I’m all about the funny. Funny gets me through the day. My husband is funny. My friends are funny. Sibling: funny. The teacher I work with: also effortlessly funny. Then we have exhibit E, right here, by the tipped over bag of goldfish crackers. My kids. Now that’s been a long time coming, but they are finally able to employ well-timed sarcasm and improvise cheeky comebacks after years and years of off the mark, frankly embarrassing (really, it’s beneath them) knock-knock style humor. They have finally made the leap from concrete to abstract in the funny Olympics.
Now, this wasn’t a spontaneous event that accidentally occurred when nobody was paying attention. No tree falling in the forest here. Their ability to express universally appreciated humor was carefully cultivated by their worst critics. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Snark. Pleasure to meet you, by the way.
The following are Show Me the Funny guidelines and suggestions for fledgling humorists with underdeveloped instincts for snappy repartee:
- Parents should engage in witty banter with non-responsive infants, spouses, pets, neighbors, mail carriers, lactation consultants, and pediatricians in the presence of all offspring, from birth. They will likely learn nothing from this, but at least you’ll be having a swell time. That’s more than half of the battle right there.
- When kids actually become verbal, it is of the utmost importance to emphasize to them that Loud Does Not Equal Funny (an oft repeated motto in our house, even worthy of display on a needlepoint sampler). Except on those occasions when it does. But, usually, loud is just loud. And annoying. I said stop it. Go to your room.
- Demand that your kids control the urge (now that’s a challenge in almost every conceivable arena for children under the age of, um, 20) to laugh at their own jokes. If you think you’re too funny, you’ll just annoy your audience (see tip #2). Master the deadpan delivery and you can probably get away with some PG-13 material before you’re even legally entitled to view it onscreen.
- When your child unearths a joke book from 1971 in the library and insists upon delivering a halted stand-up act comprised of oldies but goodies at the after dinner talent showcase (what’s black and white and red all over?), applaud the effort. Then encourage them to make up their own stuff, based primarily on insulting other members of the family. Especially your (husband’s) parents.
- Physical humor is not out of the question. Kids are more elastic and should milk the laughs before they reach the age when it becomes physically taxing and a deductible becomes part of the picture. If your kid can enter a room a la Kramer, he will certainly make a memorable impression on the admissions staff when interviewing for private school. Or clown school, if that’s the way you want to go.
- Above all, emphasize to your kids that a sense of humor is really imperative if their ultimate undertaking is to enjoy life. Even better if they can do it at the humiliating expense of close relations.
That last part was a joke. If that escaped your attention, please disregard this post entirely.