Funny What You Laugh About
It’s funny how comedy is changing. Back when I was a little lad, long before the likes of Kim Kardashian was a twinkle in her mother’s eye or a tilt in her dad’s slightly Armenian kilt, things were mightily different.
Back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, life had a certain naivety to it and, in Australia at least, being funny mattered. Not in a ridiculous way. That wouldn’t do. Given we were all so close to the edge wearing some of the most demeaning clothes in history since men wore stockings and ruffs. With nauseating swirly paisleys, and collars, bellbottoms, and ties ridiculously wide, we had to believe we were cool, lest we admitted how ludicrous we looked. So we transferred our foolishness into the something called Aussie humor.
Considering “funny here” isn’t funny everywhere, that takes some explaining. But suffice to say Aussie humor is dry, outrageously understated, incongruous, and plays heavily on the timing of the comedic punch line.
Back then, with not much else to amuse us than black and white TV (with utterly nothing on), and AM radio (or “wireless” as oldies still called it), we had to be funny to break the boredom.
Comedies either had a live audience or none. There was no canned laughter, except on American shows. So we worked out when to laugh for ourselves. While being self-effacing made you more likeable, for ultimate popularity, you needed to be humble, outgoing, and be able to tell a good joke.
Actually, you didn’t need to tell jokes so much as say what people were secretly thinking. But if you could tell a good story (or ”yarn”) you were top notch too. For an Aussie, being funny had massive underdog status, making you a kind of local hero.
Paul Hogan was that kind of bloke. A quintessential Aussie battler with a glint in his eye and his tongue pressed firmly in his cheek, he took on Australia’s favorite laughter targets: those who take themselves or their status even slightly too seriously.
Yet these days, Aussies have changed. Today, whatever is widely found to be funny is much more internationally flavored. Thanks to the Internet, TV, movies and wider media, timeworn Aussie humor seems increasingly unclear and losing its relevance.
But I love it still and admire the wit it takes to be funny without going too far. In a nostalgic way, I wish there was a, International Museum of Humor celebrating the various comedy cultures worldwide that now seem to be dying out.
It might be silly, but you can learn a lot from comedy.
Yet, people still aren’t ready to appreciate what’s being lost. We’ve forgotten so much that’s funny, whilst swapping it for something that’s neither here nor there but (seemingly) understood everywhere.
As I’m writing this for you tonight, I’m guessing you will have noticed something similar happening where you live too. The languages of what we find funny are morphing into international styles, and they’re changing before our eyes.
If you’ve known older ways it’s natural to miss what was childhood familiar. But there is something to be said for broader understanding. After all, nothing is that funny if people can’t understand it. So, the more we “get it” the more we can join in and enjoy the jokes.
Maybe, just possibly, the power of what we agree to be funny can be a means to a happier world. Perhaps, in a little way, we might find the more we laugh together, the more we can recognize we’ve got a lot more in common than we once thought.
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