Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Importance of Humor

I couldn't resist borrowing this blog about British humor from Dave Trott, Creative Director and the "T" in CST Advertising in London. It feels to me that with all the current rampant predictions of gloom and doom, we need good humor to help us get some perspective. As a Brit myself, I have no trouble admitting that the British are weird when it comes to the art of humor, ranging from the worst slapstick to the most sophisticated irony. But they have an uncanny ability to reduce serious and life-threatening situations to one-liners that make one laugh and/or cry – either way it diverts us and relieves the tension. Mark Twain believed that humor was the most powerful tool in the world when used appropriately. Nothing helps us to see ourselves the way good humor can. So enjoy Dave Trott’s take on it and let’s hope we can inject some of our own in the months to come.

I wrote recently that it’s difficult to be a writer in a foreign country. An example happened to me last week. I was at Hampstead tube, and the ticket collector had a new walkie-talkie. He was obviously very proud of it. He spoke into it loudly enough for us all to hear. He said: “Tango 1 calling Tango 2. Tango 1 calling Tango 2. Over.”

I heard a muffled voice reply something. Then the ticket collector said testily into it: “No Chris: you’re Tango 3, Terry’s Tango 2.” I laughed to myself, and thought something that silly could only happen in this country. It makes you proud to be British. Then I thought, why is that? Why are we so proud of looking silly? Germans or Spanish or Chinese would die before they’d let anyone see them looking silly.

We revel in it.

Take the war in Afghanistan. The British and American forces were involved in really heavy fighting with the Taliban. The worst of the fighting was in and around the caves of Tora Bora. The American forces dubbed them, ‘The Caves of Death’. The British forces referred to them as, ‘Tora Bora Tomkinson’.

Later I read a report about the airborne tanker crews. The American pilots were flying missions from carriers in The Gulf. They didn’t have enough fuel to make the return trip unless they refueled at night, 30,000 feet up, from British airborne tankers. One American pilot said, “These guys flew missions that saved our lives. But when we linked up with them, they held signs up to the window saying, CASH ONLY, NO CHEQUES.”

The same thing happened in World War 2. It was 1940 and America wasn’t in the war. France had just fallen and everyone knew Britain was next. Ed Murrow, the famous American reporter, was doing a weekly radio broadcast back to the US from London. He said, “Sometimes it’s hard for an American to understand the British. Today the whole of Europe has fallen to Nazi Germany. Only the people of this small island are left, on their own against a mighty war machine. And yet as I went on the street this morning, the mood of the population seemed somehow lighter, more optimistic. It didn’t make any sense. Then I saw a newspaper seller with a placard in front of him that read, BRITAIN AND GERMANY IN THE FINAL.”


Christine said...

Thank you Jane so much for sharing this article about staying light in the midst of gloom and doom - Iredale Mineral Cosmetics are still flying off my shelf! If we must "go" may as well be smiling and beautiful. Here is an aphorism to add to your piece. "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly!" Deep Gratitude for all you do, christine

Geordielass said...

I must say this article "warms the cockles of my heart!". Yes the Americans do like our British humor and being a Skincare Therapist I have to say I do enjoy it! I carry the best Skincare and Make-up products produced by the 2 British women who lead the 'world' in skin-health. My Clients love my stories from the UK. I adore making clients look great but what's better is warming their hearts too!. One day I look forward to meeting you, Julie WD.

Ali McMath said...

Yes humor is important. There is a time to be sad, but humor usually sees you through the most difficult situations.