I kid, I kid…
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. They scare the bejeesus out of me. They really do. I wouldn’t say I am otherwise the bravest guy on this side of the planet, but I’m not that much of a coward either; and yet, I’m scared shitless of these people. The Humor-noids.
It’s hard not to be scared of people without a sense of humor, and the converse is also true; it’s difficult to associate humor as a trait of scary people. This is why it’s hard to imagine Osama Bin Laden doing knock knock jokes, or Ajmal Kasab enthralling crowds with his stand up routines.
I’m not sure if it’s a universal fear, or whether the medical community has decided on some quirky name for this phobia – inhumorophobia? Ok, too cheesy – but I know that I’m certainly not alone in this. In fact, there has been at least ONE addition to this club of people who would dive under the bed and start praying if confronted with the humorless. Tharoor, anyone?
For those who have been too caved up under their workload – yeah, you know I’m talking about you – or too spaced out on beer to read the newspaper in the past week, I’ll give you a short highlight of the Tharoor gaffe. Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, one of the very few political figures in the country tagged with the boon/ bane of education, has been under heavy media and political attack for his recent tweet, where he referred to economy class flight sections as ‘ cattle class’, a punny dig at the airlines for packing flyers like sardines in a can. While the dig was at the airline, a large mass of angry politicians felt he was insulting the people. The tweet in question escalated in notoriety even further as more and more netas lined up to call Tharoor a ‘twit’ for the ‘tweet’… Twit… tweet… get it? How often would they get the chance to pull that off? Add to that the poignant pun of Twitteroor for Tharoor, and let’s face it – which media guy can resist the chance?
In light of the backlash to the tweet in question, to which the perplexed minister has publicly apologized, I think it’s safe to say Tharoor is now rightfully scared of the humorless. He’ll probably test his waters before wading into uncharted territory…
Meeting new people may never be the same. Maybe he’ll start with a small joke to gauge whether acceptable levels of humor prevails before talking freely with someone new.
“Hi, Tharoor, let me introduce you to Mr. Cantakaj Oke, ambassador for Peru”
“You look nervous. Why, you’re sweating… Are you ok??”
“I’m fine… Mr. Oke, nice to meet you. Don’t take this the wrong way, but… Knock knock.”
“I knew it! Dammit”
murmur murmur whisper whisper…
“No, Mr. Oke, I don’t know why the Minister of State for External Affairs jumped out the window”
Let’s keep comedy where it belongs; in the educational reform policies.
Or maybe ministers just shouldn’t joke. When you have so many people looking up to you, pulling apart every word to look for hidden agendas, it may not be a wise idea to … talk funny. So even though Indian politics has been riddled with funny business, let’s just take out the funny part of it. That’s not a bad idea, is it? Humor is not an indispensable part of politics. Whoever heard of a stand up comedian who became president? Some of you may be thinking of George W Bush right now, but may I remind you that he was seldom funny intentionally. So let’s keep politics serious. Let’s keep comedy where it belongs; in the educational reform policies.
I know where the phobia (Lafflessphobia? No; too kiddish) began for me. Back during my student years, I was a laid-back care-free in-house camper, without much care in the world. I went for the entrance exams with all the preparation and rigor that the typical student might put before buying a lottery ticket. And one of the exams I had written was for the ICFAI Business School. I managed to get through to the final stage, where I was supposed to hop in for an interview at the headquarters in Hyderabad. And as any red blooded hard working MBA aspirant would do… or not… I made it into a family trip. Why not? It would be my first trip to Hyderabad; so might as well make it count. So I got my folks, a camera, and two suitcases and appeared at campus looking like a tourist. As lines of jittery, perspiring aspirants queued up in suits and blazers, revising notes and murmuring statistics and current affair snippets, I waited alongside in my T shirt and jeans, tensed only by my apparent lack of tension.
This was my first serious interview, and I had no idea what to expect. But I told myself, hey.. they’re just people. I’ll go and talk to them, and if it turns out to be something I didn’t expect, I can walk out gracefully. Worst case, I can mark off the trip as a vacation and forget about the campus detour. So, armed with the kind of confidence that only a blank mind can muster, I walked in to face the interview almost whistling as I went along.
Ten minutes into the interview, I felt that it was going great. I was chatting about this and that, and so far, none of the interviewers had asked anything that could have exposed ignorance. And we were getting along rather fabulously. In fact, if we had a portrait made of the scene, you could just as well title the artpiece “Old Friends Catching Up On Good Times”; the only thing missing would be a few empty beer bottles. Everybody was smiling, and had any casual passerby taken one steady look, he would have been ready to place a wager that the candidate was doing all right. Things couldn’t have been better, until they got to the part where they started asking about my hobbies…
“A humorist? It says here you’re interested in comedy”
“Well, who isn’t?”
“So you write funny things?”
“I… I try”
I didn’t have a blog at the time, but I used to put in mailers to some friends.
“Ok. Tell me a joke.”
“Tell me a joke.”
Tell him a joke? As in… tell him a joke? Who says that? Did he expect me to talk about the time when a rabbi, a rabbit and a robber walked into a bar? I didn’t know what to tell him. But almost anything would have done better than what I DID end up saying, which was-
“Sure. Tell you what. You give me a seat here, and I’ll tell you a joke”
The smile faded. The eyebrows furrowed. The main interviewer got up slowly, never taking his eyes off the offending party (moi). I’m not willing to swear that smoke wasn’t fuming from his nostrils, but behind him through the windows, I could see clouds gathering, the sky darkening, and lightning revving up its engine. Also, he may or may not have grown to twice his size. I confess I may be re-imagining a lot of the details, but right now, I think back to that moment, and expect him to kick me into a bottomless pit shouting “This is Sparta”
“I… HOPE… that was.. a joke.”, he spit out with considerable effort
I won’t paint a picture of what happened after that. Let us rewrite history to a happy memory of him being put in a straight jacket and dragged away foaming at the mouth. While it wasn’t my finest hour, it couldn’t have been that bad, seeing as how I DID get selected, and FYI, that was not because I bribed the panel with blonde jokes. But the incident opened up a whole new world for me. A dangerous world of hypersensitive mutants who bypassed the humor gene. And I’ve been scared of the bunch ever since.
Hypohumorsensephobia? Nah, too long.