I enjoy humor. So I took delight in checking out the online dental humor discussed in Lory Laughter’s “Web Weaving” column this month.
The columnists of RDH and myself engage in a lively banter a couple of times a year about a certain canned luncheon meat. The photo from RDH to the columnists during the last Christmas season consisted of the magazine’s three primary editors standing underneath a wreath, holding cans of the meat as if they were candles. The photograph sparked some jokes among us.
During the exchange of humorous insults about luncheon meat, I added one about mimes — the artists in facepaint stuck inside four invisible walls. There’s a good chance I may have offended someone with that joke. I don’t like mimes, but I recognize the cultural impact of the theatrical medium, which requires extensive training. The ironic part is that you would think that I would enjoy a mime’s performance. Mimes can’t use speech during their performance, and the whacked-out auditory system of the hearing-impaired RDH editor would not have to interpret the meaning of any verbal statement.
I’ve never asked a mime, “Can you repeat that? I didn’t quite hear you.”
Jay Leno once cracked a joke about the limitations of deafness, and I was briefly offended. Since I am a student of humor, I did not dwell on it. I still watch all of the late night comedians when I’m not feeling too sleepy.
Lory’s advice about incorporating dental humor does, of course, encroach on dangerous territory. Humor can fail, often with disastrous results. It often is not politically correct, as it can affect the self-esteem of mimes, deaf editors, and patients who are very uncomfortable about an oral condition in their mouths. The risk involved with wanting someone to laugh with you is well documented in our comedies — the other person doesn’t laugh. The handsome star actor’s joke, for example, doesn’t quite resonate with the father of the beautiful actress he’s courting.
As I have written here before, I once visited a famous “keynote” speaker at his home. On stage, he had his audiences in stitches, including me. So naturally I made the assumption he would be funny in his private world. He wasn’t. Plus, I’m pretty sure that was canned luncheon meat on top of the crackers on the serving tray. Since that experience, I developed this weird, irritating habit of trying to figure out who keynote speakers really are when they’re not onstage.
“You feel empowered, don’t you? Are you ready to take the next step toward your personal enrichment?”
I change the subject. “Is that your dog? Cute dog. Are you going to kick it to let some of that energy out of you? Go ahead and kick it. I know you want to.”
“No, I’m fine. Which publication did you say you were with?”
I have two basic conclusions about humor:
- Don’t try too hard with it. Find something amusing about your current surroundings and companions, and steer the conversation in that direction.
- Self-deprecation fails less often. If the joke is about your quirks ...
The catch with the latter point is that funny dental professionals use humor willfully and with confidence. They literally insist that the world is a funny place to live in, and you can’t help but laugh with them. Lory’s menu of funny online sources of humor includes a dentist’s blog who laments about a patient who ignores all warnings about an oral condition over several years, yet calls the doctor at home at 5 p.m. on a Saturday evening to complain about the pain associated with it. Patients are funny too. I wonder if doctors/hygienists kick their dogs after receiving such phone calls at home.