Am I Funny?

The top answer on Quora for “What is it like to be incredibly funny?” struck me as interesting because either I’m more funny than I think I am, or the writer is more of a nerd than he thinks he is. I don’t think I’ve felt more understood since I read The Nerd Handbook.

  • Difficult to enjoy things.  You constantly evaluate the irony of the situation you are in. It’s hard to purely enjoy something, you feel like a sell-out if you do.  You want to enjoy things more, but can’t help feeling this sense of self-betrayal if you give in completely.
  • Curious.  You love nuance and idiosyncrasy.  You note the small pieces that make up things, rather than searching for the “essence” of the whole – mannerisms, motives, motifs are your specialty.
  • A well-honed insight into people.  You are highly self-reflective and, consequently, self-critical.  You usually dig about six levels deeper than normal as you evaluate why you really feel or think a certain way.  You have meta-analytical thoughts about your thoughts, and begin to consider the immovable nature of your thought processes as a whole. The alarming level of self-honesty attunes you not only to yourself, but also (deeply) to others.
  • Alienation/Isolation. Your mind is naturally wired for pattern-recognition.  The recursive nature of social interactions, the mechanization of life choices, the strangeness of formality – all of it is very frustrating and confusing.  Because people are averse to confrontation, you are often left with no choice but to point out the absurdity of these social tropes through humor.  You just hope people don’t realize that you’ve told them to go to hell until after they’ve gone home.
  • Not so good at relationships.  Partners often feel betrayed that the whole world gets to enjoy the gregarious and charismatic “you,” and they are stuck with the self-doubting neurotic version.  To compound the problem, you are extremely sensitive – over-sensitive at times – and you often try to play two to three steps ahead of your partner, which leads to a lot of emotional misfiring.
  • Profound conversational agility.  You feel as though you almost have an unfair advantage over others.  You marvel at the difficulty that others have stringing together a few simple thoughts in conversation.  You even feel sorry for some people as they make small talk with you, helping them along as they struggle to make a point or a lukewarm joke. You rarely meet a person with whom you can’t seamlessly engage, though you often wonder if you’re being manipulative, and you’re often bored. You consider that you should put this skill to better use, though you haven’t figured that one out yet.
  • Profound divergent thinking capabilities.  You are hypercritical of everything, and constantly evaluating the reality around you from multiple angles.  Consider a blanket and a brick.  How many ways could you use these two items to create something funny?  A really funny person could probably think of about 20 different ways in a minute.
  • Profound emptiness. It’s a cliché, and it’s very often true.  Most funny people develop their humor as a secondary social advantage because they weren’t able to gain advantage in the other categories (money, attractiveness, alpha-status). Humor was a way to make it to the inner-circles, but often at the cost of one’s self.  You begin to wonder whether people love you for you, or for the show that you put on. You constantly wrestle with the duplicitous nature of yourself, and even begin to think of your humor as a mass deception that you propagate on anyone you meet.
  • Hurt. You know that you are funnier than other people around you; you control crowds with ease, people are in awe of how fast you string together different ideas and relate conversations back to their roots five stages later.  You have a group of people in stitches for an hour. And then, just like that, you take a play off and they could care less.  You didn’t earn anything.  You were only useful as long as you could do that “thing,” and then it was over.
  • Gifted.  You have this ability, this talent, this gift.  You don’t know why your brain works the way it does, but at the end of the day, you get to make people happy by simply uttering words and gesturing.  You bring joy to people’s lives, perhaps even at the cost of yourself.  A lot of times, the cost is well worth it.  Life is hard, sometimes it’s nice to just laugh.

I’m not a professional comedian, I’m just a funny person who has thought a lot about what that means and what it feels like.  These things won’t be true for all funny people, but I bet they’re true for most of us.

I’m sorry if this wasn’t very funny.  I tried very hard to be honest.

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