Growing up, I was the book smart in my family. I could have given you pretty detailed information about historical events and geographical facts. Mathematics was my hobby. I found physics and chemistry interesting. I could even parrot out some quasi-intelligent philosophical thoughts.
My younger sister was the super witty one. When I say super witty, I mean hilarious, make-you-cry-out-loud-while-laughing-out-loud kind of hilarious. She had a funny comeback for everything. If you had to take just one of us with you on a deserted island, which one would you take? Yeah … that’s what I thought! No tropical deserted paradise for me! I’ll tell my sister to pack her bags.
Of course, as a kid, I wanted to be funny too so I tried making jokes. I failed miserably. Every. Single. Time. I’m not kidding when I’m saying that no one ever laughed at my jokes.
One day my mom told me: “Honey, I don’t mean to be mean but you’re not good at making jokes. Your sense of humor is terrible!”. Most people would not believe me when I say that my mom truly wasn’t trying to be mean. See, my mom and I had a brutal honesty kind of relationship, among other things. The brutal honesty was one-sided … of course, but it worked for us.
I told that story to someone very close to me once, right when we first met. At first, they couldn’t help thinking the worst about my mom. But, many months and plenty of mis- or non-understood jokes later, that person asked me to stop making jokes also!!! No kidding!
I can’t say exactly why I kept at it. Maybe because wit fascinates me. So do book smarts actually, but book smarts and wit are different. Book smart is almost all effort. Wit is part effort, part art. Listening to a book smart person is like reading an encyclopedia. A witty person makes you feel like you’re reading a really good book, like “The Importance of Being Earnest”, or “Pride and Prejudice”. Or whatever you really like reading. You get the idea.
I have a brother-in-law who is super witty. For a while, we worked at a bank together. One day, he called me into his manager’s office because they needed someone to talk to a French client. Yes, I was fluent in French. I could even speak German and Italian. I told you I was book smart!
When I got into that office, my brother-in-law tipped his head to point towards me and said to his manager: “She’s not fat! She’s just pregnant!” (That’s because I was at least six months pregnant with my third daughter then and I did look fat. Two whole minutes must have passed between the time my pregnant belly entered the room and the time the rest of my body made it there. I was moving extremely slowly too, with an obvious waddle in my step. I looked like a fat duck moving in slow motion. I can’t say I miss those times!)
My brother-in-law’s comment made me laugh, of course. He really is a very smart guy and very good natured in most of his jokes. But it also made me wish I had a good comeback for that. My sister would have had one.
After that call, my brother-in-law asked me: “Why didn’t you ask what my excuse was? After all, I was fat, not pregnant!” Of course I didn’t know how to answer his question. My only thought was: I suck at making jokes! There! But I think that, for the first time, I wondered if there was some kind of science behind being a good comedian. As it turns out, there is. I’ve been using some of those tricks ever since.
I can’t tell you that my jokes are good. I can only say that they are better. Better than they’ve been for the first 30 years of my life or so. And that I’m having a great time making them up.
I’m the girl who will laugh out loud at her own jokes and not be embarrassed by it! That’s because I recognize how truly witty they are. I forgot to mention that I’m not humble. That’s not a joke!