In my family, comedy is a more like a necessary survival skill than an art. There’s no better way to pass off an awkward moment than to throw out a good joke. Or if you have something interesting to say, it’s best expressed indirectly through a snarky comment at the dinner table. And heaven save the person who can’t catch all the inside jokes constantly recycled through conversation! If you can’t recite the latest youtube video by heart, you’d best at the very least be able to break into song when something is even remotely reminiscent of a Disney movie line. This is how we communicate in my family and show that we’ve been through all the same movies together a million times. Our language is one of bonding and closeness, the likes of which no visitor can fully comprehend without later needing visits to their family shrink.
Honestly, there’s a sort of hierarchy of humor to the whole system. If Humor were a business building, then my first younger brother Jonathan (nicknamed Jonji) would be the CEO. Following him, there would be the third brother Adam, whose quirkiness is uniquely his own and therefore unquestionable. What he says may seem odd, but it is always funny. Ben the second brother is next in line, with a large 5’11” frame that sometimes keeps us from messing with him even after an occasional failed quip. Michael’s only 11 and he struggles to get a word in edgewise oftentimes, but he’ll laugh along with everyone else, and he gets nearly all the references.
Dad works hard to keep up with things. Because he’s an adult, things are a little different for him, and so his humor ranges between acceptable and worthy of having him forcibly removed from the comedy business building forever.
Mom and I have always shared our place outside the entrance of that building. On warm days we sweat it out, but on cold days we shiver together in our rejection. Neither of us is particularly funny, and our attempts at wit are met with little enthusiasm. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it, but if you don’t, you don’t. This has only gotten worse since I left for college. As time passes, I lose track of the latest catch phrases, and there’s no one to joke with to keep my humor as sharp as it’ll get. So I return to the dinner table during breaks sometimes and feel completely overwhelmed. Mom’s laugh is empathetic as well as sympathetic. She understands the hollow feeling a failed joke leaves in your stomach as everyone pretends not to have heard you. Her laugh is meant as encouragement, because even if I’m not a funny gal, I’m still loved. And so when she finally gets a joke, a little after the beat, I too sometimes make an effort to laugh together with her, because I believe in laughter given out of love.