Make Me Laugh

Make Me Laugh
Photo by Ashkan Forouzani / Unsplash

I’ll get back to answering today’s writing prompt in a moment – in the meantime, please read on.

A little while ago I saw an interview with Stephen Fry, where a member of the audience asked him about the difference between comedy in the US and the UK. His answer has stuck with me ever since, and I now find myself subconsciously pulling supposedly “funny” TV shows to pieces over and over again.

His general observation was that most US comedy is based on somebody being the smartest, most popular person in the room – where the humor is centred either around them saying something funnier or doing something more entertaining than those around them, or contriving a situation that makes those around them look bad.

Counter to the US, UK comedy is based around somebody wanting to be the smartest, the most popular, or to achieve something, and the audience becoming aware far in advance of their inevitable failure. The joke is almost never at the expense of somebody else.

It’s an odd cultural difference when you think about it, but the more you do, the more true it becomes. Most of the humor you might see in a US comedy store is based around making fun of somebody – either the way they look, the way they sound, their views, or whatever else – whereas most stand-up comedians in the UK relate anecdotes about the many and various failures of their own lives.

I remember visiting a nearby theatre to watch Mark Watson perform stand-up some time ago, and was glad of the interval because my face hurt from laughing so much. While the many and varied stories of his heroic but desperate failures made you cringe, he of course leaned in and described increasingly steep descents into mayhem, bad luck, disaster, and outrageous misfortune.

So. In a roundabout way, I suppose I have arrived back at “what makes me laugh”.

A story I can relate to will often make me laugh.

A story somebody tells where the universe pulled the rug out from beneath them in spectacular fashion, despite their best efforts to the contrary. I guess the humour is in the shared experience – where we know what the story-teller is going to say before they say it. It’s the anticipation that gets us – the inevitability of it all – the realisation that the world is just as terrible for everyone.