yourself, it also has the danger of giving people the unwritten license to make jokes at your expense. Does it mean I’ll stop making these jokes? No. But I’m also more careful about the jokes I tell, who I tell them to and at what point we’re in in our relationship. How Niecey Nash taught us all something about self deprecating humor – Don’t Get Me Started!
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