Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Serious Chat on Humour

R.a.n.t. of week 10/06/13
Time heals all wounds.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Laughter is the best medicine.

Of these three time honoured medical sayings, which do you think is the most important to me? If you say the prevention one, you don't know me very well. If you say the time healing one, you are getting closer. It's time related and I love a good science fiction story. But today I'll be looking at the laughter one. Why? Because if you know me, even a little, you'll know what a comedian I try to be. In essence, to lighten a darker mood. But this week, I won't be doing it alone. In a 'Jeffrey Scott' blog first, I've sought the help of a well known and respected Professor. Professor Sanee is from Italy and teaches a course in 'the Ethics of Humour' at I.M.A. and is author of the best selling book, "Why Isn't Anyone Laughing?"

Below is the transcript from my Skype chat with Professor Sanee:

JS - Professor Sanee, thank you for joining me today. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to help discuss this urgent and vital manner.
[I used air quotes when saying urgent and vital.]

Professor Sanee - Hello? Is this thing on? Hello? Can you hear me?

JS - I can hear you. Can you hear me?

Professor Sanee - Hello? What's going on? I can see you, but I can't hear you.

JS - Do you have it on mute? [Duh, why did I just ask that. She probably can't even hear me.]* Press the mute button, you have probably have the computer on mute.
* - Admittedly, I could have deleted this bit from the conversation. But decided to keep it in as the completest that I am.

Professor Sanee - What? Are you trying to tell me something?

JS - Look at the keyboard. Look where I'm pointing. On your keyboard. Look for a mute button. Do you have one? Do you even know what I'm saying?

Professor Sanee - I'm going to press a few buttons at random and see what happens.....
Oh! I can hear you now. I had this on mute. Silly me.

JS - Oddly enough, sort of a funny way to open up the subject matter at hand.

Professor Sanee - Thank you for seeking my help Doctor Scott. You did say you were a Doctor, correct? Anyway, I'm honoured you have sought me out. So let's get cracking. Time is money.

JS - Professionally stated. So Professor, you are known for promoting humour as a 'cure' of sorts. So the first question is: They say laughter is the best medicine. Is this what you believe this?

Professor Sanee - Laughter can sometimes soften the hardest blows life whacks you with, but is it the "best medicine"? No. I don’t think so. Just ask your neighbourhood therapist about this. Their recommendation is Zanax... pink or white. Take your pick. I’ve tried both remedies, the pills I mean. But before you pay me, let me ask you. Do you find the best medicine is humour and if so what kind would you prescribe?

JS - Pay? Eh, never mind. We'll get back to that. However, I see your point that laughter truly 'isn't' the BEST medicine. But like you say. It softens the blow. Certainly for the joker if not for anyone else. But keeping that in mind do you feel it's important to have a sense of humour? Why?

Professor Sanee - Yes, humour in the sense of the word means to be in an amusing state of mind, unless of course you are out of humour, in a bad mood. Then, nothing is humorous. A person, however, with a good sense of humour creates it. That person has the ability to sense when something is funny and react, unless of course you have a dry sense of humour, which requires a trip to your local off-license shop. Which reminds me.......
[Professor Sanee disappears for a minute and returns with a glass of wine]
So my counter question to you is, do you think it is sensible to have a sense of humour and why?

JS - Do you mean in the medical field, or in general?

Professor Sanee - General Who? This isn't a military debate. Kidding, yes of course. I mean in general.

JS - Oh, you had me there for a second. Odd to be on the other end of that. But I can laugh at that because I thought it was funny. I see what you did there. As you said, you saw an opportunity to be funny and you used it. Yes, of course having a sense of humour is essential. The way I see it. If you can't laugh at yourself, someone else will.
[Professor Sanee laughs]
If you can laugh at yourself, things don't seem to trouble you as much. If a newspaper is delivered to my house and it lands in a puddle of water. Will I be mad? Probably. But I can then grumble and complain about the idiot paper-boy or joke about what a good aim he is. Sometimes it's all a matter of perspective. But some times people feel those of us who like to joke, take things too far. I've always thought that, to some degree, about practical jokes. What are your thoughts on practical jokes?

Professor Sanee - I can see the word practical used in a sentence such as, 'I needed a practical hairstyle for work.' or 'I need a practical car to get me there,' but find no logic in the usage of the word practical when it comes to joking. Is it practical to scare the living bahgeebees out people? The victim of a practical joke never sees it coming. The impractical person plotting a practical joke seems incapable of making a sensible decision when plotting and planning to carry their victory. So in answer to your question and for all practical purposes, I don’t find this practical at all. Do you think you can come up with a practical solution to this problem Dr. Scott? I don’t think so.

JS - I actually think there is some validity to practical jokes. The problem is, there is a line that shouldn't be crossed. And maybe that's why you don't like practical jokes. So at what point do you think a practical joke has crossed the line, and can you possibly see one being acceptable?

Professor Sanee - Coming up with firm guidelines over what is acceptable, or what crossed the line is a question that the Masters have pondered over for centuries. Like yourself, Dr. Scott, I’m sure you have spent sleepless hours meditating on this very subject. A simple direct answer to your question cannot be calculated immediately. First, one needs to be presented with the practical joke. Scientifically I would need to examine it very carefully. When I begin to connect my thoughts to the mind of the joker I could only then conclude whether the practicality of the joke was either to cause fear, fright or humour. This argument is still out for debate. However, after years of research on this subject I must conclude that line crossers have the inability to be unimaginative and do things that are totally annoying. I think it is perfectly legal to smack line crossers because they are dumb, stupid, and immature.

JS - I guess you've probably answered my next question then. Obviously the answer is no.

Professor Sanee - What was the question?

JS - Have you ever played a practical joke on someone?

Professor Sanee - Yes, believe it or not, I have. I played dead once. The family went hysterical. They got angry when I told them I really wasn’t dead. I learned a lesson that day that it was more practical to stick around and have them all laughing to their graves. But since you seem to enjoy practical jokes so much, let me ask you. Has anyone ever played a practical joke on you? Was it funny? How did you feel?

JS - Yes, practical jokes have been played on me from time to time. I think playing dead is more of a practical joke where a line has been crossed. Mostly because it's playing with a persons deep emotions. But I've had jokes played on me at various times. I recall when I was younger a friend gave me a piece of hard candy which I really enjoyed until a few layers were sucked off and found the middle was fish flavoured. Holy Mackerel! That was awful. I spit it out right then and there and ran for the drinking fountain. I had the nasty taste of fish in my mouth for hours. Another time I was on a road trip and had fallen asleep. At some point during my slumber, one of my friends thought it would be a good idea to pretend we were getting into an accident and started screaming. I was really offended with him for that. To be honest, I was offended at the offenders in each joke. But the point is, I was only upset for a bit and anger wears away to humour if you indeed have a good sense of humour. I look back on those jokes now with fondness and laugh. In neither instance were they trying to physically or emotionally scar me for life. It was a joke, and ultimately I took it as such. Hmmmm, I hadn't thought about either incident for a long time.

Sanee - I think we've made a break through here.

JS - Wait, have you been trying to psychoanalyse me?

Sanee - It's all a part of the session you ordered. Now where do I send the bill?

Unfortunately, the Skype chat unexpectedly terminated. I guess the joke was on Professor Sanee.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Professor Sanee resides in Italy
and teaches the course 'the
Ethics of Humour' at I.M.A.
She's also author of the book,
"Why Isn't Anyone Laughing?"


  1. I am not a fan of practical jokes- on me, before me, or even their retelling.

    1. Neither do I.
      PS - there is something on your tie, look down.