One of the many church groups that meets from month to month is called The Wise Ones and it is for people who retired. The group is facilitated by a capable group of women and men as it brings together people from a diverse number of nationalities and backgrounds for some light discussion, refreshments, and usually homemade cakes.
I enjoy coming to the group as an ‘honorary’ member since it is a while until I reach the age of retirement. (But one can never be so certain nowadays as I recently met a fellow at a wedding reception who told me that he retired at the ripe old age of 38 after inventing some gizmo that computer companies are still interested in using). I love being with the people who have so many interesting stories to tell.
Most months there is a topic that is discussed where memories can be shared and I am fortunate to bask in a collective wisdom. Yesterday the theme was humour (which I spell with a ‘u’ because with out u it wouldn’t be funny). Everyone expresses humour in different styles and forms. I think the group tried to avoid the generalizations that some nations seem to be more appreciative of humour than others, but it is an interesting social phenomenon to look at how humour is used from place to place, and from person to person.
I have come across people who have found themselves living in Germany who have named an inability to use their sense of humour to their full potential and therefore, they feel diminished as a person. Their sense of self shrinks. Not only is there the language hurdle, but humour can be, well, different for cultures and groups than ones own preferred style. German humour, at least what is on the television shows, tends to be very ‘heady’ and often political, and truthfully, some of what is deemed funny just doesn’t tickle my funny bone. If you are someone who loves witticism and word play you may find yourself at a loss. However, during our group discussion the question asked of me, “what is Canadian humour like?” has remained with me, and I am not sure how I could summarize it as it differs from person to person. I do think that some of the funniest things, be they jokes or stories, are ones that emphasize the shortcomings of one own self. To laugh at ones self seems to be important…at least for me. However, I don’t know if that is a particularly Canadian attribute. Certainly we have political satire and slap-stick comedy which appears on tv, and there were comedy shows which often had dreadful comic routines which we watched because we knew that there would be at least one ‘zinger’ that kept you thirsting for more.
In a former parish there was a young woman whom you would be hard pressed to consider a comic genius, as she seemed to be shy, moderately funny but not outwardly so, and to look at her, one could imagine her being an middle level office manager. In reality she was a comic writer for a variety of Canadian comedy shows, like ‘Kids in the Hall.’ One would be hard pressed to see her as one of a team of comedians but she was cutting with her razor sharp wit and observations on life. Be it comic writing, or stand up comedy, her personality would almost change, or morph, once in the limelight.
One of my favourite comedians was Robin Williams, and having met him once while he was hiking with his young family you would never have thought he was funny. He seemed like anyone else a nice parent out with his children, but whilst on stage, or in front of a camera he became something completely different. In some early documentary about William’s life the stage persona and the backroom persona were vastly different. Which makes me recall a quote from Robin Williams that is reflective of a lot of humour and the people that we find ‘funny’, he says, “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anybody else to feel like that.”