So you think you are funny...
When my youngest was in Grade 3 (or 3rd Grade for
my U.S. friends), I received a call from his school’s principal.
You don’t have to be too bright to know that when your son’s principal calls, it’s not always good news.
I was not disappointed.
“Mr. Pashuk” he began. “I think you need to come in for a meeting. It’s quite serious.”
Of course I went in to the school.
When I arrived I was escorted to the principal’s office. It was all very serious.
“I think you should see what your son has written in his journal” he stated straight faced, and flipped the book around so I could read it.
I looked down to read the following in my son’s scrawled handwriting:
“Today I feel like blowing up the school.”
Inside, I started to chuckle.
Not because I think it’s a good idea to promote wanton destruction of a public building, but because I understood my son’s developing sense of humour.
I looked up at the principal. He was watching to see my reaction.
“Well?” he said.
I asked him “Have you talked to my son about this?”
He said “No, we wanted to talk to you first.”
I said “Aside from the fact that he is 8 years old, you might want to ask him what he read before bed last night.”
You see, we encouraged our kids to read before bed, and my son’s favourite book at the time was a collection of Calvin and Hobbes cartoons (by Bill Watterson).
For those of you not familiar with the strip, it chronicles the tale of a young boy with a vivid imagination whose best friend is his stuffed tiger which mysteriously comes to life only to Calvin. One of the running themes with Calvin is that he hates being boxed up in school, and would much rather be outside playing.
My son looked a lot like Calvin. He even had a stuffed tiger who he named Hobbes.
In one strip, Calvin’s imagination has him flying a fighter jet. (When you are 8 years old with an imagination, anything is possible). He lines up the plane and then disintegrates the school with a bomb. Again, we are not advocating violence, but in his 8-year-old brain, this gets rid of his problem.
In the next panel, the alarm clock goes off, and Calvin realizes it was all a dream and that he has to get up to go to school after all.
My son thought this was funny.
As such, he thought he would share this in his journal.
But he only delivered the punchline and forgot to deliver the context for the punchline.
As such, I ended up in the principal’s office.
Once I explained this, the principal looked relieved, and I left promising to have a good talk with my son.
It was a great opportunity to explain to him that sometimes the things we think are funny, can have serious consequences if our humour is not understood.
And the same applies to us in social media.
We try to be funny.
But the words that are funny to us, may not be funny to others if they are not heard the way you intended them to come out.
At the least, people may think you are an idiot.
If you joke about someone else, you may inadvertently touch a sensitive spot.
Or you may be so deadpan in your approach, that people don’t know you are joking.
There’s a good chance that they will be offended, or mistake your meaning which is what happened with my son’s journal entry.
There’s also a dark side to humour.
Sometimes, humour is a weapon, used to say things that are downright mean.
Going back after the fact and saying “It was only a joke!” won’t fix it, or remove the hate from your words.
Does that mean you shouldn’t joke?
If you read many of my posts, you will know that I am not the most serious of writers. I always try to inject humour in even the most serious of subjects.
If you inspect closer, you will see that I mainly pick on a target that is safe, and I know won’t be offended.
And that target is… me.
But the other thing I do, is try to heed my advice to my son many years ago, and review my ‘jokes’ before I say them, or write them, or publish them, to make sure I get my point across and won’t be misunderstood.
I would like to say I’ve been 100% successful, but I am getting much better at it.
I would like to think that when I failed to get my joke across, that people would challenge me on it.
I would like to think that if I accidently offended someone, I would apologize, then I would learn from this feedback and adjust my delivery for next time.
I would like to think that my love of a good laugh, or chuckle, would be contagious.
I realize that I’ve probably just sucked any of the fun out of this post.
As such, I will end it with a joke.
This is considered the world’s funniest joke.
The "world's funniest joke" is a term used by Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire in 2002 to summarize one of the results of his research. For his experiment, named LaughLab, he created a website where people could rate and submit jokes. Purposes of the research included discovering the joke that had the widest appeal and understanding among different cultures, demographics and countries.
The winning joke, which was later found to be based on a 1951 Goon Show sketch by Spike Milligan, was submitted by Gurpal Gosal of Manchester:
Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator says, "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence; then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says, "OK, now what?"__________________________________________________________________________-
About the Author:
I'm the AVP for Sheridan College, in Oakville, Mississauga, and Brampton Ontario Canada, where my team is transforming the delivery of education through innovative application of technology.
I'm convinced that IT leadership needs to dramatically change how IT is delivered rather than being relegated to a costly overhead department.
In addition to transforming IT in my role as CIO, I look for every opportunity to talk about this... writing, speaking and now blogging on BeBee (https://www.bebee.com/@kevin-pashuk) , LinkedIn, ITWorld Canada, or at TurningTechInvisible.com.
I also shoot things... with my camera. Check out my photostream at www.flickr.com/photos/kwpashuk