Do You Have to be Insecure to be Funny?

I went to the library today, in search of a delicious novel on writing and comedy.  To me, people who can effectively carry out wit and hilarity through writing are my true heroes.  It takes a lot of talent, imagination and wit to make someone laugh.  To put it on paper, hieghtens that talent. 

So, I found this book.  It was the number one selling book on the importance of humor writing and how to do it. Sold, I walked confidently up to the librarian (who was wearing a hot pink studded belt, only in Waconia) and sweetly handed her my book; ‘Comedy Writing Secrets.’  The bright yellow cover and silly font made me want to dive right in.

So I did. In my car.  Don’t worry, I wasn’t driving. But I couldn’t even wait until the comfort of my couch accompanied my readings. Of course the book went on saying humor as a tremendous value, which I believe to be totally true.  It has structure, formula, and an element of surprise equal to that of a curve ball.  So the book asked this one question; can you learn humor, or can you inherit it?  Well, the book said; both – which I agree with.  But then, it said something I’m not sure if I do agree with.

“Some authors feel that humor-writing skills are mystically inherited rather than learned, and likely molded by such factors as ethnic charactristics, early childhood maternal influence, and insecurity.”

Oh really, so you mean; for a person to be truly humourous and witty, they have to be ethnically diverse, have a slightly deranged or hilarious family background and be an insecure individual??  This tipped my pot of hot tea immediatly. 

I believe true, authentic wit to come from confidence, intelligance, and a wide imagination.  I do believe maternal background and ethnic background have a little piece of the equation, debating on somone’s experience (because experience always factors in) but insecurity most definitely is not an underlying factor of humor.  Look at the famous stand up comedians, authors, actors whom are funny.  Do you think they are insecure?  Tina Fey, Tucker Max, Justin Timberlake, Jay Leno, Conan O Brien, Margaret Cho, Chelsea Handler, Chris Rock. . .the list expands.  Do these people come off as insecure to anyone?  I don’t think so.  Confidence is at their expence, and I believe it is to benefit them.  Tempted to prove the author wrong, I kept reading.  I found another quote that left an awful taste in my mouth;

“There is tremendous insecurity about how we got it and how long we’re going to keep it. Americans have a tremendous sense of inferiority.  We mask it with jokes about our superiority.”

Yes, Americans make a lot of Canada jokes among everything else. Although I understand jokes against other people make us feel superior to others, and if the joke is condescending towards the other person than yes, I believe that to be an insecure element about the jokester.  However, if a group of people is having a witty conversation a joke here and there simple is expressed from creativity.  And a person that keeps up with the news…or PerezHilton.

Does humor have to be an insecurity issue?? Why can’t we tell a joke on the simple basis of being smart, quick, witty and creative?  Funny people are curious, engaged in current events and make us laugh.  I could go on a huge rant about what humor is and what it does for us – but I do believe humor can be generated by a vast grab bag of things other than insecurity issues.  Humor is not making fun of someone.  That is where I think the problems exist with trying to define humor, today.  Humor is surprise, humor is wit.  A nicely executed joke does not have anything to do with feeling less superior than the other.

Quotes obtained by Writing Reference: ‘Comedy Writing Secrets’ by Mel Helitzer with Mark Shatz.

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University of Saint Thomas graduate. Minnesota-bred and happy to talk about the weather any time you’d like! Strongly believes any situation can be bettered by a slice of generously buttered toast or Phil Dunphy. Would get arrested to touch Justin Timberlake’s face. Always trying to be a better person by not wishing horrible karma on people driving slow in the fast lane. Hear more: @twitter @instagram


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