The Humor Bandwagon

Scott McKain, a successful professional speaker, posted a funny incident which happened to him and his wife, Tammy, when passing through airport security.  The TSA agent made a comment that Tammy was Scott’s daughter.  Scott is a skilled story teller, so it was well-told and funny.  What followed on Facebook was dozens of comments by friends, who were cyber laughing, and penning jokes suggesting that he was lucky not to be mistaken for Tammy’s grandfather, suggesting that one or the other was a “trophy” spouse, and more.

There are lessons to be learned from Facebook postings like this:

1.  For starters, the story written by Scott used self-deprecation.  One of the best forms of humor is poking fun at yourself.   The foundation of good self-deprecation humor is positive self-esteem.  Self-deprecation humor is usually safe and funny.  If you can’t poke fun at yourself, who else can.  In joking about looking like your spouse’s father or mother, you open the gate to others to join in and also poke fun at YOU.

2.  In most cases, this type of joke (I looked so old) works best when it’s clearly not true.  If someone looked like they were on death’s doorstep, it wouldn’t be funny to joke about them looking like their spouse’s father or grand father.  The truth in this case is that Scott and Tammy are a Trophy Couple.  They would look right at home on the Red Carpet on Oscar night.  Most people wouldn’t know who they were, but they would know that Scott and Tammy belonged there.  So a follow-on joke about Scott looking old is acceptable because it’s understood by most people that it’s a joke and isn’t really true.

3.  In doing roast-like humor you need Permission to do the attack-style jokes that are usually presented.  Permission comes in several forms:

   – First, as we mentioned, Scott gave permission by bringing up the subject in the first place. 

   – Second, you are more likely to have permission if the subject of the jokes is WELL-KNOWN and WELL-LIKED.  Let’s face it, we don’t normally roast people we don’t like.  It’s an honor to be the target of jokes.  It normally means that people like you.

   – Third, people feel more comfortable poking fun at someone if they know that he or she has a good sense of humor.  Scott and Tammy pass the test by sharing the story, for starters, and by their reputation in the National Speakers Association, where Scott is past President.  They are well known and well liked.

4.  When using roast-style jokes, the relationship between you and the target of the joke is part of the structure that gives you permission to do the jokes.  The stronger the relationship between you and the target, the more acceptable the joke will be.  This includes the actual relationship, but more important is the perceived relationship understood by the audience.  A known, close, personal friend can take more liberties than can a casual acquaintance.

Normally, most of these factors, if not all, come into play when joining a thread of discussion and tossing in your two cents worth of jokes.  Be aware of the permission factor and be alert to the risks.  Know when you’re doing a joke “Just for you.”  That type of joke can often have more risk.  And when in doubt about your choice of humor, resist the temptation to join in on the joke-fest.  It’s easy to over-step your humor invitation.