Kaupo Meiel: The funny thing about funny things

Kaupo Meiel.
Kaupo Meiel. Source: Kairit Leibold / ERR

No flags are hoisted on April Fool's Day even though no sensible person can get by without a little humor. Or perhaps it would be fitting to hoist them half-mast as good jokes are getting harder to come by with every passing year, Kaupo Meiel writes.

There is war today, and in times of war, simple and vulgar humor, the best kind in other words, seems out of place. Even when an everyday situation puts a smile on one's face, the nagging feeling that this is not the time for laughter and that giggling amounts to betraying those you should be supporting and supporting those you detest is created.

That said, humor is therapeutic and a source of comfort in difficult times. There are myriad videos from the battlefields ok Ukraine, with soldiers cracking wise. Caricatures and memes poking fun at Russian forces and their great leader Vladimir Putin are dime a dozen, whereas many of them need little in terms of embellishment to be funny.

Clinical psychologist Hannes Kuhlback said on a recent episode of "Pealtnägija" that it is necessary to make jokes in war as humor makes crises bearable and things easier even when they seem darkest.

Kuhlback is most definitely right, which is why people should not hold back when they get the irresistible urge to share a good joke with others.

But April Fool's Day traditions also include strained humor that usually manifests in the press and is more recently exercised also by PR agencies and the relevant departments of companies and other organizations.

While there will be less of it this year, the people were not forced to go entirely without. One press release revealed that "a former partner's embrace could lead to a broken rib," while the papers reported a mummy find in Haapsalu and a tunnel to be dug under the Pärnu River. Why not.

They say that a fly makes a roast and one's backside a songbird in hard times, which is why we can excuse attempts to work hard at humor. If only the person who came up with the gag feels better, it is still better than nothing.

Looking at recent years, leaving aside for a moment the fact we have been stepping from one crisis to the next, one is forced to admit that humor is increasingly in short supply.

Organic jesting has all but disappeared from Estonian politics. Many endeavors undertaken with a straight face came off so comical they sent more than a few comedians contemplating a career change as competing with the joke that Estonian politics had become was becoming increasingly difficult.

These times are now likely permanently behind us as both conscious and involuntary humor have been replaced by meanness, toxic sarcasm and even downright mockery none of which has anything to do with good humor. Attempts to satirically criticize the coalition or quick-wittedly contain the opposition usually result in a simple thrashing. Good humor and apt satire usually require both intelligence and a measure of humanity both of which seem scarce.

Political correctness, overdeveloped ability to take offense and the habit of excusing unfortunate but sincere utterances using the words "I was merely joking" have driven their own nails in the coffin of humor.

Estonians should know from the "Viimne reliikvia" that whenever someone says they were only joking, things couldn't be any more serious. You can ask Gabriel and Agnes, they would know. Or as Twitter would put it these days: "No, honey. You were not merely joking, you're just an asshole."

The first hours of the week brought another incident that had to do with humor and people's reactions to it. The Oscars saw Will Smith slap host Chris Rock after the latter foolishly poked fun at the former's wife. So, make sure Smith is not around the next time you're about to tell a joke.

Humor and the ability to understand it are signs of a healthy society, while the funniest thing about funny things these days is that humor seems to be nowhere. What that says about the state of our society is clear without saying.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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