Lederhosen and Wienerschnitzel (Why We Laugh Too Much in America)

Have you ever noticed how people laugh at things that are not funny at all. I’m not talking about a lame joke that causes some to chuckle, (ie: entire episodes of Shit My Dad Says). I mean, instances when there wasn’t any semblance, attempt, or shred of a joke told at all and individuals snicker.

For instance, I told this girl at work that it was really cloudy outside. “It might rain,” I said. She laughed and remarked that she didn’t have an umbrella, giggling the entire length of our brief conversation. I wasn’t trying to make her laugh, I was merely being factual.

She does this constantly, laugh at things that aren’t jokes. She laughed once when I asked her how she was doing. “Fine,” she giggled.  She laughs out of nervousness — which I get, we all do it time to time — but she must be a very nervous woman because she does it all day long, everyday.

Chuck Klosterman believes this phenomenon has something to do with the Laugh Tracks they use on Television sitcoms. They condition us to laugh at every little thing whether we truly find it amusing or not is his theory.  I can buy that, but there’s more to it, I think, especially when viewed through individuals that laugh at non-jokes excessively. It has to do with our desire/need to fit in, get along with everybody, and not get on anybody’s bad side.

The Willy Loman effect.

As a culture, we place a lot of importance on being socially accepted and liked, possibly as a means of getting ahead, and one way to get people to like us is to laugh at their jokes, to be cheery, and to remain rigidly high-spirited. It’s all subconscious, of course. We laugh at our boss’s jokes more robustly than they deserve. We laugh harder at a pretty girl’s joke than an ugly girl’s. And this is understandable, and mostly not a big deal, but a problem does arise when we lose the ability to control or minimize our involuntary chuckles. When the woman at my office cracks up when I ask her if she is having a good day, I just feel annoyed (I know I hadn’t made an amusing observation). It doesn’t make me like her any more, much the opposite.

I’m not alone. There are others at my work that feel this way. We all wish she would tone down the jollity a few degrees (I haven’t even mentioned that she is a “skipper”, always bounding down the hallway with a lolloping gait).

Am I a curmudgeon? Perhaps. Is it me that needs a personality adjustment? At least in some arenas. But I don’t want everybody to be serious all the time, quite the opposite, I’m somebody who is constantly joking and trying to have a good time. I just want to be able to tell when someone finds my jokes and anecdotes amusing for real.

Germans supposedly never do this. They don’t laugh unless they really find something worthy of guffaws. It’s just not in their makeup. That’s probably why we stereotype Germans as humorless villains in so many of our movies — well, that and the whole holocaust thing.

From Chuck Klosterman…

In the U.S., when you’re making small talk with someone and they say something like, “I just moved here from Denver. It’s really confusing to get around,” you go, ‘ha ha’ and they laugh back. Much the way a laugh tracks function in television shows, it’s this fake laughter we use in conversation. In Germany, no one does that. If you make someone laugh in Germany, they think it’s funny. I’ve been back for over a year now and been desensitized to it. But for the first six months I was back, I really noticed it. You go to a bank and see it all the time, the smiling and laughing. What’s happening at a bank that’s funny? Nothing.

I say good for them. That way, when you intend to be funny and a German barrels over with laughter, slapping their knees with tears streaming down their cheeks, you know you’ve truly succeeded — at least, succeeded at being funny as it relates to a German’s sense of humor. What that is, I’m not sure, maybe something about your wienerschnitzel getting caught in your Lederhosen…

(crickets)

What the fuck! Why’s no one laughing???

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