Take one smidge of Kathy Griffin, add a dollop of Robin Williams, then a sprinkling of George Carlin.
What do you get? A personal mix of madness, and a loopy laugh track based on… what?
I find each of these comedians to be funny, or have, at different points in my life. But my sons’ humor? Another matter. One of my boys loves quirky parables and wordplay. The other finds cartoons and mimicry hilarious.
How did that happen?
What do kids find funny and why?
The arm bone’s connected to the… funny bone…
How to explain the differences in my sons’ humor – that one loves comic strips and physical comedy, while the other goes for more intellectual fare – brain teasers and smart sarcasm? It’s been that way since they were little, yet they were raised in the same household, are close in age, and the same gender.
I used to think humor was purely learned and cultural, but having my own kids has shown me otherwise. Is humor genetic? Is it nature or nurture? Or utterly inexplicable?
Icons of sixties and seventies sitcoms
Thinking back to my childhood, I recall my dad listening to Mel Brooks and Bill Cosby on LPs (yes, vinyl) and I remember a great deal of affectionate teasing at family gatherings. Humor was part of the household, with heavy emphasis on puns and double-entendres, with more than a bit of bawdier fare by adolescence.
While some of my friends enjoyed the Stooges, I couldn’t stomach them and still can’t. But Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, a curmudgeonly Carl Reiner or Ed Asner – for me, irresistible. I also remember George Carlin, and the late 70s antics of John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Dan Akroyd and other talents with lines ingrained in my memory. (Landshark!) Then there are a handful of deadpan (word-oriented) French comics who leave me laughing breathlessly.
Where does humor come from?
But I still wonder, where does sense of humor come from?
Cultural influences – family, friends, books, films, schooling – all contribute to our perspectives in everything. And knocking them, mocking them, turning them inside out and highlighting their peculiarities – those form our humor hot spots, and become our humor heritage.
But how do you explain siblings from the same household with dramatically different styles of humor? One who likes slapstick and another who manipulates words? The prankster and the mimic? Is the proverbial funny bone as individual and mysterious as one child’s talent for math and another’s gift for art? Are we in some way predisposed to find certain things amusing?
Laugh until you cry
In tough times, humor keeps us afloat. All hands on deck, all bodies on board, and there are plenty of styles to choose from. For some of us, our romantic choices are more influenced by funny than money; shared laughter is essential.
Good thing, too. On a bad day, a wacky blog post, great stand-up, or a clever commercial can be just what the doctor ordered, without having to file an insurance claim! As for the funny bone actually being a humor gene? Why not?
Currently unable to pursue this area of research (tipsy or otherwise), I’ll just settle for enjoying those times when my children and their friends fill the house with laughter, whatever the reason, even adult humor – precocious devils that they are. And, um… the fact that I allowed my kids to watch South Park when they were quite young surely has nothing to do with their advanced forays into humoristic realms. Hey – those spunky little characters are equal opportunity offenders…
So where do kids get their sense of humor?
- Do you have funny kids?
- Do you have funny pets?
- Are they funny with you or with others?
- Can you tell where they get their humor from?
- What fills your home with laughter?