I‘m not a very funny person, but I know how to take a joke. Sometimes, it feels like the general populace of the Philippines has forgotten how to. Sure, we can laugh at obvious sketch comedies or talk shows on television, but it feels like most jokes fly over our collective heads. I suspect that it’s because rarely do we ever not feel like the butt of the joke.
When someone makes a vaguely insulting remark, we take the most extreme offense and assume it is a personal attack. We resort to threatening deportation or wishing the worst ill on the offenders and their families and the generations to come. When a legitimate satirical comment is made, our first reaction is to get angry, then we fall back on cheap humor. They hurt us, so we hurt them back with weak and uncreative insults that mainly target our new enemy’s physical appearances or personal moral choices. Typical Pinoy humor falls back on meanness, the injured unleashing a barrage of cutting insults on the person who dared make a joke at one’s expense. This retaliation is an attempt to embarrass and humiliate, comedy club-style, but it’s behavior that’s rampant in comedy clubs, noontime shows, Twitter fights, grade school spats with classmates… The list goes so on.
Not even the self-deprecating jokes get spared from this too-earnest oversensitivity either. Make one dumb joke about hating your life and your choices—despite it being an obvious melodramatic hyperbole—and someone will inevitably misconstrue it as a cry for help, offering a well-meaning albeit completely unnecessary “Uy, ‘wag naman ganyan.”
Satire is a concept almost entirely lost on the general public, too. What was once a vehicle used for critique without actually calling stuff out has become the scapegoat to post truly outrageous, untrue things on a blog of lies, parading as a “satirical website.” That’s not satire; that’s just duping people into believing your lies.
For some inane reason, a lot of humor falls flat here. I think it’s because we have yet to learn how to not takes things personally. When someone makes an obviously untrue, sweeping generalization, we get affected and we lash out. There are way too many butthurt people who are so vain and self-absorbed that they think every little thing’s about them. Even worse, their first reaction always seems to be anger and offense. Worst of all, they tend to retaliate, meanly and obscenely.
Have we become too emotional, too sensitive, too earnest (cough, gullible, cough), and too self-involved to recognize, let alone appreciate, a joke? Writing good jokes is an art form. It takes a lot to make good jokes: carefully crafted collection of words that can elicit anything from a chuckle to a giggle to a full-on belly laugh. Cheap, prank-based humor is a hole you kind of just have to fall into, if you’re looking for easy laughter. But there’s really no need to resort to meanness, insults, or downright lies. Granted, there are many types of humor, but I think we all owe it to ourselves to try harder. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
How funny is a joke, really, if you have to explain it? If you have to attach a “just kidding” or a “joke lang,” did you really get your point across? Do we really need to invent a font for sarcasm or do we need to tell better jokes? Do we just need to stop getting offended by every little thing?