As we approach the holiday season, it’s important to take a moment and consider those less fortunate than ourselves. To reach out to the downtrodden. To lift up members of our community who might be dealing with struggles that make life much harder for them. And let’s face it: most charities do a wonderful job covering all your typical bases. These days, there’s a fund for just about anything.
Except one thing.
I’m speaking, of course, of the Humor Impaired. You see these people every day on the streets. At your job. Sitting next to you at church. People who really have no sense of humor whatsoever. Individuals who suffer from the inability to lighten up and laugh a little. The sad thing is, there’s no real way to identify these poor members of society other than when they reveal themselves in public, and the stigma against those with no humor is such so that a lot of them do their best to pretend they’re not suffering at all. They laugh along with everyone else, but really they have no clue what they’re laughing at.
Often, this causes no immediate consequences, but there are occasions when the Humor Impaired unintentionally out themselves in public. Sometimes they take a story on The Onion literally and post their outrage on Facebook. Sometimes they read a blog post and just don’t get the humor and get grumpy and upset instead. At times, situations like these have led to public shaming and mocking, and there’s really nothing worse for an individual suffering from this disease, because no matter how much you try to explain it to them, they just don’t get it.
Thankfully, science has developed some fairly accurate tests for this disease. There’s the famous “Arrested Development Marathon Test,” where you sit down and start watching Arrested Development, and you’re measured by how many hours it takes before you stop watching. People who suffer from Humor Impairment (HI) might be able to fake interest for an episode or two, but they rarely get past an entire hour. Preliminary studies show this test can be replicated with other series (Seinfeld, Modern Family, Better Off Ted, 30 Rock, etc.), but further research is needed before these are as clinically proven.
(Note: Studies have shown that there is a related disease: Abhorrentes Humore. This affliction causes people to think certain things are funny, despite the fact that those things aren’t really funny at all. The most famous current symptom is Two and a Half Men, of course–though there have been other well known examples throughout history.)
What can be done for these individuals? Studies have shown that with repeat exposure to genuinely funny material, a real sense of humor might be grown over several years. But unfortunately, most subjects refused this treatment without the liberal use of duct tape.
So if the HI aren’t going to watch funny things on their own, what can we do? We can go for the “Rising Tide Lifts All Boats” approach. If we support genuinely funny movies and tv shows and books, more of those shows and movies will be made, which in turn increases the likelihood that more of the HI will be exposed to this material. It’s a wonderful cycle where everyone benefits.
But beyond that, the best thing you can do is take someone aside when you realize they’re suffering from Humor Impairment. Tell them that you understand their pain and struggles, and that you’re willing to help them. Introduce them to real humor, and take the time to explain why things are funny. Gently correct them when they gravitate to the stupid. This might mean you have to call their cable provider and block CBS to keep them from watching Two and a Half Men, but really–isn’t it worth it? Suggest they get a subscription to Netflix instead–so you can carefully monitor their viewing habits and nudge them in the right direction. Years late, I’m sure your friend will thank you as he or she is leading a life much richer and fuller, blessed with the gift of humor.
If nothing else, just share this post with your friends and family and on your social networks. Let’s reach out to the Humor Impaired and let them know that we understand and want to help them. Let your friends know they’re safe confiding in you. Do your best to spread the gift of funny. Because Humor Impairment is no laughing matter.