Service of the Similar Reaction to Temper and Humor

October 1st, 2020

Categories: Anger, Boss, Boundaries, Humor, Politicians, Politics, Temper

Photo: guystuffcounseling.com

I know about temper. Mine is the worst. Batten down the hatches when I blow up. Nothing funny about me.

I think reactions to some humor and temper are similar in their disparity. The way the same words and tone are interpreted in a range of ways–as nasty by some, humorous by others–works for both comedy and anger.

In vintage slapstick movies, when a character slips on a banana peel, I wonder, “Did he hurt himself?” I never chuckle while many think such scenes are hilarious.

Photo: menshealth.com

Does anyone remember the 1980s Broadway audience participation smash comedy in which the actors ridiculed participants mostly for things they couldn’t change? I don’t recall its title. The audience doubled over as I sat stone-faced when actors ridiculed an older man sitting next to an attractive much younger woman. They brought on stage the nerdiest looking short man to stand by one of the actresses, a 6-foot beauty and kept returning to a bald man in the audience to make a hat slip off his head [and bald pates were not in fashion]. Sidesplitting for most but not for me.

The day after the presidential debate Michael Riedel and newsman Joe Bartlett, on WOR Radio’s Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning, thought what the president had said was “funny.” I love to laugh but I reacted to his barbs, fierce faces, incessant, uncontrolled interruptions by pacing my bedroom and shaking in dread. I felt no connection to the laughter they mustered while producing sound bytes of his performance.

A friend worked for a man who terrified the office by screaming at his employees. She said she’d freeze at her desk when she heard him even though the verbal arrows, at top volume, weren’t directed at her and never had been. I suspect the man thought he was garnering respect. Maybe this is what the president had in mind.

Sometimes when an angry person feels cornered, outmatched or out of control, he’ll say things he doesn’t mean, that make little sense, are not true and are uttered only to hurt. Has anyone ever said to you, “I was just joking” after such an encounter?

The inspiration for humor that makes fun of others–especially about physical things they cannot change such as age, height and lack of comeliness–may be different from what sparks anger but the impact strikes viewers/listeners in two ways: they think the words are funny or not.

Do you see a resemblance between people’s contrasting reactions to temper and some humor? Have you found words of an angry person funny? Is mocking a person’s physical deficiencies or trip-ups a source of amusement for you?

Photo: newsroom.niu.edu

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8 Responses to “Service of the Similar Reaction to Temper and Humor”

  1. Helen Rabinovitz Said:

    Okay….here goes. I have a daughter in a power wheelchair. Always worried she’d be made fun of. 99% of the time I was wrong. Here’s why. It’s because she’s beautiful, talks like a lawyer and is a genius. I have a good friend who was the head of the office on disabilities in Massachusetts. She also had a daughter in a power chair. Just not as blessed as mine. Yes there were issues in public school with people making stupid and hurtful comments. She always said my Lisa was lucky that she was the pretty girl in the power chair. It’s sad that anyone would joke about the circumstances of a person in a power chair or on crutches or anything that is different from the supposed norm. Jokes aren’t funny….in fact they’re very hurtful. That’s all I have to say.

  2. Lucrezia Said:

    There was this fellow in a motorized wheel chair who played at a now defunct bridge club on West 72nd Street. After the game, we’d race to his building, and once arrived, he’d hand me a key to let him inside. It was a crying shame that one so young was confined to this mechanism, but he was making the best of a bad thing, with me as an occasional co-conspirator. Most handicapped appreciate being treated as humans, and resent pity, no matter how well intentioned.

    Yes, I laugh at the old banana peel stunt, with the expectation no one is hurt. I’ve yet to see such a happening outside of a movie. Should this happen off-stage, I trust most will have the good grace to be of assistance, if needed. Whether or not to laugh depends upon the “victim’s” reaction and/or harm done.

    Children are not necessarily born nasty, and many are carbon copies of adults, so when brats laugh at someone’s misfortune, or come up w/a gratuitous insult, one may rest assured of an elder’s influence. Mr./Ms. Brat often grow up having learned nothing and openly revel at the trials of others. We have been seeing way too much of this behavior recently, and the one or ones who return the favor with a sharp slap, virtual or otherwise, should be awarded a medal for public service.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Helen,

    Thank goodness your daughter has not suffered from taunts of others. When the head of our country imitated a person with a disability at a rally in front of a camera it become open season for the nasty to imitate. It’s an ugly image hard to erase from my memory.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Whether or not children are born nasty I have no idea but they may not understand the power of their comments or taunts. You were diligent in making your children aware and if other parents can’t be bothered, that might be another reason, along with imitating their parents, as you suggest or president.

    I was following my frail husband across the main floor of Grand Central Terminal. He walked slowly and slightly bent over pulling his small suitcase. Several boys imitated him laughing as they did. I was about to reprimand them but he hadn’t heard or seen them. I wanted to follow him closely to steady him if needs be. I still feel hurt that they made fun of him and didn’t acknowledge his valiant effort to carry on and I am angry at myself because I hadn’t figured out, on the spot, how to tell them not to do that in future without calling his attention to them. It was the only time it happened that I witnessed.

  5. MarthaTakayama Said:

    I don’t find humour in the disaster of others. I don’t really think that seeing someone slip on a banana peel is amusing. I feel badly for the subject of this non-joke. I don’t really enjoy slapstick, but prefer wit.find it hurtful and appalling to make fun of physical limitations, or handicaps. I know Lisa, Helen’s daughter, and shudder to think that people would make fun of her. I have always been impressed by her bravado and strength of character which are as much a part of her attractive presence and beauty.

    I can’t think of anyone who sets a worse behavioral example than the genocidal misfit in the White House. I can not control my revulsion to his cruel and juvenile mockery of a handicapped reporter. Pretending that cruel or outrageous things said in anger were meant to be humorous doesn’t really constitute effective behavior. An apology is much more appealing.

  6. JBS Said:

    I thought the president’s debate performance was funny.

  7. BC Said:

    Debate: Capitalism vs. Socialism. Trump was not elected for his personality but for his policies. All was going well til the Chinese sent us germ warfare. They were/ are determined to cripple our economy. Worry they will send us something else once we get COVID 19 under control.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    JBS,

    I wish I could laugh.

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