“I’ve been reading your blog and enjoyed it a lot” said Robert, an old friend from New York over facebook chat.
“Only, your last one about your dead relatives made me sad, life is depressing enough; please write something funny next time!”
Yeah right, like it was so easy to write something funny! The first time I tried to make fun of the Swiss, a few laughed but others got angry. I almost lost a friend because of it. When I complained about it to my other friends, they told me that I should have written LOL here and there so that the readers could instantly understand when it was supposed to be funny. Or a smiley. It made me feel pathetic.
So the next day, I had lunch with Andrew, one of the funniest people I know, and asked for his help.
“Easy”, he said, slowly eating his pasta, “just make a fun situation happen!”
“Huh? Like what?” He stopped eating for a moment and explained:
“You could take a joke and tell it to 10 different people to compare their reactions. I’ve just read something about how attractive people appear smarter, trustworthy and funnier ”
“Mmm, dunno, I am not very good at telling jokes, it always makes me feel nervous, like I have to perform… I don’t even know any joke! Tell me one!”
“Okay, but the joke has to be a bit lame, then you can see if men laugh more than women.”
“OK, I got it, but tell me a joke that I can use!” I said impatiently.
He thought for a moment and started laughing to himself. Maybe that was the key to be funny, I thought, to make one’s self laugh first. Still laughing a bit, he told me the joke:
“What is invisible and yellow?”
“dunno, tell me!”
“This banana!” he answered, showing me the invisible banana in his hand.
We both giggled quite a bit and were not sure anymore that the joke would be lame enough for the project. I liked it because it was easy to use in other langages too, and it did not make any sense, so anybody could get it.
“All right, I’ll do it! The story might be too long, so I’ll publish it in different sections. But I am not sure that finding a person attractive is related to laughing at their jokes.”
“Why do you have to disagree with everything I say!” He moaned. “Jesus! You are so annoying. It is science, not just my opinion, I’ve read several articles about it on the internet! You’ll see, if you choose a good panel of ten people to tell your joke, mostly guys, and a few girls, I bet the guys will be laughing and slapping their thighs while the girls will only smile or have no reaction.”
1. My first victim, a German private student, let’s call him Bruno. Important fact: he’s happily married.
It was not exactly the right time to tell a joke to Bruno. We were in the middle of a French test’s preparation he had to take in 2 weeks. There was no time to waste with stupid jokes, but the lesson that day had been light-hearted so far. We were working on the interview part of the test, where the student has to talk for about 5 minutes about himself, then pick a subject and talk about it with the examiner. The one he picked was ” You invite a friend (the examiner) for a weekend getaway. Choose the place and the dates and convince him or her to come along”.
“Cécile, he began, I’d like to invite you to Merano in Italy for a weekend in September.”
“Sure, why not, what would we do there?”
“I know a nice 4 stars hotel there.” He paused, suddenly realising the awkwardness of the exercise. “Hum, so I am sure you’d like it.”
“Probably”, I replied, “but apart from the hotel, what else is there to do in Merano?” I was enjoying his discomfort.
“Ah, yeah of course, there are lots of things to do there, we could go hiking the first day. For the evening, there are plenty of nice restaurants and then we could go out in one of the bars or even nightclubs in town!”
“Sounds good, but… are you sure your wife will appreciate that?” I couldn’t help asking, trying not to laugh.
He turned all red: “Oh no… we have a very open relationship, she goes on a weekend like that as well once a year, it is fine, don’t worry!”
We both burst out laughing. “Time to try your joke on him!” I thought. “Now or never!”
“Bruno, the examiners might tell you something totally unexpected just to test you.”
He looked scared. “No, no, you don’t have to worry, I went on, I am sure you’ll be fine, but just so you’re prepared, I am going to tell you a joke, OK?”
“Sure”, he said, still looking worried about the exam.
“Qu’est-ce qui est jaune et invisible?” I realised that he probably did not know the word invisible, so I explained what it was. He looked totally puzzled. “Euh, je ne sais pas…”
“Cette banane!” I said, pointing at the invisible banana, laughing because he looked worried that he would not understand the joke.
His eyes widened and then he laughed sincerely for a bit and said in approximate French: “Oh, can I eat this banana? J’ai beaucoup de faim” (which means I’ve got a lot of hunger). I liked him so much for laughing at my joke that for the first time I did not correct his mistake and just laughed with him. It was a great lesson.