I was Googling something the other day and came across a website about happiness. There were some tidbits of wisdom in the right hand column and I read a couple. Intrigued, I ended up buying the book, written by Gretchen Rubin, called The Happiness Project.
It was a downloadable book that I started listening to yesterday while I was cleaning house. After awhile I realized a very important thing – happiness is not conducive to humor.
Listen to any comic or watch any sitcom and the humor is all about the misery or misfortune in people’s lives. I love The Big Bang Theory, a sitcom about super-intelligent nerds. Much of the humor comes from them either putting down each other’s intelligence or mishaps they have to squirm out of because they lack the social skills that mere average-intelligent people have.
Leonard, a super physicist or something, is dating the blond bimbo who lives across the hall, which provides ample humor when the story contrasts his super-intelligence with her lack of it.
Here’s what the script would be like if they were following the suggestions in The Happiness Project:
“Hi Leonard, thanks for coming in.”
“My pleasure, Penny. You look lovely in your Cheesecake Factory uniform.”
“Well, aren’t you sweet? Taking a break from your contam physics?”
“(Laughs) I love how you say quantum.”
And blah blah blah. Utterly boring.
My point is that I don’t know how much of this happiness stuff I can take. The Happiness Project book is good, and I’m going to listen to it and hopefully follow some of the suggestions and make some positive changes in my life. But she makes it sound like I need to be loving and forgiving and kind and generous, and sensitive and patient and a good listener. Quite frankly, I’m not sure I’m up to it. I’m smart enough to know that these things work because I’ve tried them here and there in my life. But they’re like Brussels sprouts, they’re okay some of the time but I’m a long way off from wanting to make a steady diet of them.
Humor is based on sarcasm, put downs, people’s pain, or unexpected, negative things happening. It is not funny to see a man in a suit walking down the street. But it’s very funny seeing the same man walking along and slipping on a banana peel so that his legs fly up over his head and he lands, WHOOMP, flat on his back with the wind completely knocked out of him and flailing like an upside down turtle.
In a happy world this would not happen. The insensitive dolt who threw the banana peel down would not have done it in the first place. He would have walked a block out of his way to find a garbage can because he’d want to keep the city beautiful. The Three Stooges would never smack each other with a 2 x 4 or poke each other in the eyes in a happy world. I could not write about men with limp you-know-whats for fear of offending all those men (nearly 99% of U.S. males) using Viagra.
So don’t worry, you can count on me to not succumb to these happiness theories, even after I listen to that book cover to cover. I will NOT let this happiness stuff go to my head, if I can help it.