One of the easiest ways to tell if a person is funny vs a person who is being funny is that the former is usually much more in his/her skin and humor is a part of their DNA. The person who is being funny, the so-called class clown, the life of the party, who needs the entire attention of a room to sell their jokes... now, that is a sign of something a little deeper. This is nothing new, of course. Clowns have some of the most saddest eyes. Comedians have been known to be some of the more morbid, depressed people- you need to just look through a history of the SNL cast to know who overdosed, drank, and killed themselves while making a living out of making others laugh. But take a look at those around you, perhaps even close to you. And maybe yourself. Do you use humor as the safest, the most predictable form of a defense mechanism?
This question came to me through a random conversation with someone who had just been to one of those spiritual weekend retreats and had reached a number of epiphanies. One of these epiphanies included the discovery that this person often uses humor as a primary form of defense... startling, but not entirely surprising, since i knew this person well enough. I guess we all have different fears and insecurities and usually it (fears, etc.) manifests in forms of blocking people out, making up for lost competencies, turning to substance abuse, projecting those fears onto others, and yes, being The Funny One. In short, we overcompensate by something we know will work in pretty much any given situation. Shy and nervous? Passive aggressive? Bitchy and insecure? Overwhelmed and can't think? Dealing with any number of issues from your job, family, or past? Avoiding an intervention? Walking away from taking responsibility? Running from a confrontation? All these are neatly dealt with and can be put away for the time being - by just being funny, cracking a joke, breaking the ice, and hey, did you see there's even an app for all that right now! Sure enough we're defending ourselves. I'm pretty sure I've used humor for all of these situations I described above. But if you know me well enough, you also know there is something crazy funny in my gene pool:)
I think what stirred me about the conversation was that I realized how many times I had laughed at someone's jokes or puns at a particular moment only to comprehend later what that person was actually hiding, avoiding, running away from. We conveniently forget the icky, serious, rational, grown up stuff we have to deal with - whenever we hear a good chuckle. And we all condone this behavior, it's practically de reguer.
So they say don't take life too seriously- and that humor is the perfect antidiote when you're dealing with any major crises; and we can't imagine the expression "a good time was had by all" without picturing peals of laughter; and what would any healthy relationship be without this most precious, and vital ingredient? hint: a not healthy one. but human behavior is funny... and for those of us who try too hard to be funny sometimes, well, maybe it's time to wind down the clown act. just a little bit.