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You either have a funny bone or you don't

Bea Arthur once said – in talking about her work on “Maude” and “Golden Girls” – that she thought some people were just naturally more funny than others, saying, “You either have a funny bone or you don’t.”

What do you all think? A joke can be well constructed, but do some people just have a knack for this and others don’t?

I’m always interested in comic theory and where it comes from, so this has been top of mind this morning.


In the first grade they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, and I, out of my whole class, said I wanted to be a comedian. To me, at that age, making people laugh was the greatest job in the world. My parents watched a lot of comedians on HBO or whatever, and humor meant so much to me, dwelling in the silly face mirror for as long as I did, and shyly trying jokes on my classmates and neighborhood friends. Standup is one of those dreams of mine, but it takes a certain breed to get up there and kill or bomb in front of a raucous audience. I do believe in the funny or not funny theory, the way I believe in creative thinking or adaptive thinking. You can tell a joke, craft a joke, but the delivery is everything. That’s the difference between humor and being funny. Maybe lol :laughing: What do I know?

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I was just thinking about this recently - I think in regards to your question, it depends on the chemistry between the people. Either one person telling a joke to another, or a comedian on the stage telling sharing jokes and/or anecdotes with a crowd. The jokes themselves matter, but do the teller and listener(s) vibe? And: does the teller believe their own joke is funny?

In my case, there are certain people that I know or meet that I immediately hit it off with, humor wise. We either constantly tell jokes back and forth or rib/riff on each other, but either way we are able to make each other laugh. There is a certain fluidity to it. I usually feel that from someone right away, being more highly sensitive. It’s a joy to find someone whose humor just clicks with your own.

I’m a little more ‘on the edge’ when I’m trying to make people laugh from the stage. Probably because I don’t have as much practice. But I’ve dreamed on and off of doing stand-up!

Sometimes when I’m reading a poem, people will laugh at lines that I never considered to be funny. In the future I may try and push the line further, emphasize it more in readings, edit the poem to compliment the line - realizing just in writing this that getting laughter from poetry is a huge source of joy.

Maybe people who can have a funny bone and not even know it. Or some people’s funny bones are funnier, or closer to the surface, or technicolor, or embedded in their brain.

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In this age of PC cancelling, Comedy has been dying a slow and painful death. Comedy, at its core, is about Life and Truth. What used to be funny is now offensive. These innocent, slightly off-color routines offended no one 20 years ago. It’s very hard to do Comedy today, and what is being done is dull and simple-minded.
With that out of the way, I will say that I love Comedy, whether it’s on Film or Stand-Up. I’m a big slapstick and Screwball Company fan. Give me a leopard on the loose in the suburbs and a dead body in the window seat and I’m happy.
As for Stand-Up comics, the best of all has to be Bill Cosby. I know he turned out to be a sleazeball, but that has nothing to do with his work. Other outstanding comedians are Brian Regan, George Carlin, and Dave Allen.
George Carlin did a routine in 1968 called “The Indian Sergeant.” He took the Western cliches about Cowboys and reversed it, showing how something ordinary is hilarious when viewed from a different point of view. This is genius in its purest form. And I can see the eyes rolling now. It’s not PC, and that’s irrelevant.

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