Hate and Humor

Varying perspectives is a common source of humor. The following joke changes a little every time I tell it. It is not an original, but is appropriate and funny for most audiences:

A guy and his friend are on a hunting trip when the friend slips and falls down a steep incline. The guy makes his way down to the bottom to check on his friend. As much as the guy tries to rouse his friend, the friend is unresponsive. The guy calls 911 and says, “You’ve got to help me! My buddy is dead.” The operator replies, “Calm down, sir. First let’s be sure he’s really dead.” There is a silence followed by a gunshot. The man comes back on the line and says, “Okay, now what?”

This joke most often receives a chuckle or two from the audience. But why? The perspective of “the guy” is peculiar. We see a difference is his thought process and our own. We interpret the operator’s words differently than he does. But then why do some differing perspectives inspire laughter and others inspire anger? We hear a joke like the one above and laugh, but become angry when we hear someone pose the perspective that “God hates fags”. One could argue that the difference in responses in the product of reality vs fiction. But a fictional character who preaches hate would not be viewed as funny. And a true version of this hunting story, although possibly more tragic, could still be viewed as funny.

Claims like “God hates fags” only cause pain if we let them. If we choose to become angry over another’s words, we give that person the power to cause us pain. If we choose to love everyone, then anger is replaced with pity for those who present such peculiar perspectives. We hear “God hates fags” or “Middle-Easterners are not human. They are mammals, but not human like us.” (I’ve heard that last one.) and we think, “Awe..You are wrong.” In the she way, we could putty the guy in the joke above for his misinterpretation of the operator’s words.

The humor response comes from our interpretation of the speaker’s intent. The hunting trip joke would not be funny if it were told as a sad, but true story. Likewise, we can choose to view ignorant perspectives in joke form: “God hates fags? That’s ridiculous. LOL.” When we see an ignorant perspective as truly absurd, we can laugh at it.

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