I have a good sense of humor. I think so anyhow but when this topic came up I had to really think about what it is that makes me laugh. For starters, and as the cartoon above suggests, The New Yorker makes me laugh. I've been reading that magazine for more than half my life and it's never failed to make me think and it's never failed to make me laugh.
New Yorker cartoons and indeed the whole magazine require that its readers have a pretty specific frame of reference. Getting the humor makes me feel smart and I like that. So smart is an important quality in the things that make me laugh.
I think it's that combination of thinking and laughing that has all the ingredients I need to be amused. Slapstick humor's usually lost on me and please please please don't make me sit through anything involving Ben Stiller or Jim Carey.
One of my new-ish internet finds that never fails to leave me in stitches is My First Dictionary.
My First Dictionary takes its lead from the children's readers I grew up with but the similarities stop there. The vocabulary words have a definite adult slant and the examples usually involve some kind of horrrific situation told in a sing-songy way.
I love the absurdity, irreverence and menace of My First Dictionary. So add those three qualities to smart in what makes me laugh.
I first saw the movie Citizen Ruth in 1996 when it was in limited theatrical release. It was an absolute fluke that I ended up seeing it in the first place and Citizen Ruth has become one of my favorite comedies of all time.
The genius behind Citizen Ruth went on to make three more films and Alexander Payne's film work forms the back bone of my movie collection.
After Citizen Ruth, Payne made Election in 1999.
Election starred Matthew Broderick and a then-unknown Reese Witherspoon in a little film about a high school student council election that no one under the age of 30 can possibly understand.
His next film, About Schmidt, came out in 2002 and starred Jack Nicholson and Cathy Bates. About Schmidt is about growing old and relies on the absurdity of aging for its humor.
His latest, Sideways, came out in 2004. Alexander Payne won the Oscar for best writing, adapted screenplay for the movie.
It took the idea of the buddy picture, the road picture and two ammoral anti-heroes and came up with something all together new. It's as if id and ego go away together for a weekend and it's brilliantly hilarious.
So smart makes me laugh. Along with absurdity, irreverence, vague menace and real life. Plenty of other things make me laugh too. I love to sit around a table after dinner and laugh with friends. Kevin, Brandon, JD, Bob, Rick and a handful of others never fail to keep me in stitches.
My nieces and nephews make me laugh and the fact that there are 22 of of them is funny in and of itself.
All in all, humor for me is something I have to be in front of to recognize a lot of times. It's difficult for me to list the things I find humorous. Much harder than I thought it would be when I found out about this topic a week ago. Try it some time. To that end, what makes you laugh?
There's a table that will appear magicially with all of the participants in this week's Blog Off. Check back through out the the day to see who's weighing in on this weighty topic.