[lostquote] It’s a proven fact you burn quite a few calories and get a nice ab workout by giggling, no matter what nationality you are. So, since the United States has the highest obesity rate in the world, does that mean we’re the least funny?
We live in a global society, but there are few truly universal aspects of humanity. Laughter may be the exception. Humor can be universally acknowledged, because, let’s face it, you can find humor even in a refrigerator magnet (a personal favorite, “Hey Princess, get me a beer!” – it’s hard not to smile at something that ridiculous). Humor is found in all countries, cultures and generations, so if you’re completely un-funny in America, it’s likely there’s a culture where you’re a regular Margaret Cho.
Just as there are many different types of people in the world, there are many versions of humor. The British are known for their dry, sarcastic wit, while Americans typically favor a more brash form of comedy, often involving slapstick humor where people endure physical pain while an audience points and laughs (see: Jackass). In Japan, “humor is more flowery. They’re definitely less direct,” said Brian Forest, a political science and Japanese junior, who is studying abroad in Japan during spring 2005.
So, what do other cultures think of Americans’ use of humor in everyday life? “I find that Americans sometimes take themselves too seriously; for example, they can easily poke fun at others but not always be able to take the poke themselves,” Nicole Hartel, a kinesiology sophomore who lived in Canada for seven years, said. This being said, there are often comedic divides within cultures.
In the United States, some people find the unabashed honesty of The Blue Collar Comedy Tour hilarious, while others favor the witty news readings of Jon Stewart and company on The Daily Show over the repetition of the phrase “Git-R-Done!” Some may think themselves clever with their abundance of blonde jokes (I, as a blonde, can now recite many such punchlines), while others quote movie lines for laughs. An American sense of humor is as stratified as its population.
Differences in comedic approaches among countries are pretty clear. Besides the obvious different-people-equals-different-senses-of-humor-argument, “there is also the fact that the use of the vocabulary is different depending on the languages,” explained Emilie Beuzelin, a 20-year-old from northern France and exchange student at my high school.
The key to “getting” humor is understanding its many facets. Just because you think you are a comical genius because you do a mean impersonation of Chris Farley, (see: ‘fat guy in a little coat’), or you can quote every line of Office Space does not make you a king of comedy. While it might make you a hit at parties, you’re no Richard Pryor. To help you on your way to becoming a comic genius, do a little research into what other cultures have to offer. If you’re a fan of never-ending British sarcasm, check out the witty TV show The Office, or the classic Monty Python series. If you’re feeling adventurous, try Absolutely Fabulous, a bawdy TV series from the ’90s.
Not feeling the dry wit of the Brits? Look no further than our friendly neighbors to the north, Canada. The country is not just a place for 19-year-olds to drink; it is also a great source of comedic talent. Canada is home to Mike Myers; Jim Carrey and the comedy troupe Second City, which has turned out several Saturday Night Live alumni. Similar to The Daily Show in America, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, a satirical news program on CBC, pokes fun at Canadian politics, as does the radio show, Royal Canadian Air Farce, Hartel said.
Looking for humor that doesn’t involve the English language? A good contrast to American boldness is Japanese humor. Their TV shows often showcase a different type of physical comedy foreign to most Americans before the cable network, Spike TV. “It’s people running around with these scepters and smacking each other with them,” Forest said. The Japanese show, Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, pairs silly, dubbed-English banter between two hosts with barely possible stunts usually taking place over a mud pit. Though this type of comedy could be considered childish, its absurdity makes a straight face difficult to maintain.
[lostquote2] Though comedy may differ when you travel through countries and cultures, be sure of one thing: “no matter from where you are, some situations are just funny,” Beuzelin said. Whatever humor you are going for, whether it is satire, situational, wit, parody, practical joke or exaggeration, be sure to take it lightly, as comedy should be taken.
Wherever on the globe you call home, be thankful, despite cultural differences, something is always funny to someone, and you never know what might make you roll on the floor. As an exchange student, Beuzelin felt she didn’t need to fully adapt her sense of humor when she came to America, “because it is something that comes naturally, and everyone should be able to deal with it.” All senses of humor might not be universal, but the urge to get silly and laugh is something everyone can relate to.
So, remember to laugh at yourself, at others, with others and with yourself. Nothing is wrong with finding a little humor in everyday life. And remember this, in the words of Will Rogers, ‘everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.’

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