It’s A Good Thing Humor Is Subjective

September 2, 2014 — 12 Comments

Sometimes when someone’s getting to know me, I do this thing.

It goes like this: A group of us are hanging around and we start joking about random stuff. I’ll say something dumb to try to setup the new guy, like, “Hey, let’s give so-and-so a hand!” and the new guy bites and says something like, “Not you, though!” He’ll have this very satisfied look on his face, like he’s one of us now. Then, I’ll scowl and look right into his eyes and say, “Dude…not ok. I’ll let you know when it’s ok for you to joke about my arm. That’s my decision to make.”

The room is quiet.

He’ll swallow hard, start to sweat and apologize profusely.

Then I’ll crack and say, “Totally kidding, dude! It’s cool!”

We all throw our heads back in laughter and the frame freezes and the music plays.

It’s wonderful.

Now, dear reader, you are in one of two camps: You’re either laughing…or you think I’m a total jerk.

That’s the thing with humor; it’s completely subjective.

I mean, my wife says she married me because I make her laugh, but I would wager she only thinks about 70% of the stuff I think is funny is actually funny. Sophomoric humor is not beneath me. Puns are fantastic. Reading websites devoted to cataloging all of the characters who lost arms in the Star Wars series is good fun. And then there’s…


Buster Bluth. Monster.

Buster Bluth. Monster.

If you’re not a fan, Buster Bluth is a character in the TV show Arrested Development. In season two, Buster loses his hand when it’s bitten off by a loose seal. He then obtains a hook arm and essentially overdramatizes everything in relation to it. Now, some people would find this offensive on many levels. I, on the other hand – HA! – get that they are purposely taking Buster’s actions to the extreme for comedic effect. And gosh dang it…it’s funny!

But that’s the trouble with humor, right? It can be unfunny or even offensive to one person, yet hilarious to another.

I’ve written before about the idea of having a laugh about your “disability,” and I know it rubs some people the wrong way, but it’s a concept I fully believe in. It’s a drag to take ourselves so seriously all the time!

As someone who tries to be funny, especially in the public arena, I understand that not everyone will appreciate what I think is funny. It stinks, but I get it. If you even dabble in the field of humor and can’t accept this fact, you’re doomed.

For instance, I came-up with these ideas for some t-shirts a while back (which you can now purchase here).

I'm all about being helpful.

I’m all about being helpful.

Ultimately, if I wear a shirt that I think is funny and somebody else doesn’t think it is…that’s ok. My focus is on the ones who do.

So, this is what I think: I think it behooves us all to give each other some slack when it comes to humor. By all means, if it’s mean-spirited or demeaning and you’re upset by it, discuss it with the person. And those of us who try to be funny need to be aware that this could happen, even if it’s not our intent. When that happens – own it. Explain, apologize if you need to and move on.

Ultimately – for me at least – I’m going to keep being a goofball. I’ll keep trying to get people to smile and laugh.

That’s just how I roll.

How do YOU roll? What are your thoughts on incorporating and even basing some of your humor around your “disability”?



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I'm a husband, a father, an author, a speaker, a friend...all kinds of things, actually.

12 responses to It’s A Good Thing Humor Is Subjective

  1. I would love a Tee shirt with the shark took it.

  2. you NEED to get those shirts on cafepress or wherever. tate would LOVE them.

  3. Our son is only 3 and was born without his left hand/ forearm. He doesn’t fully understand the one hand thing yet, but I think adding humor will make it easier on him. Obviously when he starts school other kids will ask him about it and I don’t want him to be shy or uncomfortable. I think making a joke can break the ice and show that he’s not upset about it so no one else should be either!

  4. when i find people without a sense of humor my first thought is always “my god their life must really suck”
    seriously, life is freaking hilarious and if you can’t laugh in its face, you’re going to lose at life.

  5. I love these so very much. Our litmus test for years for gauging reaction to Jordan’s limb difference was through a shirt she wears that says, “Dude, where’s my arm?” I know we would giggle if we had any (and all) of these shirts!

  6. Ryan,

    Ya got me…I’m laughing.

    Thank you for being…You.

  7. I love the idea! My son is almost 5 and we’ve told him to joke about it sometimes when people ask. But a tee shirt would be perfect!!! Please make these I would buy them!

  8. I like to tell people-kids especially- that I didn’t eat my vegetables growing up.

  9. You should definitely make these shirts! Everytime someone asks I’ll tell them it was an alligator and then I tell them I’m just kidding it was a shark. Humor made me fall in love with the way I was born, I used to hide my arm and when I finally realized that it was a blessing I was able to joke about it and quit being afraid of peoples stares.

    • “Humor made me fall in love with the way I was born, I used to hide my arm and when I finally realized that it was a blessing I was able to joke about it and quit being afraid of peoples stares.” Wow. That is an AMAZING sentence. 🙂 Thanks for sharing. Stacy!

  10. First of all, I would totally laugh at this. I suffered a stroke which in the end cost me my arm and leg. It took me a couple of years not to feel sorry for myself.but in the end I thank God that I had the stroke (I mean that I LITERALLY thank Him). I have totally grown so much as a Christian, scratch that, I mean a “believer” that the change is simply unbelievable. There was a time that it was hard to laugh at any thing related to my disability but now I do. it is now funny! Everybody is different, everybody is unique. whether they have all of their limbs or not! The sooner everyone realizes this the better off we’ll be. I’m not talking about religion or beliefs, there are those that are totally wrong and totally right. But I’m talking about the actual person, there is no two alike. Can you believe that, of all the millions and trillions of people that have ever lived there is no two alike that are the same! Thanks for expressing yourself in humor! Your site is great, keep up the good work!

  11. I once went to stay somewhere that there was a small boy (about 9 years old) who was distressing all the adults by catching insects and pulling off their legs. When I arrived there he straight away wanted to know wher emy hand was. I told him that I got in troublefor pulling legs off insects and because I didn’t stop they took my hand away for a punishment. Talk about jaw dropped. I think he did find something else annoying to do.

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