I think I forgot how to laugh....seriously.
November 9, 2010 10:22 AM   Subscribe

I've been taking life and it's issues so seriously in recent times - make that years - that I can't even remember the last time I actually laughed out loud. Nothing is funny to me anymore. Stopped seeing humor. Argh.

I'm in need of some major humor therapy - but for the life of me I can't find ANYTHING that is even smile-worthy. I used to lol at movies like Young Frankenstein, Dumb and Dumber, Airplane, Hellzapoppin' and now - pfffff. Can't stand watching stand-up either and I know them all. The profanity probably turns me off - where every second word is the F word. That's not funny - never was either.

Charlie Chaplin and the classics never really did anything for me. I guess with time, my tastes have really changed - but I can't believe that I'll be trudging through life without a belly laugh again. Feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders right now - but what would do the trick when I'm so darn sensitive to every little nuance?

Adam Corolla was funny - saw him, Louis CK - to a point, George Carlin - saw everything of his, Robin Williams - was funny way back when. Please help me find a snit-proof comedy movie, site, video, stand-up - whatever - as long as it's profanity free and doesn't involve gratuitous sophomoric sex scenes, people hurting each other, or themselves, animals being harmed or things blowing up. British humor is also out. That would definitely not be funny at this point.

Hopefully there's something still out there that will bring back the laughs to this way too serious chick. Kudos in advance.
posted by watercarrier to Society & Culture (50 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis: Charlize Theron
posted by found missing at 10:27 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Jim Gaffigan is one who doesn't use profanity (not that I can recall, at least) and he's pretty awesome. There's plenty of his stuff on YouTube.
posted by lbo at 10:28 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you familiar with Mike Birbiglia? His comedy is mostly personal storytelling, light on though not 100% free from the profanity (heavy on the embarrassment though), and makes me laugh. It's emotionally honest which I find cathartic, but not super-depressing.
posted by Knicke at 10:30 AM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: How about playing with some cute, cuddly puppies (or watching videos of them)?

It sounds like for whatever reason, anything that's trying to be funny intentionally isn't going to work for you right now. Maybe you just need to take small steps with things that are pleasant (like puppies) and work your way up to gut-busting laughter.
posted by hansbrough at 10:30 AM on November 9, 2010

Add Mike Birbiglia to the non-profane-but-hilarious comedian/storyteller pile.
posted by jquinby at 10:30 AM on November 9, 2010

This series of commercials makes me laugh, every time.

There is a video game based on Pimp My Ride. In this game, you can pimp out your car and then there is a minigame based on ghostriding your car, with points given for style (apparently). Someone set it to Klaus Nomi, and that is how this happened.

If these don't work, then watch this. Then watch it again. Then watch it again. It gets funnier every time. I'm not kidding. Try it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:30 AM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Arrested Development definitely dips its toes into the risque, but there's no profanity.
posted by griphus at 10:31 AM on November 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

I'll also add (partially to explain my link to an internet-humor thread, rather than stand up comedy) that, while I like and respect comedians in the classic sense of the term, and comedy movies/television shows, I often don't get deep belly laughs out of those sorts of experiences. Like, I recognize they are funny, and I might think, "gee, that's clever" or chuckle to myself. But it's rare that I get a deep gut hilarity out of it.

But I was literally ON THE FLOOR last night over that website. Then my roommate came in, and I showed her, and she was on the floor too.

That said, if you must watch a comedian, movie, or television show, this situation definitely calls for Ab Fab. Yes, it's British, in the sense of being made by British people. But it's not "British Comedy" along the lines of Monty Python. It's not a witty goofy "tee hee" wordplay sort of comedy. If the early 90's-ness of it renders it incomprehensible (avoid the episodes done in 2000-2001, they are not nearly as good and not enjoyable at all to someone who isn't already a fan), you could also check out French & Saunders' later sketch comedy (Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders being the creators of Ab Fab). And if you like that stuff, you'd probably also enjoy Katherine Tate's sketch comedy series as well. Though you start getting more and more "classic Brit Com" the deeper you go down that rabbit hole. Absolutely Fabulous is the least British Comedy of all these things.
posted by Sara C. at 10:39 AM on November 9, 2010

I too am a chick who gets caught up in the "big ideas" of life. Sometimes I ease into comedy by watching stuff that is both funny and addresses big ideas. Like videos by Sarah Haskins, whose "Target Women" videos hilariously mock sexist stereotypes in advertising. Or Little Miss Sunshine, which still makes me laugh out loud even though it deals with issues like suicide, unrealistic beauty standards, and failure. On the other end of the spectrum, I really enjoy things that are just absurd... what jumps to mind right now is Wizard People Dear Reader, but that might only appeal if you think Harry Potter is as silly as I do.

Good luck! There's a very funny world out there.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 10:48 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thirding the Mike Birbiglia love.
posted by Ostara at 10:48 AM on November 9, 2010

What do you think of the "Family Guy" TV series? It has a uniquely berserk sense of humor.
You might be amused by the movie "The Man Who Knew Too Little" starring Bill Murray.
In terms of humorous music, Tom Lehrer has never been surpassed, even after all these years (his last recordings were from the mid 1960's). At times I also find Weird Al Yankovic to be amazingly funny. Have you heard "Amish Paradise"?

I don't think that there is a lack of comedy available to you; there may be something that it causing you to take life more seriously than you really should. I hope that you are not suffering from depression. Humor therapy may not be the only kind that you need.
posted by grizzled at 10:49 AM on November 9, 2010

We saw Louie Anderson live recently and he was a lot funnier than I'd expected. He used no profanity at all.

Are you a reader? My husband snorts and giggles constantly while reading Terry Pratchett's books.

Bill Bryson is both funny and smart. A Walk in the Woods and Notes from a Small Island were very good in audiobook format.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:56 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can be way too serious as well sometimes. My suggestions aren't high end, intellectual humor, just a couple of things that struck me the right way at the right time.

The first time I stumbled across Cakewrecks and poked through the archives, I was in tears. I normally am one of those people who doesn't laugh out loud when I'm alone as well. They're sometimes just so hilariously absurd.

Texts From Last Night can also be pretty funny, although it sometimes has profanity. Poke through "the best of".

The first time I saw Kevin James' comedy special "Sweat the Small Stuff," it also made me LOL, alone. There are clips on Youtube, but I think if you haven't seen any of it and just watch it all the way through, it's better. I think Comedy Central still occasionally runs it, even though it's several years old. It's also on DVD.

All of this said, don't worry if none of any of our suggestions are funny to you. The funniest things that I've seen/experienced have also been unexpected.
posted by AlisonM at 11:03 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

King of the Hill reruns on Netflix. This is a genuinely underappreciated series, which has made me laugh out loud and generally feel better about life many times. It's decent in every way you specify. Bobby Goes Nuts (season 6) is my favorite episode, but Aisle 7A (season 4), Beer and Loathing (season 6), and Plastic White Female (season 1) are brilliant too.
posted by apparently at 11:08 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

On re-read: you specify profanity-free, but you list George Carlin and Louis CK as people you've liked in the past and they are far from G-rated. Is that indicative of your current tolerance to profanity or have your tastes changed significantly?

I ask because I was going to recommend David Sedaris as someone who has made me laugh out loud on many occasions, but he does a bit of swearing as I recall, particularly in stories featuring his foul-mouthed younger brother who is nevertheless quite a lovable and unique individual. His essay "The Rooster" contains probably the worst of the language but it also happens to be one of the funniest things I've ever read.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

How about Mystery Science Theatre 3000? I also recommend Comedy Central's animated series Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist, which features a lot of great comedians. You can find both on Netflix, and there are some full MST3K movies on YouTube.
posted by lucysparrow at 11:18 AM on November 9, 2010

What do you not like about British humor? The broadness and repeated banging-in of jokes/catchphrases in something like the Catherine Tate Show and Little Britain, or something else?

The first time I saw an Eddie Izzard live show (probably Dress to Kill), it nearly made me pee my pants. I had to stop and catch my breath. While it is true that he does suffer from a terrible case of the Brits, his humor is generally based on history and bad impressions of James Mason and making fun of his own inability to remember where he is in the show. And lots of callbacks. It's smart and absolutely hilarious. (A little profanity, but not a huge amount.)

I still laugh at Coming to America, with Eddie Murphy. Specifically the Sexual Chocolate scene.

On the flip side, of something that's not so much humorous but lighthearted and mood-lifting... I don't know how you feel about drag, and I know several people who specifically dislike its use in humor (e.g., cheap laughs at a guy in a dress). However, if you're looking for a real demonstration of skill, heart, humor, love and dedication, I cannot recommend the documentary Pageant highly enough. I was in a rotten mood when I turned on the TV, and when it was done I was just so happy to be in a world where people can be appreciated for such a wide, unique array of talents. The parts where the kid and mom and straight male friend and younger brother of the contestants support them are just so wonderful to see.

If you are a listener or reader, Bob and Ray are old-fashioned and ridiculous.

Also, I would add my voice to those urging you to check in with a therapist. When you talk about a weight on your shoulders and not finding things funny across the board, as well as being "sensitive to every nuance" and trying to avoid people hurting each other/themselves/animals, I see a lot of pain in your life that you don't know how to manage.

Whether you're in a major depressive spell or just a rough patch in your life, you're not alone. Relying on yourself is okay, but if you're depressed it can seem like it's one more thing you have to manage but can't. Please consider getting checked out.
posted by Madamina at 11:20 AM on November 9, 2010

I don't think the problem is the movies you're watching or the books you're reading. I could say watch "Arsenic and Old Lace"--no-one can make it through that without laughing. But the problem is exactly as you state it: you are taking things way too seriously. You must realize that or else you wouldn't have posted this question. Unless you work on the problem, your laughter will probably be rueful.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:24 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Start out with baby steps, with something that prompts a smile. The song in this old TV commercial always brings a smile to my face, it just infectiously happy to my mind. I've never been a fan of outright blue humor or excessive profanity, either. "It's in the Book" is an old comedy record, but it still makes me (and others for whom I've played it) laugh. You might enjoy the "Password" episode of The Odd Couple, especially watching the very intellectual and traditionally very serious Felix deliberately act "average" so that he can be a game show contestant.

I hope you do find your smile again. My younger brother has been growing increasingly morose over the years, to the point of chastising me if I laugh at something ("How can you laugh when the economy is in the toilet?") and it breaks my heart to see him almost purposely deprive himself of any humor.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:28 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know you mentioned that the classics haven't been doing it for you, but the things that make me laugh so much about old screwball comedies are precisely the things you seem to be looking for. No farting, profanity, or unnecessary nudity- just straight out belly laughs.

I can't find the exact clips I'm looking for, but some of my favorite examples include the Marx Brothers (A Night at the Opera or Duck Soup) and the Philadelphia Story (who knew Jimmy Stewart was such a fantastic drunk?). Also, remember I Love Lucy?


More importantly, I don't mean to read too much into your question, but it sounds like life is weighing pretty heavily on you right now. I hope that you're able to work through whatever is keeping you from finding your belly laughs.
posted by bookgirl18 at 11:30 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

A video that never fails to crack me up:

Dads Changing Babies
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:35 AM on November 9, 2010

Not for nothing, but that's pretty much a textbook description of clinical depression. Have you spoken to a doctor or a therapist about this?
posted by ErikaB at 11:36 AM on November 9, 2010

Beyonce Clown?
posted by hermitosis at 11:40 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, perhaps this speaks more to my own taste in silly TV, but c'mon, he gets a turkey stuck on his HEAD.

And the conclusion:
posted by bookgirl18 at 11:42 AM on November 9, 2010

Humor is so subjective that I can't really suggest specific things with much confidence. Flight of the Conchords is very funny without having any of the negative aspects you mentioned, but then again Fawlty Towers is also hilarious in my opinion and you ruled out all British comedy so who knows.

One thing that I can absolutely say will help is that humor is infectious. So actually going to see a stand-up comedian in a club full of laughing people will seem much more funny than watching the same routine on DVD. And watching something with a group of friends where you are all laughing and having a good time is more fun than doing it alone. Really the source material doesn't even have to be great comedy at that point, watching The Room* might just be a cringe-fest by yourself, but with a group of like-minded bad movie fans and a drinking game (drink every time you see the Golden Gate Bridge) it turns into a completely hilarious good time.

* Warning: Contains completely gratuitous (and mildly nauseating) sex scenes.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:42 AM on November 9, 2010

What's Your Dad Like?

I can't not laugh at that, it's so stupid.
posted by Siena at 11:43 AM on November 9, 2010

I'd also suggest revisiting British Comedy -- it's pretty diverse, and definitely not limited to python-esque gags.
posted by schmod at 11:57 AM on November 9, 2010

Oh, and for specific places to start, I'd recommend (in no particular order): Black Books, The IT Crowd, and the standup routines of Bill Bailey and Eddie Izzard. Also, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are both great fun.
posted by schmod at 12:00 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hey thanks for the suggestions, please keep them coming. Couple of responses -

Why Carlin and CK then and not now? Don't know - maybe it's age - maybe it's the times, maybe I can read the tragedy in the comedy too well.

Re therapy - I'm not depressed, it doesn't need curing. I've been dealing with some heavy stuff that will work itself out as it always seems to.

Reading the replies and looking at the suggestions made, I think what narrows down what I'm looking for is something brilliant, innovative and maybe a bit nerdy. The Church of Blow for example. Smart humor. Coen Brothers, Zach G etc. Keep the suggestions coming.
posted by watercarrier at 12:01 PM on November 9, 2010

Talking Dogs is my go-to funk-buster.
posted by chara at 12:12 PM on November 9, 2010

Watch some other people laugh! A man and a woman and babies!
posted by Addlepated at 12:14 PM on November 9, 2010

Nothing makes me giggle more uncontrollably than youtube videos of babies giggling uncontrollably. (I'm grinning now, remembering the one of triplets/quads/multiples lying on the bed with their mum with their dad just cracks them up.) Comedians rarely raise a laugh-out-loud moment with me.

YMMV. But I hope not. Laughter is the best medicine, absolutely.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:18 PM on November 9, 2010

Yep, Addlepated linked to that one that just kills me. Here I go into fits of hysterics again.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:20 PM on November 9, 2010

Just about the only show on TV that makes me actually laugh (OK, I can't speak for all, but of the ones I've seen) is Adventure Time. It's clever absurdism that takes me back to when I watched cartoons as a kid. Check out the short from a couple years ago and then go watch the (more polished) real thing.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 12:40 PM on November 9, 2010

When I'm down, my favorite thing in the world to watch is QI (Quite Interesting). It's unbelievably funny, everyone involved is clearly having a great old time, and it's even got a really nice, positive intellectual message about how everything in the world is interesting if you look at it correctly. In between the laugh-out-loud bits you'll learn a lot of incredible things that you'll be telling people later. It's ostensibly a quiz show, but really that's just an excuse to get five amazing comedians in a room together, and the "scoring" is completely absurd (the last episode I watched had a winner with 1 point and a loser with -36). It's British, but it's not British in the way that I suspect you don't like. It sort of reminds me of when I occasionally spent time around improv people in college - just watching that many funny minds interacting is bound to be a blast.
posted by you're a kitty! at 1:14 PM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Graham Norton is IMO the funniest talk show host since Carson. He has all his guests on at the same time. The conversation and video bits are seriously wonderful and intelligent. I'm watching one now with Dawn French and Jackie Chan and I can't stop laughing. I love watching very funny people making other very funny people laugh. He's on BBC America, late afternoon.
posted by Pennyblack at 1:21 PM on November 9, 2010

I posted this recently and got a lot of funnies.
posted by dzaz at 1:44 PM on November 9, 2010

I have to second Flight of the Conchords. It ALWAYS makes me bust out laughing.
Fairly innocent too with little language or violence.
posted by natasha_k at 3:49 PM on November 9, 2010

Here's a McSweeney's list that cracks me up every time I read it.
posted by lakeroon at 8:26 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I suggest reading MetaTalk. There are always lots of funny, snarky, droll comments. I read it during the middle of the night and I fear my neighbours hearing my laughing fits must wonder whether I'm insane or keeping a hyena. Even on some of the fightiest threads there are usually some crazy ass remarks that set me off.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:07 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

"British humor is also out. That would definitely not be funny at this point."

'British humour' is as wide a term as 'American comedy'. It comes in all flavours! I'm never sure what specifically is meant when people use this term - Monty Python is fifty years old or so now, Fawlty Towers thirty-five (before I was born, y'know?) and you won't get much of what we do in the US. I watch a lot of comedy and I never watch things like Little Britain or Catherine Tate as it's just not for me. It's kind of like thinking all US comedy is Home Improvement, Family Guy and Friends.

I'd give you some of my favourites but my current faves are pretty mean at times (The Inbetweeners, for example, is v.puerile, albeit in a clever way.) I think what you want is someone like Milton Jones or Tim Vine, or even I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue - silly punny humour that will make you laugh with how bad the jokes are. I also love Peter Serafinowicz's Brian Butterfield character - do search for it on YouTube. I also like Father Ted, The IT Crowd and I'm Alan Partridge for comedy that's hilarious but warm-hearted rather than vulgar.
posted by mippy at 6:09 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

OH GOD, how could I possibly forget Father Ted and the IT Crowd? Funniest shows ever.
posted by Madamina at 7:39 AM on November 10, 2010

Australian humor? The Umbilical Brothers are delightfully odd and pretty amazing at what they do.
posted by lucyleaf at 9:53 AM on November 10, 2010

It's funny, Catherine Tate gets a bad rap in this thread, but honestly if you skip her one or two catchphrase sketches (which invariably are the ones she does over and over and over and if I ever hear that stupid "Uh'm no' bovvahd" character again I might stab someone...), she can actually be funny.

Though I'm now discovering through this thread that the difference between "funny" and "irritating dogshit" has a lot to do with the cultural baggage surrounding it - as someone who discovered Catherine Tate through Netflix, I'm definitely more poised to like it than someone who has to hear obnoxious teenagers parroting her stupid catchphrases on top of the heavy layer of media saturation I'm sure it gets.

Also, she is ten different levels of awesome on Dr. Who. That is all.

(Oh, but I agree about Little Britain, though. Unwatchable.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:18 AM on November 10, 2010

Frasier? I always used to tell people that it was the only show I found funny. Recently I decided to re-watch it to see if that proclamation was accurate, and it is! It's aged a bit, but David Hyde Pierce kills me every time.

if you have a torrent app, I've been told the whole series is on the 'noid
posted by MeiraV at 6:48 PM on November 10, 2010

Father Ted and The IT Crowd just slay me.
posted by Lizzle at 4:14 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

lots of good links, but nothing beats live, spontaneous laughter - for this, i suggest hanging out with little kids and/or good friends. I've recently been amazed at how funny a game of ping pong can be, such as when the ball gets stuck in the garage ceiling, or the cat decides to attack the table, or you foul the ball off the paddle and it hits you in the face, or while retrieving the ball, you secretly substitute a whiffle ball, or wad of paper and serve with that ball. Same with slug-bug - who'd have thought it could be so entertaining! (no slugbacks)

Seems like the best times often happen in those little moments. Standing in the kitchen waiting for your ride, or in the car, or waiting for your table at a restaurant. See if you can get everyone one enough sleep and financial security, and clear off their daily to-do lists to enjoy those moments.
posted by at at 10:33 AM on November 16, 2010

When I'm feeling the weight of the world I don't WANT to laugh big belly laughs. I just want to smile to myself.

cats in sinks

Then when I am feeling a little bit better (because of cats in sinks) I can move on to Snowball
posted by DMelanogaster at 7:54 PM on December 25, 2010

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