10 Awesome Reasons Why You Need A Humour Book This Fools Day
If you, like me, are astounded that anyone actually needs to be told reasons for reading humour, then this piece is not for you. Or, maybe it is – for after all, more often than not, one is only preaching to the choir and it would ill-suit me to dispense with my only possible audience.
But there I go too far. It is not as though I was born, guffawing, with a PG Wodehouse novel in one hand. Early in life – around when I was 10 years of age or so – I even remember being given a couple of P.G. Wodehouse books by someone and dismissing them with a ‘Boring!’ after one read. At that age, I was looking for something to move in the story – action, adventure and all that. When such a philistine as I then was converts to enjoying the pleasures of reading humour, I am sure that there are a lot more who could become converts – provided they make a start.
Laughing is not normally injurious to health; some even say it is the best medicine
“A day without laughter is a day wasted” – Charlie Chaplin
There is, however, ample evidence that people really do not want to laugh – or read anything that threatens to make them laugh. Check out any of the top authors lists or most favourite books lists and, if there is even one humour book in it, it is cause for celebration – except when it is known humour aficionados. It almost seems as though people believe that laughing will do serious injury to them and that humour books ought to come out with statutory warnings – like the ones on cigarette packets – about all the damage they can do to your lungs, heart and liver. Believe me, laughing is actually considered good for health. Why, some even call it the best medicine.
It is not necessary to see a man slipping on a banana peel to laugh
“You know why I am here”, asked the headmaster.
Swaminathan searched for an answer: the headmaster might be there to receive letters from boy’s parents; he might be there to flay Ebenzars alive; he might be there to deliver six cuts with his cane every Monday at twelve o’clock. And above all why this question?” – R.K.Narayan
Just because you feel laughter is the medicine you need, it is not necessary to park yourself near a fruit vendor and wait for someone to slip on a banana peel. Slapstick humour does appeal to some – even most – but that is not all there is to humour. Even the most ordinary occurrences, confusions and misunderstandings can be grist to a humourist’s mill and can cause you to laugh. So, if slapstick humour leaves you cold, that does not mean you need to avoid all humour books on that count.
Humour is not all about perpetuating stereotypes.
“No man goes before his time – unless the boss leaves early” – Groucho Marx
A lot of the jokes that do the rounds are jokes based on stereotypes. Some of them perpetuate stereotypes, some use humour to question them. While it may be funny at the moment, most would probably not find it interesting to read an entire book based on stereotypes – unless it is a joke-book and can be dipped into every now and then. But, humour writing is not about perpetuating stereotypes. Nor is it necessary for it to be about stereotypes at all. Humour can arise from exploring personal foibles, behavioural habits, social systems, social conditions and even philosophy.
It is not necessary to laugh AT people; humour can make you laugh WITH them
“A sense of duty is useful in work but offensive in personal relations. People wish to be liked, not to be endured with patient resignation” – Bertrand Russell
True that a lot of humour about personal foibles or even about social conditions are written in a manner conducive to making you laugh AT those people. The best humourists, though, very seldom are judgmental in their attitudes and, thus, their writing. They prefer a ‘Look how funny WE are’ approach rather than a ‘Look how funny THEY are’ approach.
You like quotes like this – why would you not love the books they came from?
“I can resist everything except temptation” – Oscar Wilde
When humour appeals to you, especially when it is pithy, you love to quote those lines – in regular conversations and in speeches. A lot of those pithy lines, though, are not throwaway quotes by the author but form a part of a book. For every such line, which gets quoted, there are ten that do not simply because those lines require the context to be fully appreciated. For example, in “The Importance of being Ernest” there is a scene where the man says, “I have lost both my parents” and the lady replies with, “To lose one may be termed a misfortune. To lose both seems to me like sheer carelessness.” Not something that regularly gets quoted. If you read the play, you will also know that the man is the prospective son-in-law and the lady is against her daughter marrying him – which adds zing to the humour. The book, thus, is more fun to read than just a few quotes.
Humour is not necessarily frivolous
“War does not determine who is right – only who is left” – Bertrand Russell
Humour can make you laugh. Humour can also make you think – or rethink your own opinions and attitudes. Just because something is said in a funny manner, it is not necessary that it is frivolous as well. The fact that it makes you laugh is sufficient reason to read humour – for, after all, all of us need something to take our minds of the everyday problems that beset us. But, when humour also makes you think, it is icing on the cake. Humour, being humour, also allows you the choice of whether you want to think or not. You can just spend a couple of hours smiling at the surface of the story OR choose to delve deep into the perspective that is being shared. Which other genre both has the ability to jog your grey cells as well as allows you the choice to let them slumber, if that is what you want?
You may not be able to grow back hair if you go bald; you CAN learn to laugh at it
“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former” – Albert Einstein
One of the things that humour can do for you is to allow you to see your own problems in a less gloomy manner. If you can manage to see the humour in any situation, the situation itself appears less serious than you thought. So, you stop worrying about it and start tackling it, f it is something under your control. If not, humour allows you to not brood about your problems. True, all of this is possible with a personal sense of humour – a book is not going to teach you how to develop one. What reading humour can do is expose you to a more humorous perspective of your world ad, thus, enable you to take yourself and your world more lightly.
It is not necessary to be frowning when you are thinking; smiling is permitted
“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone” – John Maynard Keynes
There is, somehow, this impression that if a book is erudite and/or gloomy it is making you a better person by educating you. I see no reason why frowning while you think is any more effective in improving your wisdom than smiling would be. Books of humour are not all merely the froth on the literary ocean. Great humour can make you think and, unless you feel that you should not enjoy yourself while you are learning something, humour books can make you wiser, too.
A different viewpoint of the world need not always be gloomy or grave.
“In ancient times they had no statistics so they had to fall back on lies” – Stephen Leacock
The other funny thing is that wisdom is always assumed when someone tells you that the world is worse than what you thought it was. I really do not know whether it is a deep streak of pessimism buried in the human psyche or it is just that it is difficult for someone to pontificate effectively unless he has gloom to spread. I have always loved to be exposed to a different view of the world that is not that gloomy. If, say, the choice is between the perspective of a world run by villains, say, or one of a world run by bumbling fools, give me the latter any day!
You do claim to want to be happy, don’t you? Then, why avoid something that can make you laugh?
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go” – Oscar Wilde
All thinking, all wisdom and all progress is supposed to aim at increasing happiness. Tap any person on the shoulder and ask him if he would be happy or unhappy, there are no prizes for the right answer. If, indeed, you would be happy and if you are not masochistic, why would you not read books that make you laugh?
Almost all problems – personal and social – arise primarily because we humans take ourselves too seriously. If only we would learn to lighten up a bit; admit to ourselves that there is a strong possibility that the Universe actually does not revolve around us; and learn to laugh at ourselves, the world would be a far better place to be in. For a start, at least pick up a humour book and read it. Who knows, even if the world does not change for the better, you may!
Article contributed by: Suresh Chandrasekaran (C. Suresh)
Fiction has been an addiction but the need to make a living took Suresh through Chemical Engineering and a PGDM at IIM-Bangalore and, from thence, to a long 16 year stint in the area of finance with specific expertise in fertilizer subsidies at IFFCO and a further two years as consulting expert in the same area. That, in his words, about sums up the boring part of his life, except for the people he was privileged to meet.
Born on 27 September 1963 in Chennai, Suresh can be a dithering Libran most of the times. A company town upbringing at Neyveli and Engineering at Annamali University, Chidambaram was leavened by management education at IIM-Bangalore and, later, working life at IFFCO, New Delhi. Having decided very early in life to write full-time after securing a financial future – which also incidentally meant that he remained single in order to make it as early as possible – he quit employment at the age of 41 and his consultancy at 43, and returned to Bangalore.
Otherwise, he can be described as a mess of contradictions – a bookworm but avid trekker; alone but never lonely; enjoys solitude but loves company; lazy but a perfectionist, the litany is endless. Trekking, which side-tracked him from the writing for which he quit his job, is a major passion and he does, at least, one trek in the Himalayas every year in addition to numerous local treks.
He reignited his passion for writing with a fairly popular blog www.jambudweepam.blogspot.in. The blog has been rated among the Top 5 humour blogs in India, twice in succession – in 2014 and 2015 – by BlogAdda, and has also been listed third among the Top Humour Blogs by Baggout.
He is author of a humour book – A Dog Eat Dog-Food World, has a short story published in a collection Uff Ye Emotions and has edited and written a novelette in an ebook anthology Sirens spell danger. On Facebook, where he is more active, he can be accessed at /suresh.chandrasekaran.75. He does have a twitter handle – @CSuresh16 – but he has no handle on using it regularly.