Stop laughing at the expense of others, use yourself instead

Feb. 15, 2016

Eleanor Sturt
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I love a good laugh. I was raised in a family where humor was very prevalent. I like to think of myself as quite funny.

My father is very humorous, my sister makes me giggle and my older brother applied to clown college last year. No joke.

I’ve heard a lot of punch lines in my upbringing and like to tell jokes myself.

But humor at another person’s expense isn’t funny.

I’m not saying people can’t laugh at blonde jokes if they’re brunette, or at short jokes if they’re 6-feet tall, but deliberately telling a joke and using someone as the punchline is downright rude.

There is a fine line between laughing with someone and at someone. That line is defined by how well you know the person.

When this line is crossed again and again, it hurts to watch the person telling the joke and the person who is the punchline.

This often happens when people meet for the first time. A joke can break the ice, or it can completely offend someone.

People attempt to use this same tactic with new acquaintances as they do with old friends.

My close friends and I have jokes about my clumsiness or the fact I am a theater major. I’m comfortable with friends sharing a laugh over my poor balance and choice in career, so it’s fine.

I can also make jests at my friends’ life choices, whether it’s majoring in art or applying for clown college.

But if I meet someone new and make a joke about their decision to join the circus, it wouldn’t be funny. It would be rude and an insult to mock their chosen career.

At UCCS, I see people make jokes about certain majors. It isn’t cool when other majors tell jokes where the stupid theater major can’t find a job.

It’s not OK to laugh at the math major because he may not have the best social skills. A lot of these major-related jokes also fall prey to stereotypes.

We can do better than that.

So how do we fix this problem?

Make yourself the punchline.

Self-mockery is the best form of humor. When someone can point the plastic squirt gun at their own face and pull the trigger, it is far funnier than if another person falls victim to the joke.

Making yourself the punchline also keeps you humble. You don’t hate yourself, but know that you have humor in your own life, and are comfortable sharing that with others. There is no shame in that.

So keep on telling jokes, UCCS. But be aware of your punchlines. Humor requires a bit of modesty and a risk in being laughed at.

The cure? Laugh with them.