You Don't Need A Sense Of Humor
To Be Funny
Published on Dec 5th, 2015 | by Free Standup NYC
Article by: Brian Roth
Follow him on Twitter: @briandroth
I have been a fan of stand up comedy for as long as I can remember. As a kid I loved watching a person with a microphone in their hand commanding a crowd by just speaking. They didn’t seem to have an agenda like clergy, teachers or politicians, who were the people I normally saw speaking in public. The Comedian’s only concern was to entertain the crowd. When I attempted Stand Up for the first time five years ago, I realized Comedians certainly do have an agenda, which is to elicit an emotional response from the crowd in the form of laughter. That is when it dawned on me that while I was mildly funny; I had no sense of humor.
Looking back on my childhood, when I watched a Comic on television, I never really laughed. Family members would ask, “Hey why aren’t you laughing at this?” even offering to “put something else on.” I had to explain that I was really enjoying the Comic, and once specifically told my mother I was “paying attention” to a George Carlin special (she had reluctantly let me watch) to explain why I wasn’t laughing. She probably thought the material was over my head for my age, but I understood everything Carlin was talking about, and was absolutely transfixed on his performance. I also noticed I could never remember any of the jokes comics made. I knew I enjoyed listening to comics talk, I just didn’t know why.
Many people are like me. They sit in a crowd and don’t laugh at a comedian (which comics hate), yet when asked if they enjoyed the show they truthfully reply “yes.” When asked what their favorite joke of the night was, most of the time they will say something like, “you know I can’t remember, they were all good.” How could someone possibly enjoy a comedian’s act without laughing? What use is a comic to someone with no sense of humor? More importantly how can someone like me, with no sense of humor be a Stand Up comic?
To answer how someone can enjoy a Stand Up set, even when they have no sense of humor, is the very fact that many comics are successful even when they don’t have the strongest material. Years ago, as an undergraduate studying Psychology, I learned about a theory regarding talk therapy. It basically described a situation where for some patients psychotherapy isn’t about the therapist diagnosing a disorder, and prescribing remedies for the disorder, it isn’t even about what is said during the sessions; rather it is about how the patient feels during the sessions. Many therapy session are comprised of the therapist asking the patient “and how do you feel about that?” letting the patient explore their feelings and talk out the issues that are getting in the way of their day to day lives. When they look back on the therapy sessions they aren’t able to recall what the therapist was telling them, they simply remember how they felt.
This is a perfect explanation for why I fell in love with Stand Up. It didn’t matter that I have no sense of humor, it only mattered how I felt when I watched comics. Watching Stand Up comedy was my own sort of “reverse” therapy sessions, where I listened to someone talk for an hour, and when the show was done I associated positive feelings with that performance.
This is why you don’t need a sense of humor to be a comic. You simply need to be funny. These two things are not mutually exclusive. If you ever spend time with comics you will inevitably realizing that the cliché of the “miserable comic” is very real. Comedians can be very serious or downright mean people. Many comics don’t laugh at other comics at open mics, and don’t find much of anything funny in conversations with friends or family. These people can be some of the funniest Stand Ups in the comedy industry. They can even be miserable on stage, but they can consciously (or sometimes subconsciously) manage to elicit an emotional response from the crowd with their material. This requires empathy. Being able to understand and share the feelings of other people is the key to relating to the crowd, by being “likeable” and creating a positive feeling about the performance. You don’t need a sense of humor to be a stand up comic; you simply need to be funny. Empathy is the key to elicit an emotional reaction from the crowd, and that is precisely what being funny is all about.
"This is why you don’t need a sense of humor to be a comic."