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What’s the most annoying form of humor? April 11, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben believes that humor is the most individual form of taste, or enjoyment, if you will. What makes you burst out in a deep belly-laugh or uncontrollable snickering may make your colleague a few cubicles over writhe in discomfort, and the guy across the aisle may not even get the joke. This doesn’t make you right and them wrong; it simply adds to the rounding out of who you are, it paints a unique portrait of you.

I do think, however, that some forms of humor are generally considered more offensive or annoying than others. Here’s my list of top ten annoying forms of humor, and how I feel about them:

1. Clowns. I absolutely hate clowns. I think they’re creepy, and can’t see any humor in them. Alice Cooper’s song “Can’t Sleep, the Clowns Will Eat Me” says it all as far as I’m concerned. Clowns originated in mediaeval Europe to terrorize the populace into abandoning sin and falling in line with Church teachings; to me, they’re every bit as scary now as they were then.

2. Mimes. If anything, I hate mimes more than clowns. Besides not being funny, they seem to cloak themselves in an aura of self-righteousness. Watching mimes be self-righteously rude to people who are minding their own business in public squares, train stations and the like makes me sick. If I behaved that obnoxiously to my fellow travellers, I’d be detained. But mimes? Hey, this is performance art! Give me Groucho over Harpo any day.

3. Lame cartoons. It can’t be easy to be a cartoonist and come up with a funny strip every day. But some strips are never funny, and yet there they are, day after day after day. Why do papers insist on publishing “Peanuts,” “Mutts,” “Doonesbury,” and their ilk? Why is “Peanuts,” one of the most boring strips in cartoon history, revered? Even “Blondie” is occasionally funny, and “Mark Trail” sometimes has interesting nature facts. But, much as we might long for the days of “The Far Side” and “Calvin and Hobbes,” there are good contemporary cartoons like “Get Fuzzy,” “Pickles,” “Jump Start,” “Pearls Before Swine,” and “Brewster Rockit” we could be enjoying in the space taken up by those lame ducks. All I can say is, thank God for “Dilbert.”

4. Puns. A pun is a play on words that can range from clever to extremely clunky and painful, especially when used clumsily or overused, as punsters seem prone to do. (Example: A colleague mentions the episode in “Game of Thrones” where Brienne is forced to fight a bear. The punster immediately chimes in with “What a shocking scene! I could barely bear to watch it!”) Ouch. Our friend Ben once had a boss who insisted on reciting a pun-riddled version of “Cinderella” at each and every corporate Christmas party. Trust me, fighting a bear would have seemed like a party by comparison.

5. Slapstick. Our friend Ben knows many people who can’t stand slapstick. But generally speaking, I love slapstick; it makes me laugh out loud. If I want to be cheered up, I watch a clip of Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) from the Pink Panther series; his interplay with Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau is simply marvelous to me, combining verbal wit with physical faux pas. Groucho Marx was also a master of this art, the ability to combine razor wit and physical incompetence. Charlie Chaplin performed the most brilliant slapstick I’ve ever seen, his legs seemed like rubber. I’ve still never seen a Chaplin film, but I saw the clips of him at the end of the bioflick where he was played by the brilliant Robert Downey Jr. To this day, I wonder how he managed to pull this off.

6. Sadistic humor. I list this one here because in essence it’s a form of slapstick, one epitomized by the Three Stooges. It’s physical humor, like slapstick, but in this case, you have bullies like Mo poking innocents like Larry and Curly in the eye and slapping them around. What’s funny about that? Nothing that I can imagine. Apparently the damage Mo inflicted on his siblings and fellow actors was so great that the actor who played Curly Joe forced him to sign a contract promising not to actually hurt him. Ha, ha, ha! What a laugh riot.

7. Sarcasm. Sarcasm is another form of sadism, but this time, it’s verbal. Nonetheless, the point (pun intended) is to stab your target with the sharpened blades of your wit, scoring points at their expense. Our friend Ben’s mother always maintained that sarcasm was the lowest form of humor and should not be indulged in by any respectable person, since it targeted people who were weak and unable to defend themselves. Nastiness disguised as humor is still nastiness, and sarcasm is just mockery unter another name. Mockery is just another form of bullying, and like all forms of bullying, is unworthy.

8. Vulgarity. Comedians like the late George Carlin and Richard Pryor apparently felt that the shock factor of vulgarity equalled humor, and millions of fans apparently agreed with them. Fans of Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” and Russell Brand’s and Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy also agree. Vulgar or not, stand-up comedy is a dead bore to our friend Ben. The only time I’ve ever enjoyed it was in Gabriel Byrne’s send-up in the TV movie “Trigger Happy” (aka “Mad Dog Time”). Coupled with Paul Anka’s send-up of himself, it was a performance to remember.

9. Late-night shows. Why do people watch these shows? Who really wants to see Kim Kardashian being interviewed by David Letterman? We have friends who grew up watching Johnny Carson and the like with Grandma, but sheesh. What could possibly be funny about an interminable late-night talk show?! We wish Stephen Colbert all the best, but please. We could use our sleep.

10. Verbal swordplay. Like slapstick, our friend Ben loves the sharpened tongue, the ability of the underdog to humorously defeat his enemies when they don’t even know what hit them. Groucho Marx, W.C. Fields, Lord Tyrion Lannister of “Game of Thrones,” and Sherlock Holmes are all experts at this art. (A close read of the Holmes canon will reveal the humor that is so often hidden in the film versions.) A brain is as good as a sword when it comes to defeating brawny but moronic enemies.

So what are your most-hated forms of humor? Let us hear from you!


1. William Scudder - April 11, 2014

I’m with you 100% on the clowns, 200% on mimes (should be a bounty on them.). Sarcasm however, was a staple in our household. It kept your mind alert and ready to defend yourself at a moments notice. In fact if you lacked a decent response, it was often cause to call the doctor. We considered Somerset Maugham, Mark Twain and oh yeah, Benjamin Franklin some of the snarkest pens in the business. Sarcasm is not bullying, if you hit back. Or as Mark Twain said (or some other sarcastic icon), ” I’d consider a battle of wits but it’s not fair to fight an unarmed man.” Yours for better come backs. Cheers. William S. Scudder Scudder Financial Communications wscudder@scuddercom.com Phone: 610.574.4363 http://www.scuddercom.com

This message and any attachments are intended only for the use of the individual to whom they are addressed and it may contain information that is privileged or confidential. If you have received this communication by mistake, please notify us immediately.

Ha! What a priceless quote, William! If it wasn’t by Twain, it must have been by George Bernard Shaw or Churchill.

2. Frater Zee - April 17, 2014

“Mark Trail” — Wow !! — have not seen that comic strip since I was a kid decades ago. Loved its deadpan presentation of practical outdoor lore — how to skin a skunk, whatever…

Your enumeration of styles of humo(u)r is interesting. I think cartoons (#3) and slapstick (#5) are sometimes funny, and often dumb, but rarely annoying. Clowns (#1) can be entertaining if they incorporate skillful juggling or acrobatics into their act, and street performers are often very good. Puns (#4) easily become annoying when pushed too far (as done often).

Agree that sadism (#6), vulgarity (#8), and late-night shows (#9) are very annoying. One exception on #9 — a YouTube clip of Frank Zappa at age ~20, before he recorded rock music, on the Steve Allen show, playing a BICYCLE as a percussion instrument. He produced an impressive variety of musical rhythms, and incited the studio band to join in. Steve Allen spontaneously played the straight man. Any kid can make music on a bicycle, but Zappa’s acoustic performance was classy and amusing.

Bloopers (and other unintentional events) are sometimes A RIOT !! YouTube is full of clips of overdressed TV droids falling into a swimming pool, etc. Do you recall Art Linkletter’s TV show (and records) “Kids say the darndest things”?? The parents would squirm with embarrassment…

Spontaneous humor can be very funny. Remember Ronald Regan’s quip, when wheeled into the hospital after being shot — “I hope none of you doctors are Democrats”. Reagan was a good comedian, and should have stayed in Hollywood.

Now here is a serious question about humour –> Do intelligent animals (elephants, parrots, chimps, etc.) have it ?? Do they laugh ?? Do they intentionally try to amuse their fellow critters ??

Elephants love to play in a pond, and shoot water on themselves thru their trunk(s). Everyone in the world finds this amusing. But I’ve never heard of elephants shooting water at EACH OTHER thru their trunks. Why is that ?? Cheers.

Hi Frater Zee! Thanks for your comments. They certainly prove my point that humor is a very individual trait. No, I never saw Art Linkletter or Johnny Carson or Ed Sullivan or any of those people, simply not old enough. My earliest memories of watching comedy shows were of “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” and early “Saturday Night Live.” I loved “Father Guido Sarducci” and the Cone Heads (“We’re from France”). I certainly think that intelligent animals display humor, as well as every other emotion. I have seen it many times in my own animals, both with each other and with us.

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