What makes one funny?
The other day I had a big smile thinking about a couple of funny people and what makes them funny. One is skilled, one not. However, they may be the two funniest people I know. Oddly, they are two of the most open, caring and best listeners I know. Their differences are huge but humor links it all. They are an old radio guy and the other is my youngest son.
You are expected to be funny on the radio. You at least had better be engaging. You start out shouting and telling the equivalent of knock-knock jokes. It can be funny, but it wears on people. You want a one-on-one relationship with listeners. You also want them to feel that they could hang out with you and you would be the funniest guy at their party.
I was green when I moved to Montana and took over the morning show. In the background was a stately 60-year-old radio veteran. He was a great mentor and friend. I must point out that he was the greatest storyteller I have ever known. He could make you sit back and listen as he read a recipe. He was just that good.
His travels had taken him all over the countryside, one low rent station to another. He saw a lot of living and it showed on and off the air. It was crazy and awkward that I was his boss. He was working very part time helping out with the news. I am very grateful for that job, mostly because of him.
One early morning he came into the studio and sat down. He blurted out, "This is the key to telling a story. Always tell the truth, it is more interesting. Tell it slow, with a clear voice. Then stop. Don't tell the whole story. The end is very rarely that good."
Then he used my own story as an example. My wife and I had gone out to dinner for our anniversary and she had a drink. She came home and fed our 2-month-old. The kid then went to sleep for 24 hours. I needed to stop there. Instead I went on to say how the baby had been sick for a couple days and simply needed to catch up on sleep. With that, I ruined it.
He also taught me the value of the "hook." This is the carrot on the stick that keeps you wanting more. Timing was another valuable tool; the biggest advantage is learning to pause. Then the clean factor -- everything must be funny clean. If you have to rely on filth and vulgarity, it is not really funny. That is brilliant. In short, I learned a lot.
I have always thought that I am pretty funny. I hope that I have gotten more refined after my education in Montana. Well, I have always wanted to be funny. My wife on the other hand has always thought that I am not funny -- not at all. But I still have to work at it. For my youngest son, it the exact opposite.
He is just plain funny. It is how he sees the world. Things that I find mildly funny, he takes deeper. That makes me laugh. Seeing an 8-year-old understand jokes that I miss is wonderful. He will add the perfect comment at just the right time. It is never what you are thinking. It is way better than what you are thinking.
The other day we were driving and saw a girl that my older son has a crush on. He turns and looks and me, "this is when you wish you had a bull horn in the car." How do you even comment on that?
A kid and an old guy are the two funniest people I know. After thinking about it for a long time I can't decide who is funnier. One is far more skilled and the other has no skills, just funny. I enjoy both and am completely comfortable with the fact that are both far more funny than I will ever be.