Sense of humour failure (SHF)

Sense of fun“Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.”

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

A friend of mine officiated a wedding in the United States recently. This is how she described her day:

“Everyone was in great spirits,” she said. “There were about 18-20 of us. But I was the only person wearing a mask and there was no social distancing.”

“It felt like unprotected sex all day long. Aaaahhhh!!!!”

Is Lockdown bringing you down? Are you in need of a laugh?

Lesson 1: Teasing

Sometimes I do suffer from SHF, but mostly I love being teased. When I was a child I hated it and one of my uncles was a particularly merciless teaser.

“We only tease the ones we love,” my Mama explained to me one day. LIGHTBULB MOMENT.

This was a completely novel idea to the young Nyamazela. Teasing = love. Counter-intuitive. And, as with many of my Mama’s other wise words, I’ve mulled over this idea my entire adult life. I’ve found that learning to read a teasing properly, and knowing how to tease back are life skills.

The trick to good teasing is knowing what topics are tease-able. What I’ve learnt from Hubby is that you only tease about things that the teasee can tease back on.

For example: Hubby will tease his father about his lack of cooking skills. In turn, my father-in-law replies with a witty retort asking when last Hubby did any cooking. This is followed by something from me along the lines of how Hubby’s braaiing skills are coming on or that he makes a delicious scrambled egg. At some point Hubby will mention that one time my father-in-law apparently cooked a goose … And so the game plays out and everyone goes on to enjoy a delicious meal cooked by neither Hubby nor his father.

Teasing can backfire of course. Depending on the teasee’s reaction (a rise, a counter-rise or a tease-back) the game can either go on or fizzle out. In the worst cases there are tantrums and awkwardness – a nightmare for us teasing Brits.

Lesson 2: Laughing

Gif Eddy Murphy laughFor advice on laughing I’ll turn to Uncle Albert from the 1964 film version of Mary Poppins:

“Some people laugh through their noses, sounding something like this — dreadful! Some people laugh through their teeth, goodness sakes, hissing and fizzing like snakes. Some laugh too fast. Some only blast. Others, they twitter like birds. When things strike me as funny I can’t hide it inside, and squeak as the squeakelers do. I’ve got to let go with a ho ho ho ho and laugh too.”

I doubt we can pick our laugh, but I’m sure that laughing often, will hone said God-given laugh, and will likely be good for the soul. And since laughing is infectious (also proven by Uncle Albert), it should be a good way to spread the joy during pandemics.

Lesson 3: Nonsense

Crap etymologyI had a friend from university, who claimed he was studying ‘Tauruscrapology’. Taurus = bull; crap = ‘you-know-what-that-is’; ology = ‘the study of’. I call him Smartass – he calls me Shortass.

Hubby pointed out that such a field of study could never exist because ‘taurus’ is Latin, ‘crap’ is from the Dutch ‘krappe’ meaning ‘to cut off’ and ‘ology’ is Greek.

What Hubby (and me) and my friend ‘Smartass’ have in common, is a love of nonsense-talk. Playing on words, rhyming, messing around with a bit of nonsense and stepping out of the real world, is a wonderful escape. I see it as the adult version of imaginary play – and absolutely essential for life.

For the last word on nonsense, I turn to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass:

“Contrariwise,’ continued Tweedledee, ‘if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”

Lesson 4: The way you look at the world

Strictly Ballroom 1992Sense of humour failure (SHF) happens to all of us. Be gentle on yourself. Sometimes a good cry, or a glass of wine (don’t drink alone) is the only way to purge the SHF.

Here are some ways that help me to claw back from SHF:

    1. I laugh at myself over the stupid things I say (I’m a total Mrs Malaprop), I laugh through my tears, I laugh with my family. This works most of the time.
    2. I hang around with laughers.
    3. A good film or book gets my mind off me.
    4. Some time in our allotment, or in nature – something to do with fresh air I guess?
    5. A road trip.
    6. Exercise.  

For the final word on this, I turn to the film Strictly Ballroom (1992):

“I’ve got my happy face on, Les! Everything is going to be al right.”

Zoom laughSMALL PRINT:
P.s. A friend of mine from my acting days meets with a group of her pals on Zoom once a fortnight. They call it ‘Ladies who Laugh in Lockdown’. They always have a theme, a glass of something alcoholic and they dress up for the occasion. I love that!
P.p.s. Hubby often accuses me of SHF when I’m overly serious, but what he doesn’t realise, is that his timing is often off. He’s terribly bad (or rather good) at crossing over the line with teasing – and mornings are not the time to tease me!
P.p.p.s. Laughing is good for the face – I’ve proved it myself.
P.p.p.p.s. When experimenting with nonsense, lesson one on teasing applies. Some people will just not get that you’re actually complimenting them (loving them) by talking nonsense. They will accuse you of not taking them seriously. I’m afraid the anti-nonsense types cannot be convinced. Don’t let that put you off – it’s their loss.
P.p.p.p.p.s. I love it when a well timed, clever or funny comment hits home to the truth. I’ve loved the memes and comedy coming out of this crisis. In case you haven’t already watched them, below are 2 of my favourites.

Michael McIntyre’s Chrystal Ball:


Explaining the Pandemic to My Past Self:

3 thoughts on “Sense of humour failure (SHF)

  1. Hi .Laughter is the best medicine.As always a lovely blog with lots to explore as a reader.Well done teaser.x


  2. Charlie and I have really had a few good belly laughs lately – either with each other and something silly someone did or said, but we’ve also managed to catch a few comedy shows on line, those have sent us to bed rather merrily, instead of morosely dreading what the next day may bring. It’s hard to keep things upbeat though, when all around terribly awful things are going on…


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