Do You Have a Good Sense of Humor?
By Jep Hostetler
What does it mean when we say, he/she has a "good sense
of humor?" It is an interesting question when one realizes
that a sense of humor is one of the highest character attributes
when seeking a prospective mate. The term "sense of humor"
is most likely highly specific to the person making the statement.
For example, if one was reared in a family where sarcasm was
seen as humor, then by example sarcastic humor is seen as the
norm. On the other hand, if practical jokes were a part of ones
experience, then a person who enjoys, participates in, or is
the brunt of harmless practical jokes (and is a good sport about
it) can be seen as a person with a good sense of humor. Still
others see a sense of humor as an attribute for those who laugh
well, have an easy smile, and who are not afraid to participate
in all out belly laughing. Then there are those who are actually
skilled at telling a joke, with excellent timing, they remember
the punch line, and they can deliver it with the surprise ending
that is needed. Puns, oxymorons and riddles are also a part of
the picture. They are often called "groaners" and they
are cherished in some families much more than others. A person
of wit can also be seen as a person with a sense of humor. Even
a person, who enjoys clowning, or clowning around, is seen as
a person with the attribute. The list of styles of sense of humor
can be quite extensive, but it would not be complete without
the ubiquitous "dry sense of humor." This "dry"
sense of humor is family-defined, culturally bound, and definitely
in the eye of the beholder.
When I ask people whether they have a sense of humor, the
answers are tied to what they perceive this to mean. In other
words, they relate to a specific type of sense of humor. They
see themselves as having any of the attributes that relate to:
1. Enjoying sarcastic humor
2. Participating in harmless practical jokes
3. Laughing easily
4. Being able to tell a joke
5. Welcoming puns, oxymorons, riddles
6. Having wit
8. Having a dry sense of humor
Is it possible that the person with a "good" sense
of humor is capable of enjoying, participating in, and welcoming
all of the styles of humor? The reason this is mentioned is that
we often say someone has a good sense of humor as just a sense
of humor. This seems to indicate that some folks have a sense
of humor while others have a good sense of humor. It indicates
that there are different levels to this marvelous character trait.
If people have a good sense of humor, are they seen as frivolous,
inane, or silly? This is clearly suggested when one attempts
to bring either a sense of humor or humor into the worship setting.
It is all right to have humor on a Sunday evening, or at the
weekend retreat, or for the young people, but certainly do not
bring a clown into the worship service. Worship is too important
and serious to involve this kind of silliness.
Why not look at the list above and answer the question, "Do
I have a sense of humor?" If you were to defend your position,
what would you have to say about your own understanding of this
characteristic? What was your family like? Where did you learn
about humor? What shape has your sense of humor taken?
Jep Hostetler, Ph.D., Columbus, Ohio, is a humor consultant
and author. He is an associate professor emeritus at the Ohio
State University College of Medicine. He and his wife Joyce
serve as the staff persons for the Mennonite Medical Association.
Mennonite Historical Bulletin, October 2000