Funny is as Funny Does
I’ve been reading a lot about what people think is funny.
I’ve discovered one universal truth: if it doesn’t make you laugh, it’s not funny.
By that I mean if a comedic piece doesn’t make someone laugh, they declare it isn’t funny.
If they don’t get the joke, it is because it was a bad joke.
If twenty other people laughed and/or got the joke, they were wrong.
With that in mind, I want to talk about Dumb and Dumber. I really hate the movie. I don’t find it funny at all. Except for the dog van. That shit is hilarious.
So. I don’t like Dumb and Dumber. It doesn’t make me laugh. Since I’m a comedian and I, theoretically, know comedy, does that mean the film isn’t funny? Does it mean I should lecture everyone who loves the movie on all the ways it is a terrible comedy? Does it mean I should say very thoughtful things like “I understand why you think it was funny but here’s why you are wrong.”
Or does it mean that comedy is, at least in part, a matter of opinion? My favorite tactic is people who trot out a definition of a word and then drop the mic.
“Satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues and what you did isn’t any of that! BOOM!”
Oh. OK. So your interpretation of someone’s satire didn’t jive with your interpretation of the word satire and, therefore, what they did wasn’t funny. Boom.
I think the dictionary is great. I really do. But it rarely sheds light on why one person finds something funny and another person does not.
I’ve read the dictionary cover to cover (I actually haven’t) and nowhere can I find a word that will help me convince other people that Dumb and Dumber isn’t funny.
“Catastrophe is an event causing great and often sudden damage or suffering and Dumb and Dumber caused me to suffer greatly because I’ll never get those one hundred and seven minutes back. Well let’s call it one hundred and two minutes because the stuff with the dog van was pretty funny. BOOM!”
“A gerund is a a form that is derived from a verb but that functions as a noun, in English ending in -ing and Dumb & Dumber is boring. BOOM!”
Words have power!
But there is no word more powerful in this context than opinion (a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge). No matter my opinion of Dumb & Dumber, I don’t get to decide whether someone else finds it funny. And I most definitely don’t get to decide they don’t get to watch it because I don’t find it funny.
Which is why I find blanket statements regarding what is and isn’t comedy so troubling. You can have a real problem with the use of rape jokes. I know I do. You can question the taste of people who find rape jokes funny.
But the one thing you can’t do is tell those people that, objectively, the joke isn’t funny. They will disagree with you because it made them laugh.
You can question their taste. Just as I question the taste of people who like Dumb and Dumber. You can try to explain why that particular type of humor may be harmful. You can even use a gerund if you like.
But those people may still find that tasteless joke funny. Which explains why there is a Dumb and Dumber To.
So here’s what I think (which is another way of saying this is my opinion). I think that comedy would be pretty damned dull if it wasn’t allowed to offend anyone. If the only acceptable comedy was comedy that appealed to everyone, soon it would appeal to no-one.
I don’t have to find Dumb and Dumber funny. And I sure don’t. But the movie is funny. Just not to me. I have every right to say that I don’t find it funny. Telling someone else that I know what they should think is funny limits the art of comedy.
So by all means, enjoy Dumb and Dumber. I’m not going to leave the room if it is playing. Just don’t judge me for not laughing. And I won’t judge you if you do.