What’s Your Humour?

I have this hypothesis about Humour…Summarised, the Humour Hypothesis posits that each country tends to have a certain idiosyncratic variety of humour. And humour distribution, globally, is unequal. To be sure, different humour genres of course co-exist (sometimes, uneasily) and humour is likely individualistic (some are wonderfully gifted while others are hopelessly inept irrespective of race, nationality etc). But there’s generally one overwhelming nature of humour that could be identified to be innately imbued in a population.

(Comparisons sometimes carry with them a needless sense of this-is-good-that-is-bad overtones. As far as this post is concerned, ‘comparisons’ are for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to belittle (or glorify) one over the other. With that act of obeisance to clichés, I’ll dive right in to the crux of the matter).

Britain, for instance. The generally polite Brits revel in self-deprecation and well-timed puns. Poker-faced wit is their forte. Innocuous statements and ornately embellished language make great alibis for jovial irony and help temper the intensity of not-so-intense barbs. There’s a certain cerebral quality to the humour that makes it so refreshingly enjoyable (and evokes laughs, too). Group humour, usually, is devoid of humour-bunnies; those unfortunates that unhappily become the object of snigger-hungry malevolent elements. Positive (cheery) cynicism as an element of humour isn’t viewed with repugnance. Wry mockery of everyday events – be it the cold weather, the English cricket team’s never-ending travails, politics, imperial history etc. – is indulged in with a dash of welcome light-heartedness. And on those occasions when the Brits reluctantly resort to animated outlets, the physicality is understated and often, terse. Facial contortions are usually restricted to lips (and eyebrows) in motion. Uncoordinated movement of other parts of the anatomy are reserved for more private settings.

And then there’s a nation that pleasures in howling to tickles originating in the physical sphere.  Intense bodily motion along the three dimensions is often an indispensable accompaniment to comic relief. Irony is abundantly rare and wit dies a silent death with regularity. Unintentional tickling of the Cerebrum/Cerebellum Complex triggers withdrawal tendencies in the audience, while intentional tickling is the fastest way to social ostracism. Out of sight is, ironically, out of mind.

Their outlook towards cynicism is mystifying. Negative cynicism is unwelcome as long as it’s indulged in by a minority. Inclusion of a large number in this motley group gives birth to positive cynicism, a virtue. However, positive cynicism indulged in by a minority (read: solitary being) is a vice…

Humour bunnies, frequently, are crucial elements in a social gathering. Puns intended to convey merry sarcasm is often misconstrued for sarcasm intended to convey the speaker’s superiority (and to correspondingly highlight the listener’s inferiority. The nation truly believes in a zero-sum world.). This, invariably, leads to the congregation of the ‘Smarties’, listeners who connect solely because of their ability to collectively miss the message carried by the pun. And thus, the humour-bunny is born. In the exchange that follows, the battle for humour supremacy assumes a very personal character. The original objective to share a laugh is replaced by a manic desire to crush the humour-bunny. Outnumbered and amused at the frivolity of the intense verbal attack, the humour-bunny retreats, letting the Smarties yowl, in triumph. An uninformed observer could be forgiven for thinking a war had been won.

I think humour – like natural resources – is spread unevenly around the globe. I wonder if someone’s constructed a cross-nation study based on humour. An observable Humour Index, for instance, would be a wondrous metric to follow. It will probably incentivize the low scorers to lighten up and laugh, sometimes, at themselves. The high scorers would be happy anyway!

Oh, the above country’s name? What’s in a name? Humour, ideally, irrespective of geography, ought to sound just as sweet. But it doesn’t…which adds to humour’s (and the nation’s) personality.

Humour is indeed, funny.

So, what’s your humour?


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