Last Saturday night, I spent a boring night with a group of friends. Of the six people I was with, I’d only known two beforehand; one of them, my friend Roland, had invited my friend George and me to join them in wandering around Ann Arbor until we found something to do.
It was the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, and typically there’d be lots of parties going on, but for whatever reason, we didn’t find many. It was a cold night, too—it was definitely below 30 degrees as we walked around for hours in the windy night. Despite all odds, though, there was a period where I found myself really having fun. I’d only known George and Roland beforehand, but I really liked these new people. They all seemed pretty friendly, but I eventually realized that there was one thing in particular that made me really enjoy their company: they laughed at all my jokes.
Most of my jokes were based around my cynical attitude about the night. At one point, we’d seen a large group of girls purposefully striding down the street, and Roland had cried, “Follow the white girls!” With no other plan in mind, we’d actually decided to follow this random group of girls, assuming they’d know someplace to go. I wryly commented to the girl next to me, “Wow. So this is what it’s come to. ‘Follow the white girls’ is our actual strategy.” It wasn’t a brilliant joke by any means, but she laughed a lot, and it made me feel pretty special.
That got me thinking. Is it right to like someone just because they think I’m funny?
I realized that this is something I always do. If I make a joke in class and the person next to me only has a vague, obligatory smile on their face (or no reaction at all), I figure they must not like me that much, and maybe we’re not compatible as friends. Since I enjoy my own sense of humor—I don’t really know why anyone wouldn’t enjoy laughing at something they found funny, unless it was something offensive—the people I usually pursue as friends are the people who find me funny. If a guy finds me riotously funny, that means I’ll usually find him funny, too, unless he’s a person who has a good sense of humor without being actively funny himself.
So maybe humor actually has its uses. Maybe when people start becoming friends with each other, they should laugh a little more than they would otherwise. It’s a sign of friendliness, I think, not only genuine hilarity. When I meet new people, I always tend to laugh more at their jokes more than the jokes my good friends make, if they’re at the same actual humor level. It’s awkward otherwise. No one likes making a joke and hearing total silence in return. If you want to come across as a friendly, nice guy, you need to throw people bones sometimes. It doesn’t mean you’re fake just because you laugh at something you don’t actually think is super funny. It’s an etiquette thing, I think.
Since I started college in September, I’ve realized just how much humor matters to me, in a variety of contexts. Maybe most people wouldn’t say this, but for me, the occasional joke from a professor is almost essential. In long, two-hour lectures, sometimes the only thing that keeps me from falling asleep is a little pun or a funny personal anecdote from the professor. I tend to be much more attentive in classes with hilarious teachers. I mean, I’d rather have an extremely passionate but unfunny professor than a funny but dispassionate one, but still. Humor is a big thing. In addition to that, almost every boring situation can be made fun if I have a few good jokes up my sleeve. That’s how last Saturday was.
It goes beyond that, though. I came to realize that almost all the time, the quality of my day directly correlates with the number of laughs I’ve earned. When I see people laughing because of me, it makes me genuinely joyful. I think, “Wow, I made that person make that sound. How awesome am I?” It’s a genuine self-esteem booster. If I were a much funnier person, maybe I’d consider pursuing stand-up comedy.
When people compliment me and tell me how funny I am—this is not a frequent occurrence, but when it does occasionally happen—it’s one of the nicest compliments I can get. I’ve never been really insecure about my intelligence, or how nice I am; I’m not, like, overconfident in those categories, but I’m not actively worried about them. So when someone tells me that I’m funny, it’s really nice. You know in that video game Skyrim when you can choose to advance in particular skills? Like “Illusion,” “Smithing,” “Alchemy,” etc.? If we could choose to advance in personality traits every once in a while, I’d choose “Funniness” a big portion of the time.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, for me, humor is really important. A laugh is a pure, auditory symbol of happiness, and to make that happen for somebody else feels like a gift when it does occur. It can’t be a sin to like someone partially because they make you feel like a good person.