When I was growing up, we had one particular rule I remember my parents implemented right about when I was a tween that irked me at first. I later realized this tiny tweak made a huge difference on not only on the type of humor I like and create, but also the type of person I’ve become.
What, say you, was this small but significant rule?
My brother and I were not allowed to say something mean then follow it up with “I’m just kidding.”
We had to implement this rule because we were doing just that. We were yelling at each other (usually I did the yelling… my brother was more precise and cutting with his words and I just yelled loudly and incoherently most of the time), and we’d say something like “You’re stupid!” then follow it up with “I’m just kidding!”. We’d then act like somehow by saying we were kidding it made it ok and the other person was overreacting or had a bad sense of humor.
When really we were not kidding. We meant to insult the other one.
I found my parent’s rule to be worthless at first. I found it to be limiting and started convincing myself they, too, had bad senses of humor. But they were relentless in their enforcement of it and it didn’t take too long before I just stopped the insults because I knew they were meant to be insulting. I had to get more creative if I wanted something to actually be funny. I realized that by pretending something was “funny” when it was really just mean, I was being lazy and I was being vicious. I never want to be either of those things, so I just stopped.
Years later, as I attempt to make a professional career out of “just kidding,” I make a solid point to make sure my humor (hopefully) reflects positivity and happiness. I want it to only be used as a “weapon” for situations where tensions are high and people need to be disarmed and remember we have more in common with each other than we tend to remember. I made a concerted effort and a specific choice to back off more polarizing careers and interests of mine in order to focus on humor partially because I love using it as a means to bring people together.
Plus I’m a lot better at selling a joke than I am at selling an argument.
I still hear people do it. I hear people say cruel things then, often passive aggressively, blame the very person they were insulting for “not getting it” because they were “just joking.” I call bullshit. You weren’t joking. You were being mean. So if you don’t want to be mean, don’t say mean things. Don’t try and protect yourself with the lazy shroud of pretending you have a sense of humor and the other person doesn’t.
I have a great sense of humor. I enjoy a good roast and will be the first to make joke’s at my own expense. But if I feel like the intentions behind your “insult” aren’t actually for the purposes of being funny but because you’re being mean, I’ll be the first one to turn on you.
So don’t be lazy. And don’t be mean. Just… be cool. Dawwwwwg.