Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Humor: nature or nurture?

These pictures were taken on Christmas morning about 15 years ago.

I'd given my mom these gold tights (I cannot even begin to remember why), and she put them on immediately. She came back to the living room in them, and we all started to laugh.

As you can see, she and my dad are laughing so hard they're having a hard time standing up.

And this is the thing: we have humor chemistry. We think the same things are funny. My brother, for as angry as he can make me, is truly hilarious.

I always picked friends whose sense of humor worked well with mine. And as such, I didn't give it much thought until I was dating and dating and realized that so many men are not funny.

Although I should say Nick is in utter disagreement with me on this: I contend there are more funny women in the world than men. It's hard to find funny men.

My proof: I have lots of hilarious female friends. But the funny men? Hard to find.

You don't have to think I'm funny. I don't have to think you are. Unless we're going to be really good friends. And/or spend all eternity together.

I got started thinking about this after emailing with Dagny yesterday. I realized that I'd made the assumption that her sister has the same subtle, slightly wicked sense of humor she has. I've never met the woman, but I figured, of course she does.

At which point I remembered that actually, Nick is the only funny person in his family. His father and younger sister seem to be able to appreciate our kind of humor, at least some of the time.

But none of them generate anything that make either of us laugh.

He was kind of a funny island unto himself in that family. Till he married me. And now he has someone with whom to snicker in the corner.

So then I started wondering how our kid will come out? I hope he has our sense of humor!

Because what if he turns out to be a Will Ferreller? And just thinks we're un-funny freaks? And we don't think he's funny either?

Because I'm not sure where humor comes from, but it's not all nurture. Maybe a lot of it is nature?


  1. You are hilarious. Laughing so hard it's difficult to stand-up is my favorite kind!

    This is not very insightful but, to me, humor is all about perspective, personality. A little of nature and nurture. Usually when people think something I say is funny, I'm being serious.

  2. a. i love that photo of your parents. there is nothing better than laughing so hard that you can hardly stand up . . .
    b. your child will have a sense of humor - he can't escape it. both my boy child and my girl child are funny, thank gawd . . .
    c. there is nothing better than laughing so hard at something *your child* did or said - you have given your parents that joy, and soon you will know it too! the first funny incident with your baby will no doubt be pee or poop related - neonate boys have a tendency to pee straight into their parents faces. enjoy!

  3. There will be times when your son thinks you are high-larious and other times when he thinks you are the dorkiest, most un-funny person in the whole wide world.

    Just now are Chloe and I able to truly appreciate one another's humor. She is a much more dry, wry wit than I am, but I think we find each other quite funny. Nate, on the other hand, is a zinger and a great mimic, more slapstick. Sophia is the eccentric and awesome with the one-liners. All three have the same parents and different styles of humor.

    You know, the best part of our wedding was when the Rabbi said we were a happy couple because we could laugh so easily together. Even now, sitting on the marriage counselor's sofa, we find things to laugh about. THAT is why we are still together.

    May you have many, many laughs as a family!

  4. Well...

    I have to say that Sibling and I do overlap quite a bit. But she's a lot more sleep-deprived than I am, of late, and so the humorous aspect of things tends to pass right by.

    I suspect she picked up a bit of Dr. Taggart's hypersensitivity about certain things. Mr. Taggart and I have nearly identical senses of humor. Nurture is alive and well in the Taggart household!

    Thus, I am certain that the Boy will have a wonderful sense of humor. However, his taste in shiny paisley jackets, and judgment about when it is appropriate to wear them, may require some refinement. ;o)

  5. Those pictures are nothing short of AWESOME.

    And don't you worry, your little boy will have his parents' sense of humor! I see it in my friends' kids now, they pick up a lot of their parents' characteristics while somehow maintaining their own individuality.

  6. Those pictures are hysterical! And the fact that you gave her those - AWESOME!

    And I agree - boys are usually stupid boy humor. Girls tend to be wittier!

  7. I LOVE funny people! Thanks for the laugh!

    I hope you will check out my blog at

  8. I do not come from a funny family. My mom would have thanked me for the tights and then shoved them into the very back of her lingerie drawer. I love that Betty put the fuckers on.

  9. hmm... I think I fall into "not funny" categories. I didn't inherit much of a sense of humor, and I think my life has made me more serious. Blargh...

  10. i agree that as with most things, humor is subjective. i think i'm funny, i think my fiance is funny, he thinks i'm funny (he also thinks it's funny that i crack myself up) but i hear you on the non-funny men out there. i dated a few of them... not sure why. then again i dated extremely unattractive guys because they were hilariously funny. i guess it goes both ways.

    anyway, i like to think my whole family is funny... at least they make me laugh so i don't know about hte nature/nurture argument

  11. So with you on the "not many funny men" thing here Lisa. I found when dating that guys either thought I was a complete fruitloop or a weirdo when my sense of humour came to the fore. My Parents were always laughing and playing practical jokes on eachother and us kids so it was very much a nuture and nature thing in our house. Even now when my sisters and I get together the male partners end up leaving the room because they just dont get it. My new man :) he's funny , he makes me laugh so much I nearly wet myself (this you will understand once the kid has arrived and you have to cross your legs when you sneeze thanks to pregnancy). When you met a guy who is funny, in your kind of way funny and he gets you, and you can sit in the corner at family things and snigger together, well its got to be a good thing and how can the kid not share in this.

  12. HKW - I haven't laughed that hard in so long. I really want to!

    You are right - it is all about perspective and personality. And it's actually quite funny that your seriousness is taken as funny...although maybe not to you?

    LJ - I love it, too. It makes me giggle to look at it. And I hope he does. I really hope we laugh at/with each other. As for the pee in the face - eeeeee! Doesn't sound funny yet!

    Lisa - I love that they all have such distinct and extremely diverse senses of humor, but you all "get" each other. I think it is true - you have to be able to laugh together to stay together. This is a huge bond, and I'm glad you have it.

    Dagny - Lack of sleep will take the funny out of anyone. Interesting on the nurture side. And ohhh, I didn't even think about taste in clothing?! This, I think, is nurture. It can be instilled in him.

    Marie - Thank you. :) And that is cool - I like the idea of picking up pieces of their parents' personalities but being their very own selves.

    Jules - I cannot remember why I bought them. But they were just so ridiculous.

    And as a teacher, you see a lot of boys and girls practicing humor!

    Jackie - Thanks for visiting! I will, for sure!

    freckledk - From what I know, it doesn't sound like you do. This is an argument for nature over nurture in terms of humor, no?

    VVK - I dunno. I think you approach things very seriously and you're a very analytical thinker, but that doesn't mean you aren't funny.

    notsojenny - Definitely subjective. Very important that you and your fiance find each other funny. And as your family makes you laugh, I don't know about the nature/nurture either.

    Go-Betty - That is awesome that you've found someone who makes you laugh that hard. And that you and your sisters are on such a wavelength. Although so not funny on the post-pregnancy bladder stuff! I've heard that and yikes!

  13. Two comments from me today...I guess it's sort of a childlike humor. You know, when a child says EXACTLY what is happening in a situation and isn't trying to be funny but it's funny because most people wouldn't say anything? On the other hand, sarcasm doesn't come natually to me - usually I have to say "I'm kidding, I'm being sarcastic" and I get the blank stare

  14. I love that your mom wore those gold tights! Even if that was the ONLY TIME she ever wore them. :)


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