A Serious Take on the Sense of Humour

I must confess. I am not a comedian. I really do not know how to crack jokes. More often than not, I fail to understand them or overanalyze them. And I am not funny either.

But one not-so-fine day, my WhatsApp beeped to tickle my funny bone (read: dormant funny bone). Perhaps, somewhere someone found hope in me that I can giggle and trigger tear-inducing laughter in someone’s life. So, there was a message from my university’s “KU Connect” team. The hopefuls wanted me to conduct a faculty development programme for the teachers of an Ahmedabad-based school on “Bringing Humour in Life”. Lo and Behold! My first reaction was to drop a message to my Head of Department that, “This is something I cannot do. I do not have any sense of humor and I need to really work towards it myself. How can I possibly teach something I don’t possess to others?” But the ship refused to sail… waiting for me to jump into it. I did.

I had never “seriously” pondered over “humour” or “sense of humour”! Ever… for a good 34 years until I was asked to conduct the workshop. I began my research by delving deeper into, “What is a sense of humour?” To my pleasant surprise, I learnt that I need not have to be a comedian, or necessarily know to crack jokes or have to be funny to have a sense of humor. Having a sense of humour simply means having the ability to let go and not take everything so seriously, and being able to laugh at—or at least see the humour in—life’s absurdities.

Incidentally, at that very time, I was reading Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning”. Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, and a Holocaust survivor. Referring to life in a concentration camp, he, in his book, wrote that one could find a sense of humour there (in a concentration camp) as well. He wrote, “Humour was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation. Humour gives an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.”

The book said that Frankl practically trained a friend of his, who worked next to him on a building site, to develop a sense of humour. He suggested to him that they would promise each other to invent at least one amusing story daily, about some incident that could happen one day after their liberation.

As I literally investigated the topic, I realized how we become oblivious to these important aspects of our survival — the laughter, the smile, the humor — as life gets in the way. If we make an embarrassing mistake at work, there is no point in beating ourselves up over it. We must try to shift our point of view to see the bigger picture — THAT’S a sense of humour. If I am stuck in a traffic signal, there’s no point beating and banging my steering wheel. I must see it as a third person, see it as a child — THAT’S having a sense of humour. It’s about laughing at ourselves rather than entering a shame spiral, and laugh off things we cannot control.

As of today, I can only thank my university’s team, for I would have never ever made an effort to really think about something like “sense of humour”. Seriously!

Rashmi Chouhan, Assistant Professor, Unitedworld School of Liberal Arts and Mass Communication (USLM)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.