Fine Line Between Humor and Being a Jerk

A joke is always made at someone or something's expense. I try to stay with making fun of ideas because humor that targets people is just disrespect in an ironic container.

I've seen, heard, and read a lot of humor that not only doesn't entertain me, it puts me off the humorist. It's like, okay, this guy's getting laughs for his stand-up routine, but what is he doing besides ranting and talking about people in an insulting way? That's not funny; that's just being an unpleasant person. That brand of behavior can be good if it's delivered right - i.e. a grumpy old man who is knowingly a bit feeble-minded and irrational can be entertaining. Some plainclothes punk criticizing everything without style or character is just obnoxious.

Being aware of this, I often worry about coming off that way. I use humor as an outlet for frustration, and if I distill it and refine it enough, it seems to come across the way I intended. But I'm not always sure of myself, and sometimes I'll flippantly throw something out there off the cuff and I seem to miss everyone's wavelength. Then I have to look back on what I wrote and I can't help but agree.

Then I feel like one of those funny people I don't like. It's a terrible feeling, but sometimes you score and sometimes you don't. Missing the target is how we improve our aim, but if your dart goes into someone's face, then you're in trouble.

Anyway - on to the next round.


  1. I'm very slow at checking my Google Reader so I've only just seen this, and a previous post you wrote. That previous post is now missing from your website, and it leaves me wondering if this post is in connection to that one?

    I am probably considered to be in a couple of those categories you mentioned but I laughed because I thought it was a pretty funny observation. However, humor and how offended you can feel is subjective and there's many things that are too far for me (nothing you've said though) that would have others rolling in the aisles. You're right to want to improve how many times you hit your target, but don't forget that you're a funny guy and the majority of people will be too pumped after you've hit a bullseye to notice the near misses. :)

  2. Zana, I love seeing your three-hearted avatar, because everytime I do, there's sweetness attached.

    I deleted it because, although I was making fun of myself just as much as everyone else, I made a huge number of people the target of the joke and in retrospect, that was pretty stupid of me. It was "social observation humor," but regardless, as much as anyone can appreciate a laugh at their own expense, it can never, ever be as funny as a joke at the expense of someone outside the crowd.

    Fortunately, my friends and audience are uniformly intelligent, mature, good natured, and have a great sense of humor.