This Is Why I Love Making People Laugh

January 15, 2015 — 12 Comments

Yesterday as I was walking into work, my boss’s boss was laughing as she held the door open for me. I asked her what was so funny and she says, “Bill saw you walking up and told me to give you a hand.” Bill is my boss’s boss’s boss.

I acknowledged the hilarity of the situation because, you know, I super like being employed.

Honestly, though, I love when people joke with me about my arm because it tells me they know me. Bill and Michelle felt comfortable making that SUPER CREATIVE JOKE THAT I’VE NEVER HEARD BEFORE IN MY LIFE because I’ve joked with them before.

And I love that.

Having a sense of humor about my situation, I believe, enables me to live my life confidently.

For one, it puts me in control. I’m the one breaking the proverbial ice; instead of me feeling awkward or uncomfortable, a well-timed joke can tip the scales in my favor when meeting new people. It also puts those around me at ease knowing that my difference isn’t a big deal.

That said, I realize that humor can be like a stinky, oil-covered ferret: a slippery animal.

What’s funny to me (that last sentence, for instance) may not be funny to you.

In some cases, it might even be offensive.

This is why I don’t envy comedians. Their job is to make an entire room laugh for however long they’re onstage. A room, mind you, made-up of vastly differing senses of humor. Some like it blue, others like it wholesome. Some like observational, some find it boring. Some like zingers, some like long, drawn out jokes with a big payoff.

I inherited a very particular sense of humor from my grandpa and my dad. Sometimes it gets me in trouble, but I’d say that more often than not it does what it’s intended to: Make people laugh.

For instance, one question I hear over and over is, “What do you tell people when they ask what happened to your arm?” Whenever a kid asks me, I reply, “I was just born that way. You had two hands when you were born, right? I just had one. But it doesn’t hurt and I can do anything I want to!”

That’s the standard answer. Also known as the Polite Answer. Sometimes masquerading as the Boring Answer. But, it gets the job done.


Adults are a different story. If I’m sensing the person can take a joke, I might lay the Shark Attack story on them. Or the Train Tracks Saga. Perhaps the Chainsaw Disaster. And do you want to know where I got this from? When I was little, my dad would tell my friends stories about what happened. I would sit there and play along and then we’d laugh and laugh once they figured out he was joking around. That’s what led to these shirts

In Case You Were Wondering...

In Case You Were Wondering…

I love seeing people laughing and smiling and feeling empowered by their difference! I love seeing people all around the world wearing these shirts (buy here), taking ownership of their difference and making people walking by think, “Wait…you’re telling me that baby lost her arm because of a chainsaw accident?”


Like I said, though, humor is in the eye of the beholder. I know people who think this approach is rude and dishonest. And while they’re entitled to their opinion, I’d rather bring someone into the joke and make a memory with them! One of my friends still remembers our first interaction some 25 years later because I told her I lost it in a shark attack! “You sounded pretty convincing and I didn’t want to ask if you were being serious, so I just believed it,” she told me, years later. That humorous approach made a memory that has lasted a quarter century, man.

I’ll take it.

So, what do you think? I’d love to hear your stories and/or thoughts in the comments below!


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

12 responses to This Is Why I Love Making People Laugh

  1. This is great! I too was born without my hand (my left) and I LOVE telling people stories! I’ve worked as a waitress forever and at one job whenever a new person would start all of us would get together and decide what story to tell the new guy! It was great!! I love having one hand!

  2. I’m a dad of 3 year old who is missing his left hand. I personally love humor but am careful with him because I’m not sure he’s old enough to “get it”. Once he gets older I’m hoping he will embrace the humor because I agree it can put people at ease and show confidence.

    • I am in the same place. And I don’t have a very good sense of humour myself, as in I’m really bad at cracking jokes, especially about myself. But I really really hope my son would learn to find the humour in the situation.

  3. My son is just over a year old and was born with a limb deficiency on his right side. He is missing from the elbow down. We have said that we want him to have a really positive outlook about everything. That was one thing we really liked about your page when my husband found it. When people ask, we have said everything from a bar fight, to an accident in his baby jumper, to matter of factly saying “I don’t know, he woke up this morning and it was gone”. If children ask, we usually say God makes everyone different, but he can do all the same things as every one else – or that there was another little boy that God thought needed my son’s hand more.

    In fact, just today I asked my husband if he thought it would be inappropriate if for Halloween one year our son was a shark attack victim and he could walk around holding a surf board with a “bite” cut out. 😉

  4. My 4 y.o. daughter only has about 3 inches of her right arm. When a boy we knew just realized she didn’t have an arm after playing with her a few different playdate times, I told him we didn’t think she needed it that day so we left it at home. His look was priceless as he was figuring out the impossibilty of that in his head. We had a good laugh as I explained she was born that way. Most times when little kids she may be spending time with ask, I bend down by my daughter and say “We are guessing she is an angel and believe this is her angel wing. We wonder if we look really closely we may see feathers on her wing sometime.” My daughter throws out her arm with joy to show them and all of a sudden she is cool. A few little girls have told their mom’s that they want to have an angel wing just like her. We all walk away celebrating my girl in a fun way.

  5. When I was a kid I used to get asked the question seemingly 25 times a day, “What happened to your arm?” It gets to be boring and frankly annoying real soon. People don’t realize that you’ve been answering the same question all day long. I noticed that when I gave the truthful answer that I was “born that way.” Some people almost seemed disappointed. Many people like the drama of , “…it was bit off by an alligator.”

  6. Robert Grahmann January 16, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Great post, Ryan. My favorite is from a previous post: “I got a flu shot and my arm fell off.” You work for a medical HMO, yes? I think you should sit in the waiting room of whatever department gives flu shots and say to other people sitting there “Yeah I was here for a flu shot in my arm last week and look what happened.” Oh wait, you might get fired. Never mind.

  7. Sarah Middleton January 16, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    i have always given the polite answer to strangers as adults and the God made me this way answer to kids. However, to my friends and aquantances I have dropped jokes here and there. Timing is everything. I have had t-shirts that said “All parts not included” & when I got my first car my license plate was “unarmed” but that was a different time. The most condescending I have ever been is when an adult innocently said to me “it’s so sad you can’t experience clapping!” I just began to clap quietly to louder while she observed in shock.

  8. My son is 15 months and I want him to have a sense of humor as well I think it amazing. Thank you for your inspiration.

  9. I am not missing a hand, but did lose hand function due to nerve root compression. Things are improving, but it may not all return. I doubt I’ll play the mandolin again, but…. I threw one at my occupational therapist during one of my early sessions. I told him I really wanted to be able to use my hand again but I just didn’t have the nerve. He got a real kick out of that one.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. {Celebrating Beautiful} Living One Handed: a guest post by Ryan Haack - Blessed by Brenna - November 18, 2015

    […] handled it in a number of different ways, but one of the key strategies I use is humor. I’m fully aware that I look different and I’m totally ok with that. I also realize that people […]

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