Wyn Drabble: Darker side to Lighter Side no laughing matter

By Wyn Drabble

Wyn Drabble.
Wyn Drabble.

Sometimes I have to answer questions from young people looking at career choices.

In other words, I am called on to impart wisdom.

One young bloke said he enjoyed reading this weekly piece and could I tell him more about the joys of this field.

I was able to say that it is nearly all fun but there are two sides to it.

The fun side of being a humour columnist, I said, is the feedback.

Total strangers might come up in the supermarket and thank me for making them burst into laughter over something I wrote.

That encourages me because I see laughing as very high on the list of life's essentials. It's up there with eating, breathing and ice-cold beer.

But there is a dark side. There are people who have a different sort of sense of humour and actually take what I write seriously.

They might say they agree or disagree or that my argument lacks supporting data.

In that last sentence alone, there are four words or phrases which I see as having no place in a response to what I write, which is all tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted comment on aspects of our everyday lives.

The more trivial, the better. To raise a giggle is my simple aim.

When I see such responses, therefore, I wonder whether I have carelessly strayed into the realms of seriousness, whether I have underused irony, not been flippant enough.

But then I weigh things up. No, the space is called The Lighter Side so that should be the first clue that my purpose is not to stimulate robust debate.

It is simply to present the lighter side of our sometimes humdrum existence and, if I'm lucky, raise a chortle. (To last week's texter, yes it is a word and a very good one at that.)

Are you still listening, young person?

"Yes, I am but I'm in shock. I had never imagined that there were people who would take it seriously. How could they?"

I understand but if my column is in danger of being taken seriously, of creating agree and disagree camps, I must rescue it at once.

After all, there is too much seriousness in the world and the odd reflective chuckle is vital if we are to continue as happy, healthy humans.

I thought hard about how I could make my writings less serious but I kept coming back to the idea that it could just be a case of humour being different for different people.

That senses of humour differ greatly is demonstrated clearly by a notice just inside the doorway of my personal workplace. It reads "PLEASE IGNORE THIS NOTICE".

Now there are those who see it, smirk and carry on with their life. They understand it. But there are others who frown and ask questions about it.

Explaining it is pointless; humour shouldn't be explained.

Or perhaps my problem is that I haven't used enough irony.

I'm cautious as it can be a dangerous tool. I'm certainly not as cruel as Oscar Wilde who said that "irony is wasted on the stupid".

I'm not that harsh. I simply accept that some people don't get it.

So, in order to improve, I will try to be even more flippant and more ironic from now on.

I will try to deal with even more trivial subjects and push my tongue harder into my cheek.

So, young person, there are the two sides. I hope that helps. I certainly don't want to divide people. I just want to make them chortle.

"Thanks, but perhaps I'll look into accountancy instead."

- Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, musician and public speaker.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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