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Funny Can’t Be Taught

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I like to think that I was a funny kid. I was voted class clown throughout my career in academia. I took a stool, albeit briefly, in stand-up. I used humor to deflect and address all other emotions. I was funny. My parents must have spent the majority of their time in the proverbial stitches.


Enter my children. At the young ages of seven and four, respectively, they have already started to reap the accolades of class clownery.


This is where I would like to take a moment to apologize to my parents.


The biggest issue with my boys is that there isn’t an “off” switch. That isn’t to say that their jokes are always on, rather, they just don’t stop. Kind of like Robin Williams.


They’ve got knock-knock jokes, gags that involve the pulling of fingers, well-timed movie quotes, the countless wiener references and, of course, their bread and butter, the observational humor. Loud, often inappropriate observational humor. You know, the good stuff.


I don’t know where they get it.


“It’s never okay to make fun of someone,” I explained one day just seconds after my son had made fun of someone—not in a hurtful or spiteful way, but through the gift of sarcasm, which as most of us know, is a gateway joke. His comment was spot on.


“Would you like people to make fun of you?” I continued.


He looked deep into his hot chocolate before taking a quick glance towards the barista who had made his drink wrong despite his order being quite clear. The fact that whipped cream was heaped where none should be had been the basis of his routine, and he pushed it off his cup with a swizzle stick until all that remained was a thin, white coating over a dark sea of cocoa. He considered an answer, a breath, a sip.


“No,” he replied.


I looked at the overly-pierced, under-bathed kid working behind the counter. Yes, my son had made his order clear, but I understood the mistake. After all, what kind of child doesn’t like whipped cream on their hot chocolate? At least he hadn’t ordered it skinny.


“But,” he added slowly, “what if I deserved it?”


Damn, he had me. Yes! Yes! Those who deserve to be mocked should be mocked! Often and openly! It should be screamed from blog to rooftop, and all the people shall laugh and it was good.


“Does that still make it right?” I asked. “Would knowing you deserve it make it okay to hurt your feelings?”


“I can take a joke, Daddy.”


What the hell?


He sipped his cocoa and looked through the glass counter-top, past the scones, through the kid in a green apron and into a crowded daydream of happy faces applauding his humor—an endless array of those that “got” him. They must have been beside themselves


“Then you’ll be okay,” I told him. “That’s the toughest part.”


I stood by the door on our way out. He had been right beside me. I looked back and spotted him, unattended and unprompted, placing the coins from his pocket in the tip jar by the register.


“You didn’t have to do that,” I told him as he caught up. “His karma won’t really run over your dogma. Besides, I put a dollar in there earlier.”


“That was before he messed up my drink,” he answered. “That was to tell him it’s okay to make mistakes.”


And some lessons are taught that we aren’t even teaching.


The barista never noticed a thing.


There’s a joke there, somewhere.


Originally published on Whit Honea



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