Please believe me, humor is way more important than most people think it is.
But I am not saying, find a man who has a “good” sense of humor. I am not saying that.
What I am saying is, notice whether the things he laughs at bother you. And vice versa. And notice whether the things you think are funniest make him laugh too…
Humor is the fingerprint of the human soul
In its origins, humor is a tribal ritual. A shared catharsis about how screwed up the world is, and the people in it. It is a group of people sharing the vision of their own failings, which are not quite terrible enough to threaten the group’s survival. Humor demands your assent. You sit in a movie theatre and the person next to you finds something funny, and they look at you to get your agreement; they need you to go along. Because it’s a form of bonding—a group sport. That is why sitcoms have a laugh track—to create the illusion that the rest of the tribe is already laughing, thus leaving the viewer no choice. Which is why some people cannot stand sitcoms.
And that is why there is nothing more alienating than being in a group that is gripped by hilarity, when you yourself don’t find the thing funny. It means you are a pariah, you don’t belong, you are alone. Humor presupposes a worldview. If you don’t agree with that worldview, you are out.
At its best, humor is us laughing at us. It frees us from pride and vanity, it frees us from hypocrisy, humor lets us see the awful truth while bringing us the comfort of facing it together: Humor allows us to forgive ourselves for what we are. At its worst, humor is us laughing at him or her: one person being humiliated and isolated by the laughter of a group.
Humor is a very primitive physical response, undignified in its bodily explosion, an orgasm of insight that causes an ejaculation of noise accompanied by facial expressions and gestures that mimic ecstasy and pain. What is amazing is that such an animalistic braying can be triggered by the most subtle, refined twist of thought. Or by Three Stooges slapstick.
What a person laughs at can signal their uniqueness and originality. It can also be an index of their deepest values. It is a measure of their heart, their soul, and their mind. Traveler, ignore its signposts at your peril.
When you are checking out a new guy, wondering if he may be Mr. Right, don’t treat humor as a trivial diversion. Treat it as an important clue to compatibility. Because humor is such an instinctive thing, it is hard to fake. People calculate a lot of their moves, but humor tends to be less planned. So it is more revealing.
When a man laughs unexpectedly, make sure you find out why. It may be bad news, or it may be wonderful news. Sometimes it will trigger a surprising revelation, open a window on his soul.
A phony laugh is one of the best clues there is that the laugher is a phony person
A man who inhibits your sense of humor may not be the man for you. When you try to communicate a point that to you is hilarious, and you feel him draw back or he just doesn’t get it—that is a sign that all is not well. Even worse, if you begin to edit your own material, altering your personality to suit him, beware.
Can he laugh at himself? If he does something dumb and you satirize it perfectly, does he dissolve into life-threatening laughter and beg for mercy? If so, score one for the two of you. If his pride won’t let you mock his weak points, look out. A man who needs to sustain a too-perfect image of himself will need you to help him sustain it. And that will mean that you’ll have to lie, you’ll be increasingly trapped in a pretend world, and you’ll become afraid of the truth, like he is. Never forget that laughter is your right. No one can tell you what is or isn’t funny—your deepest identity depends on it.
Humor is also a very important survival mechanism, and it can get couples through some rough times. It can allow them to shake off all the serious and heavy issues that make modern life so stressful. You’ve got to share each other’s struggles and dreams, but it’s even better if, in the middle of sweating blood over some precious goal, you can look at each other and start laughing.
Taste in humor matters. If he likes sitcoms and you don’t; if your favorite comedy of all time left him cold; if your best witticisms seem to fly right past him—these are warning signs, red flags that indicate differences in values, intelligence, and perception.
Excerpted from Why Mr. Right Can’t Find You. Copyright (c) 2008 by J.M. Kearns Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd.