1. At an early age, you start hating yourself. Often it’s because you were abused, or just grew up in a broken home, or were rejected socially, or maybe you were just weird or fat or … whatever. You’re not like the other kids, the other kids don’t seem to like you, and you can usually detect that by age 5 or so.
2. At some point, usually at a very young age, you did something that got a laugh from the room. You made a joke or fell down or farted, and you realized for the first time that you could get a positive reaction that way. Not genuine love or affection, mind you, just a reaction — one that is a step up from hatred and a thousand steps up from invisibility. One you could control.
3. You soon learned that being funny builds a perfect, impenetrable wall around you — a buffer that keeps anyone from getting too close and realizing how much you suck. The more you hate yourself, the stronger you need to make the barrier and the further you have to push people away. In other words, the better you have to be at comedy.
4. In your formative years, you wind up creating a second, false you — a clown that can go out and represent you, outside the barrier. The clown is always joking, always “on,” always drawing all of the attention in order to prevent anyone from poking away at the barrier and finding the real person behind it. The clown is the life of the party, the classroom joker, the guy up on stage — as different from the “real” you as possible. Again, the goal is to create distance.
From Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves, highly recommended read.
Mr J was the first person to diagnose me as being “always on,” because he was the first person to see me “off.” His directive to me (and something I’m still working on today) was to make “off” my default.
Maybe its part of a larger set of changes in my life since I received the directive, but I am much happier being off-Dylan (read: the real me) than “on-Dylan.”
Humor is…. so incredibly telling. I know I constantly depreciate myself in jokes I make because I don’t want other people to get the benefit of saying it first. And people treat humor like a gift of sorts. If you make someone laugh, they’re not going to want to hurt you as much, you’re of use to them.
Problems come when you get tired of being the funny guy. Suddenly people don’t give a shit. They expect you’ll be the one to carry the conversations along, they’ve been visiting you and bringing you along like they would go to the movies— to be entertained. They act surprised when you’re not trying to jest like someone slapping the sides of an old television— this thing’s busted, now what am I supposed to do.
Humor, good humor, takes experience that’s usually garnered in anger or sadness. It’s not to say you can’t be funny and happy. But humor is a defense mechanism for a lot of people.
Ever notice even if you’re an asshole, if you’re funny, people seem to be easier on you?