October 5, 2009

"As you get older you laugh less, because you’ve heard most of the jokes before."

Says John Cleese. I don't think that's true, perhaps because I've never seen jokes as the main source of laughs.

31 comments:

Original Mike said...

Yeah, life never runs out of material.

Chase said...

I have a collection of old Reader's Digests from the 1930's on up. I love to read the short takes and jokes to my family and post many of them in the company newsletters I edit.

They always get a real laugh, especially the older ones. I don't find that people laugh less as they get older. I know that my wife and I laugh much more.

miller said...

There are always fresh absurdities even from old situations and characters.

See also Joe Biden

traditionalguy said...

We can soon import all of the USSR's jokes , like the one that says, "We pretend to work and they (soviet system) pretends to pay us".

MadisonMan said...

I've heard that explanation before.

But I don't believe it, because I can never remember a joke. Maybe Cleese, a great comic, can.

Bissage said...

(1) Just as a law professor might force a student to argue both sides of an issue, I should think there’s a humor school somewhere out there where they make you take the same set of basic elements and convert them into various forms of comedic expression, e.g., knock-knock joke, shaggy dog story, single-panel cartoon, sight gag, etc.

(2) Speaking of reworking old material, Bissage still recommends “Bored to Death” on HBO. Classic Woody Allen updated for our times, even some slapstick. Funny stuff.

AllenS said...

If you go to Google, and type in
"Eli the Accountant", you'll see some good, campy humor. My favorite is the farmer and his three daughters.

Marcia said...

Cleese doesn't account for the fact that a lot of things that seemed deadly important when you were young, take on a different perspective with age.

It's easier to laugh when you are relaxed, and it's a lot easier to relax once you lose faith in apocolyptic predictions (of all stripes).

On a more micro-level, my parents laugh frequently at things my daughter says. I have a distinct recollection of them not thinking those kinds of remarks were funny when they came out of my mouth.

Scott M said...

Reading this quote from Cleese kind of bums me out and harshes my optimism something fierce. My humor is a direct marriage of Python and Berkely Breathed.

I am a die-hard Python fan. I own all the movies, books, CD’s, etc. I have t-shirts, I’ve seen the play, and I’m extremely well-versed in Python quotes and songs. Sad, but true. On the other hand, I’m happily married and have reproduced, so I’m not a complete wonk. I’ve even converted my kids to Python.

Cases in point:
**My son has a piece hanging on his wall with a pith helmet, a machete, a fake Springfield rifle and a dummy grenade with a plaque that reads proudly reads, Nicholas Turner – Mequito Hunter.

**My five-year-old loves the lumberjack song.

**My unborn son, Bruce, already has a poster on his nursery wall that has a screenshot lifted from the Bruces sketch (from the philosophy dept of the University of Walamaloo) and a big G’DAY on it.

In any case, it kind of sucks that my favorite Python seems melancholy about humor. I, personally, think things get funnier as we get older because there’s simply more context. On the other hand, Cleese has been funny for so long, maybe he’s just sick of it and pines for an Ishtar in his filmography.

RueMom said...

No, see, as you get older your memory fails you and thus, everything old is new! It's like you're hearing the jokes again for the first time!! :)

Scott M said...

Doh...my son's plaque reads "Nicholas Turner – Mosquito Hunter.

I advised him against trying to hang it on the wall in his dorm room. The machete is quite real, albeit anchored in wood holders.

ricpic said...

As you get older you laugh more, because, as Marcia writes, "It's easier to laugh when you are relaxed."

Bissage said...

John Cleese and Terry Jones used to butt heads because Jones usually wanted to riff and have fun and do absurdly silly stuff while Cleese was into structure and insisted that bits should have internal logic.

Cleese was the most caustic of the Pythons, except maybe Gilliam, so his curmudgeonly persona seems about right to me. Few crotchety people do an about-face as they age, but rather, they become more intense as their inhibitions wear away. I know that’s true because I saw it written on a potty protector in the men’s room.

Lem said...

our funny bone has a tipping point?

Chris said...

Most humor is about surprise and misdirection so I can see what Cleese is saying. Still, I laugh every time the tiny stonehenge is lowered onto the stage in Spinal Tap.

Ron said...

I laugh more because just when I think I've heard it all, people's stupidity alone stuns me into hilarity!

ricpic said...

All those hyper-tall guys think highly of themselves.

fivewheels said...

I don't think he means "jokes" as in actual memorized anecdotes, he means the underlying mechanisms of humor. But I think these are probably more recognizable to a professional, and he can just see everything coming.

Seinfeld said something similar about how comedians don't laugh a lot when they get together, even if they're all being funny. They're so well-versed in comedic technique that the best you can get out of them is a simple, deadpan statement of, "Yeah, that's funny." Occupational hazard, I guess.

AllenS said...

Jim Bowie and Davey Crockett are standing at the walls of the Alamo, when Crockett turns to Bowie and says: "Where'd Santa Anna get 10,000 roofers?"

Clyde said...

"Roofers? Those are jardineros! If they were roofers, they'd have hammers instead of machetes."

AllenS said...

I guess you had to be there, to understand the sheer brilliance of the joke.

Abbey said...

Maybe he had a bad day when he said this. The guy is going through a divorce, after all.

Apparently, the ex-Mrs. Cleese came out wealthier than he did.

blake said...

AllenS--

Cute.

My favorite take on the Farmer's Daughter starring Jack Black as the Farmer and the Devil.

Original Mike said...

Apparently, the ex-Mrs. Cleese came out wealthier than he did.

And he couldn't find the humor in that? He's just not trying hard enough.

BJM said...

Jokes rely on context, but a good spontaneous pratfall always gets a laugh, in all cultures, even when we know we shouldn't.

I've always felt that Cleese was probably dour and peevish in real life so am not surprised that he's turned curmudgeonly with age.

Chip Ahoy said...

I don't know about this.

I had the sound on long enough to catch a portion of promo for a show apparently having to do with relationships or possibly buying and designing a new home. The woman complains to the man, "These decisions are supposed to be mutual, but it's always your way or no way." The man answers back with absolutely no sense of impending disaster, "My way or the lame way." I fall into an unstoppable laughing fit at the thought of him thinking that was a good answer.

Jeremy said...

I think he was referring to he himself literally "watching comedy," not laughing in general.

*He doesn’t watch much comedy anymore. “As you get older you laugh less,” he says, “because you’ve heard most of the jokes before."

One would be hard pressed to come up with a joke that Cleese or any long time comedian had not heard or at least heard a variation of.

Freeman Hunt said...

Cleese is on Twitter.

blake said...

But not much.

Teddy B. said...

When making fun of others is your main source of laughter, you don't laugh less as you get older. You blog like crazy, right Althouse?

Synova said...

My parents were definitely awesome... my dad with his white t-shirt and flat-top hair and mom wearing her scandalous pants cinched up with a wide belt.

My father brought his young wife home to his tiny Minnesota home town. They went for lunch to the diner where a bunch of old farmers were drinking coffee and shooting the breeze rather than farming. One old coot finished up a joke in Norwegian and everyone laughed, including my Dad. My Mom nudged him and said, "I thought you said you didn't speak Norwegian." "That's true," Dad said, "but I've heard that one before."

True story.