A recent post in which I suggested that if your joke has a target that it should be you, yourself (rather than cause someone else pain or embarrassment) elicited some very emotional comments from people who, based on their own experience, agreed with that suggestion.
You never know if the person you are “jokingly insulting” would be hurt. And, the old childhood saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” is one of the most incorrect (if not downright ludicrous) statements that humankind has thus far put forth.
This reminds me of a person I used to work with we’ll call “Dave” (not his real name, of course) whose general theme of humor was to “kiddingly” insult people. In most cases, it went like this: he insulted, they didn’t laugh. He explained, “I’m only joking” and they chuckled begrudgingly. He thought it all worked out fine.
They didn’t like him.
At one point, I took him aside and said, “Dave, if you have to explain to someone that you were ‘just joking’ then there’s a really good chance it wasn’t funny in the first place. Here’s an ‘oldie but goodie’…if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.'”
Dave never really “got it.” Some people don’t.
Actually, I enjoy even more the Native American saying, “If it doesn’t serve, don’t say it.”
Benjamin Franklin, in his famous, “Poor Richard’s Almanac” wrote, “Thou canst not joke an enemy into a friend; but thou may’st a friend into an enemy.”
In my opinion, if you have to insult someone else to be funny, it’s probably best not to be funny. Yes, if anyone is to be insulted or poked fun at, it should be ourselves.
Come to think of it: why did we love Rodney Dangerfield so much? Aside from his brilliance, perhaps because he was always the target of his own jokes.
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