Friday, April 20, 2007

t-30: The hidden gene for humor

Once I heard a comedian talking about senses of humor. He said that almost everyone claims to have one, but very few people actually do. He said, it wasn't enough to be able to identify funny, to laugh at a joke - but one had to have a sense of what made other people laugh - one had to be able craft funny. This made a lot of sense to me. I think I have a sense of humor - not as strong as some, but better than most. I think I understand funny. Like I understand color. I have a sense of color - I can remember color shades and usually pick out exact matches without bringing a sample. I know what goes and what doesn't - beyond simple coordination. I have a sense of color. Other people can say -"that's blue" or "that goes", but I know what pops or soothes or sizzles. Still others are so devoid of the sense of color that they are color blind. It's a recognised trait. It's heritable. And humor. Is that heritable? I worry that it is.

The Vol-in-Law makes me laugh. He's kinda funny. Funny as in ha-ha. I don't like to go on about it too much, because it will give him a swelled head. He specialises in the dry quip. That's his schtick. Sometimes he makes me laugh out loud. He also has a sideline in "humorous" cat songs - songs he sings to cats, about cats - the lyrics altered from popular tunes. He thinks this is quite funny, but it's not quite as funny as he thinks it is. The cats don't mind, though. I suspect our future child will find it hee-larious. For a while. Then it will be deeply embarassing, but that's years off.

In his family of origin, they didn't think he was so funny. His mom and his sister often just didn't get it. The dry quips passed them by. His dad didn't laugh out of some misplaced notion of parental solidarity when his mom took his words seriously. I'm straining to find an example here - but I've got one of my own.

Shortly after I met his mother for the first time, I met some of her friends - Irish women. I presume Protestant women from Northern Ireland, women not much given to compliments. She told me that they were really impressed with me.

Me (trying in my lame way to be humble): No surprise there, everyone loves Americans...
Her: No. They don't. (earnestly and informatively)

At any rate. I think his mom and his sister are humor blind. Oh, they can laugh like sociopaths - when they see that other people are laughing, they can laugh, too. And they can laugh at the really base stuff (which I find ironic, since they like aspire to effete intellectualism), but they don't like the dry, the clever, the sarcastic or the ironic.

I know some moms-to-be obsess about having a red-headed child or cleft-palate or with a sub standard number of toes. But I'm worried that our child will have a heritable humor deficiency. The Vol-in-Law believes that even if this were the case that this no-humor gene is likely to be recessive - and so we'll be ok.

But what if we're both carriers, I say to him. I mean look at your mom, she passed this no-humor thing on to your sister. It could be quite likely you're carrying this hidden gene for no-humor.

Yes, the Vol-in-Law, says drily. I see what you mean. With this hanging over us, I'm not sure why you married me.

30 days til baby Cletus - much longer before we find out if baby carries this shocking disability


St. Caffeine said...

Knowing you as I do -- and the little I know of the ViL -- you've got NOTHING to worry about on the sense of humor front. True, other kids may not "get" Cletus, but he will be funny!

Amy said...

Don't worry. I believe there must be some genetic component to humor, but it's also likely to be largely an environmental thing. Baby Cletus will have to develop some sort of sense of humor, at least as a coping mechanism while dad sings at him, right?

For my part, I've got a list of hopes for baby Camino: Rex's musical talent, my hairline, and both of our tendencies toward mellowness. I'm worried about having a hyperactive kid. We wouldn't know what to do about that.

Vol Abroad said...