Sense of Humour

Having a sense of humour is basically human (with the exception of the laughing hyena in the lower animal realm). Besides, the phrase “humorous human” is a case of alliteration and alliteration is a literary device used by wordsmiths to add an element of humour to a written piece. With acquaintances and friends in light moments and relaxed conversations, humorous punch lines and stories are common, in fact, even anticipated. More than being a homo socius (social being) and a homo loquens (talking being), homo sapiens sapiens is also a homo ridens (laughing being)—whether s/he is a homo or a hetero, it doesn´t matter. We want to crack jokes without necessarily appearing like crackpots. We want others to tell funny stories regardless of whether they are true or almost true (but not quite in many instances).
Ruel F. Pepa, “The Humorous Human”


A good sense of humour is what we are looking for in a person who talks whatever the occasion is. It could be in a simple and casual conversation, in an office meeting, or in a formal gathering where someone delivers a speech before an audience. Being a rare talent, not everyone is gifted with this sense but those who are, have gained the moniker, “live wire” of the group. In fact, we who are coming from different backgrounds and persuasions know that in each of our groups–both formal and informal–there are individuals with an engaging sense of humour and they definitely stand out. And it is normal and common among us who have not been gifted with the same range and span of such sense of humour to recognize, acknowledge and compliment them. They are a rare breed.

We may lack such a talent as a source but being able to understand and appreciate humorous punchlines produced by another is enough proof that we ourselves have some sense of humour up to a certain degree. It also takes a real talent to capture the essence of a humorous line or gesture embedded in a speech or an action respectively. However, there are also those shallow humorous situations that do not necessarily require us to think more deeply and these are commonly exemplified in the performances of comedians both professional on the stage or the cinema and amateur in comedy bars.

Humour could range from the most vulgar slapstick to the most sophisticated witticism. The former is the most common and categorized as the shallowest form while the latter is the rarest and characterized by its depth which requires some decoding, so to speak, to be fully captured and appreciated. And there are so-called automatic decoders because it’s either they know and are used to the style of the source or they’ve gotten used to the dynamics and mechanics of the witty patterns by way of cultural orientation.

One’s sense of humour could also find a literary expression by way of what we call satire or sarcasm wherein humour takes the form of irony or hyperbole intended to expose by derision or mockery the stupidity of individuals or group of individuals. It may likewise be mentioned that this is also commonly used and found in modern democratic political circumstances where freedom of speech is guaranteed. In other words, humour could also be a destructive tool to ridicule somebody and put her/him in an extremely ludicrous situation. Nevertheless, such a case does not exclusively occur in politics alone but also in other areas where there are contending parties involved in arguing on explosive issues.

At this point, toilet humour is also worth mentioning. There are people who have gotten used to this basest kind of humour–if we can still honestly call it humour–and have even developed the silly boldness to go public in exposing their stupidity mouthing out jokes that range from the filthy sexual kind to gutter-level obscenities. And it is not impossible to find this kind of individuals even among people occupying important positions in government. A case in point is the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who has mastered the filthiest brand of sexually oriented jokes shouted out in public before thousands of spectators whose majority are his followers and supporters. Like him, these people have been wallowing in the filth of sheer obscenities and have practically lost their good sense of humour as they have gotten used to praising with total approval the immoral degeneracy, insanity and stupidity of their president.

However, putting aside the notoriety of filthy humour and focusing more on the positive character of a good sense of humour, the single most important aspect that makes it stand out in some individuals is the fact that they have exercised it as a necessary element of their existence to cope with the struggles of daily life despite all the difficult challenges regularly and continuously encountered along the way. Borrowing a key term from Henri Bergson’s magnum opus, Creative Evolution, we could surmise that the élan vital (i.e., the basic principle of human creativity) is where one’s sense of humour is lodged and rooted. It may not be well developed in some individuals but for those who have mastered its power in a variety of circumstances, they have demonstrated once and for all that life is bearable and therefore worth sustaining.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 08 May 2019


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