Remember those really early euphemistically named ‘personal ads’ in the back of your local paper? If you’re under 30, just imagine Tinder with no filtered photos where each additional letter would cost you a dollar. To save money, often the single guy or gal placing the ad would write something like this ‘NS’. Meaning they were a Non Smoker. Occasionally the papers would run a little thing at the bottom of the page explaining the NS and SD (Social Drinker) abbreviations which is where I first discovered that a GSOH was a requirement for nearly every single in Melbourne. Possibly the world. But remember this was pre-internet so you were narrowing the field somewhat by only looking for your perfect partner within a 15 kilometre radius of your house.
A Good Sense of Humour was so important people used it in a sentence like this ‘You MUST have a good sense of humour’ which I don’t think is all that funny but hey. And no the MUST doesn’t stand for anything but it was usually in CAPS for emphasis. This little piece of information must have made it into my subconscious somehow because I found that I had maybe inadvertently surrounded myself with people who were funny. Or even if they weren’t quick with a punch line, they observed things in a humourous way or were quick to make fun of themselves.
Everything made sense and the people I interacted with seemed to be as jovial as me or to place an emphasis on having fun or saying funny things in the same way people in the 80s concentrated on making money or wearing shoulder pads. We went to comedy shows, sometimes even wrote them, it was a funny time to you be young.
Lately though I have met two people (unknown and unrelated to each other) for whom funny is not an option. More accurately, they just don’t have a sense of humour. I’m not talking about the bloke from the post office or that woman who keeps putting me to the back of the queue at Centrelink, (those people are serious but they’re not necessarily humourless. For all I know they are having a good old chuckle out the back as they take an hour to snap a passport photo or as they jumble up your Centrelink paperwork and tell you’ve forgotten something.) I’m talking about people who seem reasonably normal. They’re not shouty or uppity or rude. They’re pleasant but they don’t see the funny side of anything.
The woman who first brought this to my attention was odd in several ways. She often tilted her head to the side when she was thinking, sort of like a dog would if he were waiting to see if you were going to eat everything on your plate. But she wasn’t dumb. Plus dumb people are usually very funny!
She was so earnest that I think she didn’t have room left in her brain for humour. At work she regaled me with a long story about how she drives across town (in her 4WD mind you) to get a coffee from a place that has biodegradable cups that you can ‘degrade’ in your own back yard. I’m not saying she wasn’t funny because she didn’t understand irony (God if that were the case, there would be a LOT of unfunny Americans). It was just that when she spoke it was like she was the first person ever to have uttered these particular words. Her words were not part of a larger discussion about coffee or the environment or hipsters or idiots, these were her really important words that she was saying to me while not blinking.
The other bloke was a friend of a friend who bought a Laugh Pack with me (like a season pass) to the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Odd right. A not funny guy sort of hoping to see what all the fuss was about with this laughter business. At the second show, and after a really funny little set by a young comedian, he opined ‘I don’t really get comedy.’ Dear God, I still had more shows to see with this fella. How did this happen? How has it been that I have made it well into my 30s before I realised that there are people out there with this debilitating illness?
Do you know someone who’s just not got a sense of humour? I’ve found two. I hope that’s all of them. Can’t wait to hear from you.