Rey's Humour Page

I hope I haven't misled you to this page. I don't provide a list of jokes here, nor will you find links to sources on the Internet regarding humour. There are lots of those and they are easy to find without my help. This page is more of a short biographical essay on the role and value of humour in my life. I know that my spiritual life is closely entwined with humour and I believe that humour, which I define as the ability to laugh at myself and see a twinkle in what a higher power has brought to us, is probably one of the most powerful life giving forces within the universe.

My older brother delights in telling me that when he would see me on the backporch when I was an infant in my buggy, he would often find me sitting up with a big grin on my face and making gurgling sounds, all of which indicated that my diaper was full. So I must have learned very early that life is an opportunity to have fun. I have since read that one of the earliest signs of creativity and intelligence is the ability to perceive the world as funny.

Everyone in my family has a great sense of humour. It's one of the wonderful things about getting together with each other. We don't necessarily tell jokes. Actually we all have the same trait: we love jokes, but can hardly remember them a few minutes after hearing a really good one. I think maybe I'm a better joke listener than a joke teller.

The main exception to this joke amnesia is that another person might be saying something and all of a sudden I am reminded of a joke that someone told me (who knows how long ago), and then I can tell the joke. What seems to be important to me about joke telling is that it fit whatever context we are discussing rather than just telling joke after joke.

My next oldest brother introduced me to a friend of his who loves to tell jokes, but also has trouble remembering them. When we first met, he pulled from his wallet, a note that was folded many times over, accordion style, that had the punchlines of probably about 500 jokes. He used this to clue himself and then he could tell the joke. He was a wonderful joke teller and eventhough I had heard many of his jokes previously, I enjoyed his enthusiasm. Of course, a good joke is still funny no matter how many times you hear it.

My sense of humour is mostly cast in the use of wit and natural humour. That is, I can see or observe or hear about a situation and I will often respond with a funny remark. Several of my friends are like this too, so when we get together we often talk over the day's news and proceed to make sense of the world through humour.

About 25 years ago, some friends had a band and they wanted to put on a concert at a local auditorium. They asked me to be the on-stage host for the event, something I had never done before, but they thought I could do it because, as a teacher and seminar leader, I was used to working with big groups and I would do it for nothing.

I agreed to do it, but I didn't prepare anything specific. That is, I didn't write out lines or things to say. There were about 300 people in the audience and the only prop I brought with me was TV Guide. I started to tell the audience what they were missing as a result of showing up for this concert. People actually started laughing at the various things I had to say about the different TV shows. (I am a TV addict by the way.) Fortunately I had enough presence of mind to realize the concert was not about me, it was about the music my friends were going to play, so I introduced them and between setting up for each group, I filled the audience in on what was now on the tube.

The next day the local paper had a review of the concert. It praised the musicianship of the players and did a great job furthering their careers. The review also called me a "raconteur." Although I live in a bilingual country, I had no idea what this meant. After looking it up in the dictionary, I settled on the meaning: story-teller. This suited me just fine and I believe it is probably the best way to describe my main involvement with humour.

Making fun of everyday things is probably why I really like and love to see the routines of some professional comedians. My favorite comedians are Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneris, Paula Poundstone, Louie Anderson, Bob and Ray, Jay Leno (before he was on the Tonight Show), my brothers, my friends Dale and Mike, and my nephew-in-law, Ron. I grew up on Bob Hope, Jackie Mason, Señor Wences, Rodney Dangerfield, Jack Benny, the Honeymooners, Desi and Lucy and other TV comedians.

Several years ago I was attending a conference in Seattle with some graduate students and I happened to notice when I took a walk from the conference hotel, that Jerry Seinfeld was appearing live at the Fifth Avenue Theatre. At this time, he had only made a couple of guest appearances on the Johnny Carson show and wasn't really well known. But I recalled his Late Night routine and started to laugh right there just seeing his name. I went and bought a dozen tickets and excitedly returned to the conference and distributed them to the group who were part of our conference team.

We had to miss the banquet dessert that evening to walk around the corner to the theatre and I had a heck of a time trying to explain to my colleagues why I thought Jerry Seinfeld, who they had never heard of, was better than a chocolate parfait and why they should risk the embarrassment of leaving the banquet early to go to a show. It was worth it. We all had sore cheeks and stomachs that evening from laughing so hard. Yet, he never told one joke. He just told stories about various things and remarked on every day events. His eventual fame was well deserved and helped me understand what I liked best about humour: natural wit and the ability to perceive humour in everyday situations.

This is not always a good thing. Sometimes such a funny remark can interfere with developing a relationship with another person; it can also be a way to defend against some painful feelings, or it can just be disrespectful. A friend once told me that she was afraid to tell me something embarrassing that had happened to her because she perceived me as always "making light of things." While I thought of that as a strength, others see it as a fault.

There have also been times when I recognize that my use of humour is a way of changing a difficult or tense situation. While the humour might break the tension and provide some relief, it may also distract me (or others) from dealing with the real problem. So again, what might appear to me to be a strength, can sometimes be a weakness.

I have had my share of adversity and tragic events. And while I am in the midst of the experience I have to struggle to find something funny about it. But gradually I do, although it isn't the only way I respond. Finding something humourous about the event has been a way for me to learn about it, to search for what meaning the event has for me, and eventually the humour has become a way for me to preserve that meaning and keep it with me.

As a professional trainer, I use humour in virtually all my workshops and seminars. Again, I don't really tell jokes. As a matter of fact, I sometimes start off a session by saying that I have a really hard time remembering jokes and then ask if there is a member in the audience who would like the opportunity to tell a joke. As various activities take place in the seminar, they might remind me of a funny story, or I might make a funny remark about something that is happening. Evaluations of my work often include participants expressing appreciation for my sense of humour.

I love hearing my friend Dale tell stories. He is so good with accents and context that every story he tells makes me laugh no matter where or how many times I may have heard it previously. My business partner David is also great at telling stories about his kids, and I am forever laughing at some of his anecdotes. Having a sense of humour and appreciating humour in others is a spiritual experience for me. Like Norman Cousins, I am convinced that humour is a way to maintain our health and keep in contact with our soul. When my friend, partner or soulmate share a laugh, I know that much more than humour passes between us.

"Life is truly a ride. We're all strapped in, and no one can stop it. As you make each passage from youth to adulthood to maturity, sometimes you put your arms up and scream, sometimes you just hang onto the bar in front of you. But the ride is the thing. I think the most you can hope for at the end of life is that your hair is messed, you're out of breath, and you didn't throw up." (Jerry Seinfeld)

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