That’s Not Funny! Or Is It?

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Contrast.

Does a sense of humor change as we age? Or does it change as we allow ourselves  to become freer or more comfortable with who we are?

Attract Him Back

I’ve written both suspense and romantic comedy. Actors say that comedy is harder than dying, and as a writer, I definitely believe it’s harder than “killing.” The problem with writing romantic comedy is that humor is subjective. One person’s “funny” is another’s “appalling.”

For example,  when  romantic  comedy  and  chick-lit was just becoming the new trend in New York’s publishing circles in the late 90’s, several twenty-something  editors described books they liked and what they liked about the humor in them. One 25-year-old editor told a group of women authors how hilarious  it was that the hero in the story impressed the heroine by pulling on a condom over  his face. The authors didn’t  find it funny.  At all. They  were  appalled  that  the hero  would  act  so  unheroically, even in a comedy. Personally, I didn’t find  it that amusing either, but maybe I would have if I’d read the actual passage. Maybe, just maybe, something was lost in the editor’s telling of the story. Even so, I was in my mid-30’s and didn’t really find it that entertaining, but just to  appease  my  editor’s sense  of  humor  in  my  second comedy, I did make some reference to fellatio not being an opera. She didn’t get it.

In the early 90’s, a writer friend tried to explain why women in their 20’s would definitely find condom humor funny. Women in their 40’s, she said—she was older than that, then—wouldn’t find it as amusing and what women in  their  40’s  would  find  funny  would  be appalling to women in their 20’s. She said that once you reach your 40’s, you take yourself less seriously and can start to have fun. I was a few weeks older than 30 then, and the example she gave me was one I found…appalling.

She told the story of a woman who’d been shy in her  20’s but really knew who she was by the time she reached her mid-40’s. (I  suspect this woman may have been the narrator of the story.) The woman went to see her gynecologist for her annual checkup, and as usual, he was running several hours behind. She eventually was called into an exam room where she was told to don a dinner napkin of a “robe” and wait patiently with nothing else on until the GYN and his nurse could come back for the exam.

She waited. And waited. And waited. She read a magazine or two. She got up and stretched, which was hard to do while wearing nothing but a dinner napkin. She looked in the trash can. She moved the latex glove dispenser. She examined her teeth in the mirror.  She  read some more. She got bored.  Really bored.  You know  what  they  say about idle hands and the devil’s workshop….

When the doctor and nurse came in some time later, she was reclining patiently on the exam table with just the dinner  napkin  barely covering  her  perimeters.  As  the GYN  grabbed  a  speculum  and sat  down,  he  gasped. “What’s this?”

Carefully, he  removed  something  while  she  feigned surprise. A latex glove.

“What’s that doing in there?!” he exclaimed,  his face scrunched up in shock.

“I have no idea,” the woman said. “You must have left it in there last time.”

A woman  in  her  20’s,  my  friend  explained,  would never consider doing that to her persistently  tardy gynecologist. But a  woman in her 40’s would.

At the time she told the story, I was appalled. Now? I think it’s hilarious.