“Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.” ~Ken Kesey
Why is it that we crave laughter; that we will go to great lengths to share or manufacture humor even in the face of disappointment or tragedy? Further, why do we enjoy the trickery of a good joke—knowing when the teller starts, we will willingly go down the path with him and enjoy the anticipation of a punchline as much as the punchline itself?
No matter our age or culture, we love humor. Our most lavish praise is often saved for the person who has a sense of humor, one whose timing delivers the perfect punch, who manages our anxiety of the irrational or strange with comedic relief. Even a saying like “laughter is the best medicine” countered with—“I guess you never had the flu” represents a subtle exchange looking for common ground.
Jokes can be tricky, especially for a person on the spectrum. It is not just enough to understand the humor, rather the teller must understand the culture, the environment and the situation if anger, boredom or offense are not to occur. It’s not just enough to twist or play with words around. The person who delivers humor must understand the listener and gauge whether an idea is an acceptable or unacceptable subject.
This love of laughter and humor seems with us, almost from the start. A social smile from a baby engages the grumpiest of adults. The very young child repeats an age-old, worn out knock, knock joke and is rewarded with a doubled-over doting aunt.
Persons on the spectrum are no exception. They like to laugh and usually understand why a pun and riddle are funny. They can repeat or make them up, deliver them with good timing and get quite good at anticipating an opportunity for recycling. For example, speaking to a teenager one day I commented that he was acting like a couch potato to which he replied, “pass the sour cream”!
Other forms of humor can be more difficult, however. This is especially so when humor becomes more sophisticated. Satire and parody can foster amusement, especially if we agree with the premise but only if we understand the context. Seeing the emergence of these more subtle forms of humorous communication in writing and dialogue is quite exciting because it goes beyond the mere acquisition of language and shows an ability to “do something with what you know”.
You might say it brings a smile to my face.
Enjoy this fun video that demonstrates the importance of using a simple declarative statement BEFORE we try to engage in a meaningful learning experience with a student.