The American sense of humor has changed radically over the years. We don't tell many jokes anymore in social or business settings. Instead, jokes have been replaced by Internet videos and cartoons, and somehow I miss the art of storytelling. Once while waiting to change planes at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, I happened to stop for a drink at a small bar near my gate. Standing at the bar was comedian Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester from the old Addams Family TV show) who was also in transit and stopped for a drink. He started telling jokes and in no time at all had everyone in gales of laughter as he told one ribald joke after another.
Over the years, I think I've heard just about everything. So much so, when a person tries to tell a joke, I can more often than not guess the punch line. I have heard jokes about sex, politicians, the military, traveling salesmen, prisons, hair lips, animals, blondes, midgets, gays, religion, but the most prevalent jokes have been ethnic in nature.
As I've traveled around the world, I've noticed everyone has an ethnic group they like to pick on, for example: the Brazilians tell Portuguese jokes (as do the Spanish), the Japanese tell Korean jokes, the Greeks tell Albanian jokes, Canadians tell "Newfie" jokes (people from Newfoundland), South Africans tell "Von der Merven" jokes (Dutch related), Texans tell "Aggie" jokes (Texas A&M University), and it seems Irish and French jokes are universal. When I lived in Chicago, I heard the best "Pollock" jokes, mostly from the Polish themselves. Come to think of it, most of the ethnic groups I've met love to tell jokes about their own kind which seems a bit odd.
You don't hear too many ethnic jokes anymore, probably because it is not considered politically correct. This is sad, as I think we have lost our sense of humor and take ourselves much too seriously. In reality, such jokes haven't disappeared entirely, they've just gone underground and are only told privately to highly select friends and acquaintances.
Ethnic jokes tend to frighten people as they think it represents an unfair stereotype. Maybe, but I can't remember anyone ever taking an ethnic joke to heart and allowing it to distort their perception of people. It was just situation comedy used for a good laugh. Something we need more of these days.
Now, before you start sending me e-mails saying that I have taken leave of my senses as ethnic jokes are defamatory swipes at people, all I've got to say is, "Loosen Up."
Now that I think about it, I don't think I have ever heard a Swiss joke. Maybe it's because the country is neutral, or maybe they are just not funny.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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