It’s good to laugh…at yourself

The words 'Ha! Ha! Ha!'

In general, I think us Brits are pretty good at laughing at ourselves, both individually and as a nation. British comedians will often make comparisons between us and other nationalities, particularly Americans, and we’re quite happy to recognise our shortcomings and laugh heartily at them. Two particular examples spring to mind. I can’t remember who said them so I can’t give them proper credit, but if either of the comedians who said one of these is reading this and would like to make themselves known to me, they should do so right away…

EXAMPLE ONE – Us Brits just don’t know how to celebrate like the Americans do. If we had been the first to land on the moon, we wouldn’t have proudly planted a flag of our nation in the ground, no, we’d have put up a sign saying ‘Caution: Uneven Surface’.

EXAMPLE TWO – You have to feel sorry for our police over here and the powers they have available to them. If an American cop is faced with a dangerous criminal he can shout “Stop or I’ll shoot!”. Over here they shout “Stop or I’ll shout ‘stop’ again!”.

English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish comedians are all very good at mocking their own people and laughing. Of course nobody must mock anyone else’s people, just their own, and as long as everyone understands that then we can all laugh together and get along just fine. People outside of the UK might assume that there can be inter-mocking amongst the English/Irish/Scottish/Welsh, but no, self-mocking only is allowed.

I will quite readily admit it when I’ve done or said something stupid; anyone who knows me well will confirm that this happens on a pretty regular basis. I’ll admit these things and laugh, and if others laugh too that’s great. I think it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself – there is really no point in taking yourself too seriously, nobody else does.

For example, I’m not very good at getting angry and shouting, I usually get it all wrong, and these are occasions that are recounted to others with much laughter for ever more. My kids love to tell people about the time I shouted at my daughter “No, I don’t want you to say sorry, I want you to apologise to me!”. And I’m sure my ex boyfriend still has a chuckle about the time in mid argument when I shouted “Why do you always have to act like a complete and utter thacko!” – I tried to go with it and pretend that thacko was a real word, but it was too late. I’m just no good at arguing, if I’m not stumbling over my words then I’m saying completely ridiculous things. Like the time with a different ex when we had a massive argument about whose fault it was that a pork chop had been left in the grill pan overnight instead of being put in the fridge; as if the argument wasn’t ridiculous enough in itself, at one point I shouted “Well I hope you’re pleased with yourself because I’m going to have to go out and get a second job now to pay for that wasted pork chop!”.

I also get it all wrong when I’m trying to apply logic to situations. On a trip to Orlando several years back, we were all complaining about how the theme parks seem to have plenty of drinking fountains dotted around, except when you’re thirsty and then you can’t find one. I helpfully piped up, “I know what we should do! Every time we see a fountain, we should have a little drink out of it, so that later if we get thirsty and can’t find one, it won’t matter!”. Right.

Are you good at laughing at yourself? For those of you outside the UK, are your nations good at laughing at themselves collectively?

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39 responses to “It’s good to laugh…at yourself

  1. Those are hysterical! And I hate it when my husband is being a complete thacko!

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  2. Too funny. I love this post; you had me laughing to myself. I wish I could think of something ridiculous that I’ve said in the throes of anger or panic, because I’m like you–I stumble over my own words and come out sounding like a fool. I’ll have to think on that one. I love ‘thacko’ I think that needs to be made into a real word.

    This is why I love writing so much. My characters always get it right the first time, and they come off sounding so witty and savvy. It is the only time “I” can pull off a great comeback.

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    • Glad I gave you a laugh! Yes, I was struggling to remember examples when I was writing it and I knew that at some point after posting I would remember better examples of things I’ve come out with. Thacko did actually become a real word between him and me after that, we’d say things like “That John from next door is a bit of a thacko isn’t he”.

      That’s a good point, I don’t think I’d ever thought of it like that – the characters we write about can have the skills we wish we had!

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  3. Love, love, LOVE to laugh at myself! Human beings as a whole are inherently funny! Learning to recognize it, then laugh at it is truly a wonderful gift!

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  4. I wonder if, perhaps, we come from a similar genetic pool, as I had to reread your last sentence about drinking fountains, because the first time I read it, it made perfect sense to me. What a good idea, I thought, and then, oh, hold on a second…

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  5. Thanks for sharing that. Made me laugh out loud. Always a good thing.

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  6. I am the queen of self-deprecating humor. It’s the safe kind of humor (where no one can get offended). As for Americans, we’re great at poking fun at each other, but I don’t think there one thing you can say about all Americans that would hold true for all of us. We are a diverse lot that defy a unified cultural character (regardless of our “United States of America” moniker). Some of us have a delightful sense of humor and others are as serious as a heart attack.

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  7. This is HIL-ar-ious. You are so down-to-earth. I find myself in a number of your situations. Like I said, you’re down-to-earth or maybe I’m simply hoping that I am too. Ha ha. Imaginative post.

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  8. The second quote is from Robin Williams — I’m not sure about the first. But on to the substance of the post — it does seem like the ability to laugh at ourselves is essential to having (at least sometimes) harmonious relationships. My brother and I had experiences like this when we were kids — we would suddenly say “what are we arguing about?” and realize we had completely forgotten.

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    • Really? Robin Williams? I was sure it was a British comedian – I’m not doubting you, I’m just surprised! I also wonder if laughing at ourselves is a bit of a defense mechanism too, like we get in there first before someone else laughs at us!

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  9. Absolutely true, only self mockery is allowed. No one else can joke at the Scottish but me. πŸ˜€
    I have to laugh at myself, I do the silliest things. A sense of humour keeps me chugging along. πŸ™‚
    Having lived in Australia for a time now, I can say they do laugh at themselves very well but like us, you can not laugh at them from the outside. They have zero tolerance for that. You have to be born here to be one of them too, you can’t laugh from the inside unless you’re covered with Australian umbilical fluid. Now there’s an image.

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  10. My first rule in life is to never take myself too seriously.

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  11. Being American and having an English husband tends to make me over-generalize about what’s American and what’s English. I can say that I think I taught him to laugh at himself more and not take himself so seriously. So maybe we’re not typical??

    I think the best kind of humor is when you laugh not only about yourself but about life’s little stories that play out each day (as it seems you do). If you’re laughing along with your kids instead of yelling at them, you are better off than about 85 percent of both the English and American population. ; )

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    • Yes, I had an American husband, and lived in America for a while, so I was was often making those generalised comparisons.

      I often just sit and laugh to myself about the silliness of things around me, it may be worrying for others, but it keeps me happy!

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  12. Ha! I love your argument responses. I’ve said a lot of stupid things in my time, so I decided to stop arguing. Instead I’ve worked on my cold glare: -_- (I’m not so good yet. People laugh.) And that’s actually why I love being able to call myself a Brit.

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  13. Great stories, Vanessa! It’s great when people can laugh at their own shortcomings and mistakes. And, you’re absolutely right: there is really no point in taking yourself too seriously, nobody else does.

    Sorry I have not followed you until now. That is rectified as of this moment!

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  14. I laugh at myself all the time, because if I didn’t I think I’d go crazy!

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  15. What? “Thacko” isn’t a real word? It sounds like a word to me. I don’t think I would like being called a thacko very much.

    I relate to the pork chop story, but it doesn’t do me much good to complain about such waste because I can’t stand to eat left-overs. We put them in the refrigerator, wait until they change color and get a coat of fuzz on them, then through them out. It feels like we didn’t waste the food that way…I guess. Now, my mother-in-law can make a leftover taste like a new meal. I’ve eaten her “left-overs” and never knew the difference. Warming something up in the microwave, that is a different color than when it was served, just doesn’t appeal to me.

    I’d fill up your comment section if I even began to tell you how many times I had no choice but to laugh at myself for something, but the water fountain thing….well…I woulda busted a gut.

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    • I know what you mean about leftovers, it depends what it is though, some things I find are actually better the next day, like lasagna, or curries or some casseroles, other things not so much. I wouldn’t reheat a whole pork chop because it would go really dry, but I might slice it thinly and throw it into a stir-fry of veggies with some plum sauce and a bit of chilli, then you’d never know it was left-overs!

      Yes I still laugh at the water fountain thing even though it was years ago!

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  16. I’m giggling in my office. People are staring.

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  17. I am a little bit too good at laughing at myself! Crazy stuff happens to me all of the time, it’s far better being able to laugh it off! My man can’t do that. He will laugh at himself if I haven’t laughed at him first… go figure.

    I love your Pork Chop comment – you thacko, you! πŸ˜‰

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  18. “Stranger than usual things keep happening all of the time.” Terry Pratchett. Got to laugh when you’re in the middle of it!

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  19. Mohammed Muzaffar

    Makes sense, what you said, For instance, the police example you gave can be altered a bit. The British/English police would shout β€œStop or I’ll shout β€˜stop’ again!”. Indian police would be like I wont shooting cos he has performed the ritual of ‘Pocket Warming'(bribing) good enough and for someone who did not do the ritual I will shoot without warning and claim reward, although who got shot was an innocent. Its a disgusting shortcoming…

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