Tuesday, 11 August 2009

About what is funny. Or not?

David: You know how I know you're gay?
Cal: How? Cause you're gay? And you can tell who other gay people are?
David: You know how I know you're gay?
Cal: How?
David: You like Coldplay.

(The 40 Year Old Virgin)

Tonight, we were watching a movie with William Defoe . After 9 years of being married to a guy, you often know what he might say next. So, husband said:

-I saw him naked on stage! He has an enormous…
- I know- I said- You know how I know? Because you tell me every single time his name appears on the screen. (Somewhat worrying, to be honest..)

So,of course! I wind husband up about being gay. And husband thinks it is funny.

So why the hell are other people so sensitive?

Say, this friend. He was over at our place, we were waiting for dinner, and I offered him a beer. He said he was not ready for one yet, as he wanted to go for a walk (quote) to admire the sunset. That is just a little bit gay, don’t you find? Which is what I said.

Of course, I don’t really think he is gay. I was jo-ki-ng. He is a friend, he knows me. So he should get me, right?

But no, not always.

When it comes to humor, I never know what reaction to expect. A lot of it is about personalities, but in my case, I also blame this cocktail of the two very different cultures in my head.

I can not simply blame Azeri background, because I would sooo not get away with 'you are so gay' joke back home. Or would I? I would not know anymore. I can also, comforted by the ease with which I have assimilated, tell a Russian joke to someone here-just to get a blank stare back: Russian jokes are famously funny only for ex-Soviets. Nobody else gets them.

And of course, I annoy Azeries, too. In fact, I probably annoy them a lot more than I annoy the Brits.

The other day a guy I knew back home posted some very abstract stuff on his Facebook profile. (He is a writer these days)
Something about him walking in a desert, seeing a word and dropping on his knees in a worshiping ecstasy.

Too much drugs!- I commented. Was not even a particularly original joke.

But he told me it was not funny. He rapidly deleted my comment.

So...I joke and no longer know where that joke fits: is it the UK or back in Azerbaijan? Is it going to insult, annoy or get a polite but confused smile back?

Oh, well. I believe I successfully manage to upset both sides.


  1. I have somewhat the same problem like you. Really like you hit my nerve. It's very hard to convey irony or sarcasm online... But I love it and sometimes can't just not write a silly remarks. I think you have a similar sense of humour like me :)

  2. I guess the reactions are much more related to the sensitivity of the person you are joking with. And some cultural background as well.

  3. He does ALWAYS mention Willen Dafoe's you=know-what, right? I'm with you!

  4. I think it is more down to sensitivity than culture, as most forms of irony or sarcasm can bridge the culture gap but not the sensitivity of individuals.

  5. All humor needs a common frame of reference. Some things are universally funny across most cultures: kids, parents, siblings, husbands/wives, mothers in law (a timeless classic). More specialized topics that are language/geography/religion/culture bound are harder to cross. I personally love comedians who successfully cross the cultural boundaries and find enough common ground to be seriously funny: Adam Ferrara, George Lopez & Omid Djalili (to name a few) do it really well.

  6. Ahmad:

    I hope your "Coldplay" rule doesn't relate to azeri :)