Humor: the Best Possible Form of IntelligenceApr 4th, 2014 | By Editorial Staff | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog
Comedy is something I value highly — probably higher than almost anything else. Oh, I get in a bad mood sometimesand I don’t always agree with others about the nature or quality of comedy, but I love to make people laugh. I spend a lot of my time trying to make other people laugh, or trying to make myself laugh. I serve on a youth sports board, and on April Fool’s Day I sent the rest of the board an email telling them that I upset the school district where we play our games and that they were now going to charge us for use of the fields and that I was so upset about it that I would have to resign my position. I don’t know why, but I just felt giddy sending that email. I think some of them were genuinely angry that I played a trick on them.
I don’t get the being angry about something meant to be funny. You know how when you open a gift and it’s something cruddy you’re supposed to remember that “it’s the thought that counts.” It’s the same with humor. If I make a comment that’s supposed to make you laugh, that’s a gift I have given to you. Maybe it’s not your size, maybe it’s not your color, maybe it’s not something you will ever appreciate, maybe it’s something you find offensive. The fact remains — it is a gift and the act of presenting it to you is a thoughtful one.
Now, if I’m being demeaning or degrading to you or someone else, that’s a different story. However, one of the best qualities in a human being is the ability to laugh at oneself, so if I am helping you to laugh at yourself, I am actually helping you to live longer.
I will never get up on a stage and tell jokes because that sounds very frightening to me, but I don’t think I will ever stop trying to think of something funny to say in almost every conversation I have. I just feel good if I make someone laugh and really, laughing together is one of the most joyful, intimate acts that two or more people can engage in.
Have you ever worked with someone who just doesn’t have a sense of humor? I probably have, but I honestly can’t remember who it was, because I don’t care. I do not discriminate. Now, I’m careful. If I’m going to joke around about my wife, I make sure I’m far enough away that I can run if I see her coming. Just the other night I was lying on the couch, joking around with my daughter and my wife was in the dining room. I made a joke that was probably not even about her directly, but she chucked a plastic container of fish oil tablets at me. And it would have beaned me in the head if I hadn’t been wary. I caught it, which was even funnier.
This is also one reason why I like meetings. Work is really a gold mine for humor, because so many nonsensical things happen in every workplace. When you get a group of people together who are all arrows moving in random directions, there is going to be fodder for humor. Meetings are like a smorgasbord for a comedian. It’s like one straight line after another. Again, some might claim that poking fun at how your operation is dysfunctional or inefficient is bad for company morale, but I’d argue just the opposite (because I enjoy doing that) — it actually helps us cope with the dysfunction and inefficiency. Because if you care about being functional and efficient, you need to cope with the difference between your expectation and your reality. I hold that you can poke fun at the lunacy and still care a great deal about the success of the operation and have faith that things will get better.
The other great thing about comedy is that anyone can do it and it doesn’t cost anything. My 10-year-old son recently completed a science project that nearly crumbled our household — not because he almost blew up the house (it was just Alka Seltzer and water) but because it was a long, drawn-out project that he had to be hounded to do almost daily. In his final report, one question he had to answer was to look back over his notes and to write two things he learned while doing the project. His answer? “This sucked. It was really hard.” Now, he was serious, but I think he also knew that he was being funny. My wife read that to my 19-year-old daughter and her reaction was, “You’re not taking that out are you?” Because she knows it’s funny too. In fact, we all laughed about it and it made all of the suffering we’ve gone through as a result of this science project almost worthwhile just to hear that answer. Humor saves everything.
Humor is more important than knowledge or intelligence. Actually, humor is the best possible form of intelligence, because the construction of a joke involves intelligence that is poetic. If we ever make contact with life forms from other planets and we are able to communicate with them, that is going to be the real challenge — will they get our jokes? And will we get theirs? Think about it — it seems possible that a species could evolve to communicate without humor or laughter. Now there’s a doomsday movie script.
I hope that, at some point, if you read this blog regularly, I’ve made you laugh. Laughter is like love — the more you share it, the more there is. I hope you all had a wonderful April Fool’s Day.
Have a safe, profitable and fun week.