As a Filipino magician aspiring to make my show fun and memorable, I’ve been seriously studying comedy writing.
Most resources on this subject are one in saying that a performer must be funny to be funny. They say someone who isn’t funny can’t be taught how to be funny.
I’m not sure if this claim is cast in stone. I’m not a humor expert. I’m just a wannabe. But for some reason, I don’t fully agree with this observation. I don’t know why. Allow me to rack my brain for a few days, and maybe I’ll come up with a reason.
In the meantime, let me tell you a story that validates the claim that humor can’t be taught. While I’m not sure if comedy is unteachable, I believe some people have a sense of humor, while others don’t. This is the part I’m sure of.
The story I’m about to tell you happened in real life. It happened to my cousin Vaughn when he was still in college. He was watching a comedy movie with his Daddy whom we suspected had no sense of humor. That particular TV watching episode would prove beyond reasonable doubt that Vaughn’s dad was cursed with a lack of sense of humor.
The scene on the TV screen was that of a robber who sneaked into a large house (a mansion, actually) with the intention of stealing money and jewelry inside. Unbeknown to the robber, the millionaire who owned the house kept a lion—not ferocious attack dogs, but a large, man-eating lion—in his yard to guard his property.
While the robber was stealthily crossing the yard, the lion was stalking him from behind. When the robber moved to the right, the lion moved to the right. When he moved to the left, it moved to the left. When he stopped moving to observe the surrounding, the lion also stopped, just inches behind him.
It was a very funny scene, very nicely choreographed to elicit laughter. My cousin Vaughn was in stitches, rolling on the floor with laughter.
His dad, meanwhile, was silent. He did not even smile. He was watching the scene with laser focused attention. When Vaughn doubled up with laughter, his guffaws becoming louder, his dad snapped, “Why are you laughing? That’s a suspenseful scene, not funny. The guy is going to be eaten by the lion, and you are laughing your head off!”
Same scene, different reactions.
This story reminds me of Leodini’s favorite saying, “He who laughs last…didn’t get the joke.”