A well-known joke:
A man walks into a bar with a duck under his arm.The bartender asks: “Say, where did you find the pig?”, “It’s not a pig, it’s a duck,” the man answers.To which the barman replies: “I was talking to the duck.”
How did you respond to that joke ? Did you laugh out aloud, fall off your chair? Did you smile, a little bit of smile? or were you in an expressionless face, because you have no idea what’s the funny part in that well-known joke(based on wikipedia )?
I could have given you an Indonesian joke, but I decided to take an example of a joke in a language everybody seems to understand, at least you know the meaning of each word.
People might have different interpretations about the joke above. Some will think it’s funny, others will think the opposite. The different interpretations are probably a matter of a personal taste, but I think cultures (customs, languages, personal beliefs) maturity, education, and intelligence play important role in shaping someone’s interpretations about the joke or in general all kinds of jokes.
I do not know how many jokes they are, but one of the kinds I often hear and watch, especially on cartoon programs on TV is slapstick.
“Slapstick is a type of comedy involving exaggerated violence and activities which exceed the boundaries of common sense. These exaggerated depictions are often found in children’s cartoons, and light film comedies aimed at younger audiences.” Wikipedia
Neither am I saying I like Slapstick nor hate this kind of jokes. It’s in between. Sometimes, I think slapsticks are quite entertaining, and I do not really take them personally; like how they will affect future generations , but there is the time when I say “That is just too much.” (shaking my head!), and I grabbed my remote to switch another channel.
Then, what did I find? Yes, you got that right- I found a comedy show! Once I watched some foreign comedy shows in their original languages, no subtitles in Bahasa. So, I asked the people who speak the languages to translate the jokes; what had been going on, why they were laughing. They did translate! but my respond was only “Ah…. I see”, and giggled a bit as an appreciation, but deep in my heart I was wondering ” That’s not funny.” ,and tried once again to stimulate my sense of humor to understand theirs. I watch comedy shows spoken in English, I speak English, I read some English books, but there is the time when I feel the humor on the shows is “fallen flat”. I just can’t figure out why they laugh out aloud during the shows. My response to the shows is probably related to different cultures, being unsuccessful in understanding the context of the shows, or just my personal taste as an Indonesian watching foreign comedy shows. An Indonesian who does not really get involved with the culture too tight to understand the jokes. Well, there is some case in which I laugh at the way the comedians speak rather than at the words they utter. They just sound funny to my ear!
Another source of jokes you might get is comic strip with funny words in captions. All you have to do is read, and respond. Whether you will laugh or smile, or show no expression at all is always your choice, your sense of humor speaks differently from other people’s. The problem of interpreting written comedy probably lies on the ability to understand, say, foreign languages. Even though language skill does not play very important role here, but still it contributes to your understanding the comics, written jokes. When I say language skill does not play very important role is because comics often have funny drawings which sometimes enable you to understand the context more easily. Thus they might stimulate your sense of humor faster than comedy shows.
But, here’s what I think the most successful form of jokes; silent jokes! silent movies! silent comics! Excuse my terms, I may have made some mistakes in naming some of the terms. What I mean by silent jokes are jokes sent without having some words to show off to convey messages. DO you know Charlie Chaplin? Of course! I think nearly everybody in the whole world knows him. or Mr. Bean?
“A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially spoken dialogue. In entertainment silent films the acting and dialogue is commuted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards.”Wikipedia, Charlie Chaplin Studios, 1922.
I have seen some of his silent movies, and they rarely fail to make me laugh. The humor his silent movies intended to send is understood by many people who do not share the same languages.
Let’s just imagine:
In a class of 25 people coming from different countries who share experiences together using English as the lingua franca, but some of them are not even closer to good at English. Then, they are seated in a circle watching Mr.Bean or Charlie Chaplin together, I am pretty sure, they all will share laughter(maybe sometimes in unison) The possible outcome, you may exchange new vocabulary in 25 different languages. Take example, they’ll think the movies are “funny”(English), “lustig”(German), and “lucu”(Bahasa).So, who knows, silent movies can be the newest and more fun ways to learn new languages easily, and faster.- just my assumption.
Didn’t I mention about silent comics too? It might not be the correct term, but I just wanted to say that silent comics work wondrously just the same as silent movies do when it comes to making you laugh.
Vater und Sohn was a generally wordless feature consisting typically of five or six panels, in which a stout, bald man with a moustache and his young son Eric get into and out of various predicaments regarding day to day events. The strip featured slapstick humour most of all (spankings are frequent) but emphasizes the tender and conspiratorial relationship between the two. The strip appeared from 1934 to 1937 in the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, for a total of 157 episodes.
In the early 1990s, the feature was also transformed into a children’s book series by Iranian publisher, ‘Vazheh’, which included explanations of the cartoons (in Persian) along with the strip on the opposite page.Wikipedia
There are actually more examples of what I call as Global Comedy, Visual Gag, Sight Gag- the comedy that is understood by nearly many people of the world. Comedy that does not use language as its main tool to entertain people.
Their comedy actually have a language; the top 1 international language- it’s more global than English, the true Lingua Franca; It is the language of the whole world without demanding people to learn a new language just to stimulate sense of humor. As I said earlier, perhaps these visual gags are interesting media to use when one is conducting cultural exchange programs; learning foreign vocabulary, and story telling.
It’s not all gags! But, it’s my opinion, LOL