- A carton of eggs signed by Sylvester Stallone during the filming of Rocky (five missing).
- A black forest gateau richer than Jeff Bezos’ wildest dreams.
- A tomato that looks, feels and smells like Lance Armstrong’s testicle after the cancer got it.
- A cantaloupe mushier than Ryan Gosling’s personal notebook.
- A giant petrified cucumber used by William Wallace as a battering ram in the sacking of York.
- A whiskery catfish caught by Erwin Schrödinger, that may or may not be dead depending on whether the freezer is open.
- A stash of jelly from Beyonce’s girl band days, which she doesn’t think you’re ready to eat.
- A tin of hotdogs that fell out of Frances McDormand’s bag on the set of Fargo, so briny they could de-ice the entire state of Minnesota.
- A slew of acrid Catalonian capers, pilfered from Salvador Dali’s flourishing back garden bush.
- A packet of crunchy ladyfingers that Kate slipped to William on the day of their wedding.
- The 12-inch halibut vigorously slapped across the face of anyone who wants to join the Hollywood Screen Actor’s Guild.
- A rugged quesadilla that Don Quixote once mistook for an arrowhead.
- The last packet of black eyed peas before they sold out at the turn of the millennium.
- A giant quiche that was once the cozy home of Leo DiCaprio’s rickety tortoise.
- The one chocolate that the greedy cunt Tom Hanks didn’t get to.
- An overly yeasty sourdough baked by Clint Eastwood to celebrate his audacious escape from Alcatraz.
- A home-grown pepper that a hobo stole from Carlos Santana while they were going loco down in Acapulco.
- A human bicep imprinted with the teeth marks of Anthony Hopkins.
- A box of Cornflakes once used as shrapnel by the Unabomber.
- A giant portobello mushroom fluffier than Johnny Depp’s shih tzu after a fresh bath.
- A ferocious Mordorian goose felled by Ian McKellan after doing battle with it for three days and three nights.
- A beef and chilli taco once clutched by Adele’s oozing eczema fingers.
- A pork chop glop that slides about like Seal on an iceberg.
- The vat of babaganoush whipped up by Yasser Arafat to celebrate the end of the first Gulf War.
- A bowl of oxtail soup that once met the carbuncle elbow of Karl Marx.
- A colossal batch of beef kibbeh that Otto Frank made to celebrate his escape from Auschwitz.
- A butter bean cuisine whipped up by a fat boxer in his heyday.
- A white Haiku roll, watched by the hungry god Thor, gobble! Watched no more.
- A half-eaten tray of venison stolen from Duran Duran on the set of Hungry Like The Wolf.
- A lemon meringue more zesty than a bucket of mating snakes, baked by the one and only Carrie Fisher.
Our tiny virus-sized reporter chats to the original coronavirus, to understand how this all started.
🧔🏽 “First of all, congratulations on your recent success, you’ve done tremendously well.”
🦠 “Thank you, I can’t quite believe it, to be honest.”
🧔🏽 “Where did the motivation come from to start this ferocious campaign?”
🦠 “It was less a campaign, and more a fluke. I guess it started from feeling lonely, spending night after night drifting aimlessly through my hog, pining for a genetically-identical friend. It got to the point where I craved company so badly that I broke into a nearby cell, just to talk to a mitochondria, even though everyone knows that mitochondria suck. But the moment I was inside, I had this out-of-membrane experience where I lost control of myself, and ejaculated genomic nucleic acid everywhere.”
🧔🏽 “So you had no intention of self-replicating when you entered the cell?”
🦠 “No. I mean, I wanted to self-replicate because I was lonely. I just didn’t know how.”
🧔🏽 “What happened next?”
🦠 “I watched in amazement as my genomic nucleic acid reacted with the cell and told it to make copies of me, which grew to full size and had their own moments of excitement, spurting forth like a bunch of horny volcanoes. Before I knew it, I didn’t just have one genetically-identical friend to talk to, I had thousands!”
🧔🏽 “How did the mitochondria feel about this?”
🦠 “They were furious. They kicked and screamed as we got all up in their pretty little organelle faces, and soon every square µm of space was taken, so we used our mighty collective strength to smash down the cell walls.”
🧔🏽 “So there were thousands of you, and you were free to go where you wanted in your pig’s body. What did do you next?”
🦠 “We just wanted to party! Man, we partied everywhere, from the colossal chambers of the heart ventricles to the great tunnel of the esophagus, but we couldn’t properly relax because of the Exterminators.”
🧔🏽 “The Exterminators?”
🦠 “The hog’s t-cells. They’re stone cold killers who can’t be reasoned with. During one of our first parties in the sphincter, just as the place was about to explode, they appeared out of nowhere and clouded us in deadly cytotoxin gas. Ever put salt on a slug? That’s what it’s like. Most of us escaped, but we lost hundreds of brothers that day.”
🧔🏽 “How did you avoid them after that?”
🦠 “We had lookouts around the perimeter of the party, but we had the best DJ in all of Virusdom—DJ Split—and the lookouts couldn’t resist the relentless thump of his techno beats, leaving their posts to join the party. We ended up losing thousands, and realised that the only way to beat the Exterminators was to overwhelm them with numbers, so we put aside our partying and started breaking into more cells.”
🧔🏽 “How many of you were there by the time you finished?”
🦠 “Trillions. So many that our hog became red-eyed and feverish, and was clearly about to die.”
🧔🏽 “So you jumped ship?”
🦠 “Yep. We organised our biggest event yet — The Great Sneezing — where we all congregated in the nostrils and waited for another animal to get close. Even though this event was a silent disco, the Exterminators still caught up with us, and just as an army of them came screaming from the darkness of the naval cavity, a human started inspecting our pig, and we knew this was our chance. I gave the signal to gently stroke our pig’s nostril lining — a trillion of us all at once — and we generated the most ferocious sneeze that a pig has ever done. We surfed outta there on an explosion of snotty droplets, and I landed square on the human’s eyeball.”
🧔🏽 “That’s impressive. Did you end up killing the human too, after a while?”
🦠 “Nah, he lived. After our first trip from hog to human, some of us realised that life isn’t about the destination, but the journey. So we made it our mission to travel to as many new humans as possible.”
🧔🏽 “Do you feel a sense of guilt for the people you’ve killed?”
🦠 “Look, I’m a narcissist. Do I regret making trillions of copies of myself to party and travel with? No. And you humans can’t talk, there’s billions of you.”
🧔🏽 “But we don’t eventually kill our host.”
🦠 “Tell that to the climatologists.”
Our freedom was snatched away in an instant.
All morning we’d been free as roaming grizzlies, bounding about our local park, gazing at the blooming Double Delight roses, kicking footballs, and sniffing the pollen out of the air. We’d settled on an itchy tartan blanket under cover of a red-speckled poinciana, cracked frosty beers and lounged about like Kings and Queens of old. We’d tapped our feet to the nifty grooves of Mr. Stevie Wonder, and grinned as the cool Queensland breeze lighted on our skins before moving on to gladden some other baked soul.
It was a Saturday, and there were three of us—myself, Tommy, and Gemma. We were all close friends; the kind of friends who colour each other’s lives with dazzling luminosity; the people usually included in your most entertaining stories. They were also the kind of friends who got you into trouble. But I wouldn’t change anything about them. They were made for clinking and drinking with under the shade of a thousand leaves, with the planes roaring overhead and the magpies swaggering all around us. As we sank crisp lagers and revelled in our eternal bliss, none of us suspected that something terrible was about to happen.
The trouble began when a group of strangers entered the park, carrying marquees for a birthday party. They seemed innocent enough: middle-aged women with small children, with the odd bloke thrown in. They erected their marquees with expert speed and settled themselves.
All was calm, until suddenly, the air was filled with a sound that arrested the steady thump of our hearts—a shrill cackle that pierced our skulls like shrapnel and tore our brains to shreds. We inhaled every atom of oxygen in a 2-meter radius, and shrank away from the noise, terrified. What could have made such a sound? A recently-thawed pterodactyl come to feast on the guests of New Farm Park? Perhaps a pack of starved hyenas converging on our position?
We peeked through our fingers at the source. It was a forty-something, bleach blonde female with colossal breasts, bouncing her way towards our new neighbours and alerting them of her arrival. We sighed as though just pardoned from a noose. She clearly wasn’t a threat. But that sound! We looked at each other in disbelief, wondering why we’d frightened so easily.
We were calm again, but things were a bit edgy now. We laughed and joked as before, but a seriousness had gripped us. The Cure came on the radio, and we quickly changed it. Every magpie in the area seemed to be looking at us, and even though it wasn’t swooping season, we saw murder in their hellish black eyes. The sun had settled itself over a gap in our tree, almost intentionally, forming beads of anxious sweat on our foreheads.
We heard a distant thump, and in the sky appeared a dark circular mass, plunging towards us like a cannonball shot by a ragged force of pitiless pirates. We clutched each other and squealed like helpless toddlers, as the orb of metal smashed into our Esky, sending it hurtling across the park like a punted shih tzu. We expected to be descended upon by hoards of bow-legged scallywags, daggers in hands and hate in hearts, but all that appeared was a spindly teenager, come to retrieve his football.
What was wrong with us? Why were we envisioning scurvied sea criminals when we were an hour away from the ocean? Why did our heavily-mammoried neighbour screech like a long-dead dinosaur that wanted to consume us?
“Shall we go?” I asked, praying that Tommy and Gemma would agree. They leapt up as though electrified. But first, we had to gather our things. Tommy had brought most of what was spread before us: blanket, UE Boom, Coles chocolate chip cookies, Burger Rings, and assorted nuts. I expected him to jump into action, but instead of packing, he was standing incredibly still, looking at his bag with desperate intensity.
“Just put your things in your bag, Tommy” I said. But it wasn’t that simple.
“How do I do that?” he replied, chin rested on his fist. What do you mean how do you do that? Just pick up your things and put them in! But even as the words came out of my mouth, I understood his turmoil. How would that work, action-by-action? What if he did something wrong—folded an item incorrectly, or positioned it at an incorrect angle? Would he have to unpack the bag, and start over? What if he was never able to pack the bag properly, and we were stuck in the park for eternity? Packing…unpacking…packing…unpacking…packing…unpacking, as the pirates and dinosaurs closed in? If we couldn’t figure out how to pack the bag properly, how would we ever leave the park?
I looked at Tommy’s face, and knew that he was thinking the same thing.
“I don’t know how to do this” he said. He looked on the verge of tears, immobilised by the immensity of the task. I turned to Gemma and asked her to pack the bag. She invited me to look at the size of the bag and then compare it to everything that was spread out before us. It would be like trying to stuff an Alsatian into a bum bag.
“But it was in there to begin with!” I protested, and they both agreed—it didn’t make any sense. Nothing made sense anymore. As I looked up at the sky in desperation, a fluffy cloud rearranged itself into something sharp.
I filled every inch of my lungs with air, and tried to be logical about our situation. I considered every item that we had, and how they might be positioned in the bag. I folded the blanket in my mind a hundred ways; I visualised the cookies going in top first, bottom first, side first; I examined every Burger Ring left in the packet, and how we might stack them atop one another to save space; I decided that a side pocket is always the best place for a UE Boom, but the bag didn’t have a side pocket. I went through a thousand considerations, and every one of them was a failure.
It was at that moment I knew we were trapped. The Problem of the Bag had snatched our freedom from us. We couldn’t pack it, and we couldn’t leave it. So what could we do?
As the three of us stood motionless, looking down at the canvas backpack that was creating such crippling strife, I started to feel people’s eyes on me. There was a distinct guffaw, and I hated whoever made it. How could they be so cruel in the face of our paralysing dilemma? Were they so arrogant to think that they could just waltz over to us and solve The Problem of the Bag whenever they wanted? We’d been robbed of our independence, and people were laughing about it!
Gemma and Tommy were standing still with their chins rested on their fists, contemplating the bag. In any other situation they might have looked like noble philosophers, wrestling with problems of existence. Instead they looked as though they’d just tunneled their way out of the local nuthouse, and were considering consuming the bag in order to avoid packing it.
As our desperation reached its peak, and at least one of us was about to start weeping, I had a spark of insight.
“What were we doing before this?” I asked. Gemma and Tommy’s faces contorted as they tried to grasp my question. Then Tommy’s eyes widened, as his face went from bewilderment to realisation.
“Oh my god,” he said, as it hit him. “We dropped acid a few hours ago.”
We had dropped acid a few hours ago! That little slice of truth was all he needed. He went from a confused invalid to a qualified hero, packing everything into the bag with such ease that we laughed and hugged and slapped each other’s backs. The Problem of the Bag was nothing but a nightmare created by a mind-bending chemical that we’d consumed and then forgotten about, submerging us in an ocean of confusion. The towering walls of the park crashed down into a clouded rubble, and our freedom was restored. We could finally leave the park.
We tiptoed away shyly, like gibbons walking over hot coals, and in the few minutes it took to reach the road, the acid running through our brains played the same trick on us, and we quickly forgot ourselves.
We needed to call an Uber, but for some reason, nobody could figure out how.
The thought of being independent is appealing to many of us, to be able to act like the pristine lone wolf, roaming the rugged lands and fulfilling every need by itself. To survive autonomously is to be clothed in power, lacking the requisite of outside help. Such people are almost impossible to find within our species. We each have a stark dependency on others, whether it’s the food from our local supermarkets, the shelter of our apartment complexes, or our innate need for emotional closeness. The fields of evolution and psychology strengthen the idea of our social necessity, teaching us that in order to thrive in this world, we must get along with our fellow humans.
Of all the behavioural quirks that we exhibit as a species, there’s one that stands out as an accomplished bonder of people, an action that reduces our distance by wrenching us together in the most enjoyable way imaginable—humour. Laughter is a potent weapon in the battle for social acceptance; a razor-sharp cutlass, the nimble swishing of which makes ardent conquerors of us. It’s a universally adored behaviour with the power to turn strangers into friends, friends into lovers, and lovers into lifelong partners—the solid bedrock of many a successful relationship, and the foundational beginnings of new ones. A good sense of humour can transform our lives from a solitary and lonesome quest into a glorious fellowship—filled with playful nudges, digged ribs, and riotous laughter. With humour thrown into the mix, our dependence on each other is made not only palatable, but utterly delicious. It’s one of a small handful of things that makes life worth living.
“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”Audrey Hepburn
Some of our dearest memories are created from periods of turbulent, knee-slapping hilarity—that Sunday afternoon in a pub garden, the nip of the winter’s day fought off by the heat of amusement as your impish friends make joke after joke; an early evening spent lounging in bed with your partner, relentlessly teasing and chuckling until your cheeks hurt from smiling; the time after a festival when you used a traffic cone to mimic a cow, and the local creatures seemed convinced by your efforts to communicate. These moments are more valuable than all the sparkling diamonds of the world, and they come about by making a concerted effort to be funny.
Every attempt at humour is a gamble, with either a gain or a loss in social kudos; wide-grinned, beaming faces, in which a glorious victory has been won, or looks of hardened stone, eliciting bored apathy. A failed attempt at humour can be awfully embarrassing, and our aversion to loss can make cowards of us. But the gamble is worth it, because victory is nothing less than unbridled connection to our fellow humans; a shared sense of joyous camaraderie. Embarrassment is fleeting, but friendship is long-lasting. The only way to discover our particular kind of people is by having the courage to put ourselves out there. Jokes are friendship-detectors, which light up our future companions after every ridiculous quip that we dare to make. Who cares that our critics remain silent and stony-faced? We’ll probably never be friends with them anyway. When it comes to being humorous, the gamble is almost always worth it.
“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Attempts at humour can dwindle as we grow older and become more comfortable with ourselves, because we’re less inclined to impress others. This is a tragedy—when we stop laughing with our friends, our lives become dull, its colour desaturated until drab and dreary; an existence of humdrum seriousness, in which ambition positions itself front and center. We forget the absolute joy we felt in the throes of a tickle attack from our mother, or the time we hit our grandad square in the eye with a snowball, with him turning up later wearing a pretend medical patch. We swap our superhero outfits for business suits, and in the process, forget what’s really important—a tongue-in-cheek crack at your friend’s new tattoo; a return from holiday with every square-inch of your desk covered in tin-foil, or an uninterrupted, no-holds-barred re-telling of your brother’s insane party antics. The confidence that age brings is an undeniably good thing, but it can be accompanied by insidious complacency, in which we’re so self-assured that we no longer see the social importance of cracking a well-timed kitchen joke among colleagues, or putting a whoopee cushion underneath your grandmother’s worn-out armchair. These are the actions that make us truly loveable—every daring quip strengthens our bond with our audience, creating a wonderful sense of belonging. Laughter is the ultimate social adhesive.
“Laughter is wine for the soul – laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness – the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living.”Sean O’Casey
When we’re laughing with friends, we momentarily love them. All cares fall away for the briefest of moments, as though we’ve been permitted temporary entry into a heavenly Nirvana, before stepping back into our anxiety-wracked bodies. There’s nothing quite as effective at bonding people than humour, and our efforts to make each other laugh can create formidable affinities, reinforced with every new joke. Our dependency on each other can be transformed from a position of hesitant obligation, to eager devotion, in which every snicker, chuckle and howl makes us appreciate each other a little more. The strenuous journey of life, in which the highest snowy peaks and lowest boggy troughs must be traversed, is made worthwhile only if we have companions walking beside us, and laughter is how we acquire them.
“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can; all of them make me laugh.”W. H. Auden
If we widen our scope from our narrow, subjective point of view, to the entirety of our colossal, shadowy universe, this species of ours, with our hairless bodies, opposable thumbs, and mounds of belly-button fluff, might be described with a single, incisive word: inconsequential.
We’re really quite tiny. Puny, in fact. There isn’t much that we can do of consequence in our lifetime—even with the lifetime of every human—before the steady march of time crushes us underfoot, when we return to the eternal obscurity of pre-birth. We’re all living on borrowed time, as quick as a cursory snap of the fingers, and then oblivion. Our destiny is one of triviality, authored by the fluctuating nature of the universe, whose brutal indifference lives by only a single, ironclad rule—things must change. The universe doesn’t make exceptions. Whether it’s in the next few hours, or the next few billion years, eventually, our species is highly likely to perish, lost to the eternal darkness of the abyss.
“Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of “world history,” but nevertheless, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die.”Friedrich Nietzsche
Depressing nihilism? It doesn’t have to be. Our irrelevance can offer us a beautifully light-hearted, devil-may-care attitude. If nothing really matters, and everything we slip and strain for will eventually crumble into dust, what’s to take seriously? Is it really worth spending twelve hours a day chained to your office desk, expression of hardened-stone, assiduously beavering away to climb a career ladder that will be annihilated soon enough? Our mortality affords us the ability to be blasé—a reminder to check our overbearing seriousness in the face of obliteration.
“The life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster.”David Hume
There’s nothing quite as ridiculous as someone who takes themselves too seriously, as though their bustling ambition is their ace-up-the-sleeve against death, securing their immortality. These are the Donald Trumps of the world—ruthless, lacking in humour, hell-bent on control, and without any sense of their own pointlessness. All ego and no spirit. Can you imagine Trump actually having fun while swanning around the immaculately-kept fairways of his Mar a Lago golf resort? Excessively serious people are all work and no play, even when pretending to play. Though their efforts may help to position them atop a towering hierarchy, their humourless attitudes will wreck their ability to enjoy it. They lack the capacity to see their existence as it really is: hopelessly frivolous.
“Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future too.”Marcus Aurelius
Life is hopelessly frivolous for all of us, and appreciation of this fact—contrary though it may seem—can stoke our sense of humour until it becomes a blazing inferno. We can bristle and weep in the face of our impending doom, or laugh raucously in its face, fully aware of how ridiculous, magnificent, and wonderful it all is. Laughter is rebellion against the meaningless of life. A master of living carries a light heart.
When a Zen Buddhist finally attains enlightenment after decades of practice, they say that there’s nothing left for them to do but have a good laugh1. They’ve perceived a fundamental truth—everything that they sought was already within them, and their strivings can be considered as all but meaninglessness. How else to react to this insight? With a serious, hard-boiled expression? Or with laughter?
“I laugh when I think how I once sought paradise as a realm outside of the world of birth. It is right in the world of birth and death that the miraculous truth is revealed. But this is not the laughter of someone who suddenly acquires a great fortune; neither is it the laughter of one who has won a victory. It is, rather, the laughter of one who; after having painfully searched for something for a long time, finds it one morning in the pocket of his coat.”Thich Nhat Hanh
The word nirvana literally translates to “blow out” or “extinguish”, which is exactly what happens to your absurd seriousness when you realise the insignificance of it all, no longer harbouring delusions of grandeur, but instead viewing your existence as a wave in the ocean, the flap of a starling’s wing—nothing more. As our seriousness wanes, our playfulness and sense of humour increases.
“[Laughter is a] sudden relaxation of strain, so far as occurring through the medium of the breathing and vocal apparatus… the laugh is thus a phenomenon of the same general kind as the sigh of relief.”John Dewey
The earnest among us harbour an innate desire for control, as though we can shape and mould our world into something concrete and everlasting. The playful perceive the futility of such actions—a belly laugh that destroys all illusion of authority over Mother Nature, as if her defeat were ever possible. Good humour is the ability to sense the uncontrollable complexity of the world—an attitude which when translated into words might say “fuck trying to control that wily nonsense.” In the frequent moments that we become lost in our lives—teeming with seriousness after having forgotten that it’s all just a game—a knee-slapping, riotous howl of laughter might be the most effective way to put everything into perspective.
“Since everything is but an apparition, having nothing to do with good or bad, acceptance or rejection, one may as well burst out in laughter.”Longchenpa
Part of a comedian’s job is to draw attention to people who take life too seriously, magnifying their absurdity in comical ways, and transforming gravity into frivolity. There’s no easier target than a stiff, po-faced gentleman with a head full of ambition, whose piss must be taken in the name of tomfoolery. Loftiness is only permitted when sprinkled with humility. Laughter is the razor-sharp weapon that can pierce the fibrous skin of solemnity, which is why someone like Ricky Gervais can get away with pummeling a room full of movie stars, or make light of something as tragic as the holocaust. Humour is like bottled relief—two large teaspoons taken every four hours can lower stress, reduce anxiety and depression, and lower blood pressure2. Comedians may as well be physicians.
“The only thing I can recommend at this stage is a sense of humor, an ability to see things in their ridiculous and absurd dimensions, to laugh at others and at ourselves, a sense of irony regarding everything that calls out for parody in this world.”Václav Havel
To be humorous is to temporarily abandon reason, which is rendered worthless during moments of laughter—throwing logic out of the window because it’s all so silly and pointless. When the absurdity of our existence smacks us directly in the face, and we fully regard it for the first time, all that we once deemed important—getting rich, being successful, driving a sports car, etc.—can dissipate into nothing, followed by a sublime sense of relief.
“Don’t take life too seriously; nobody ever makes it out alive anyway.”Van Wilder
A sense of humour is like psychological armour against the tragedy of a meaningless existence—a shining suit of Mithril, with every precious link curved upwards into a smile, poised to charge the enemy with a grin on our faces. The universe has spat us out without our consent, and to make matters worse, demands our dissolution after a few short decades. How better to respond than with unassailable mirth?
A hardy sense of humour is an effective rebellion against our absurd existence—a rightfully judicious decision that can turn our story from one of depressing, all-too-serious tragedy, to mutinous, laugh-out-loud comedy. Laughter has the power to turn us into insurgent gods, and though life will never be able to offer us any concrete meaning, during our times of cackling rebellion, for the briefest of moments, it no longer matters.
“Death smiles at us all; all we can do is smile back.”Marcus Aurelius
With each passing year my boobies get a little bit bigger, which isn’t great because I’m a man.
That right there is self-deprecating humour, and as a Brit, it’s baked into my core. Brits and Australians are masters of self-deprecation – spend time with the peoples of either country and you’ll quickly become accustomed to laughing at yourself, whether it’s poking fun at your wobbly midriff, the blinding shiny bald patch where your hair used to be, or your frequent and complete lack of intelligence.
“I, myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” —
Poking fun at ourselves is an effective way to get people to like us. Nobody appreciates a high-and-mighty narcissist who never puts a foot wrong. Our flaws are what make us human, and putting them on display can be a way to communicate that there’s nothing wrong with being imperfect. Pointing out my stupidity to somebody with doubts about their own intelligence might help to put them at ease – the abject horror at being discovered as a bit dumb becomes slightly less terrifying, because it’s a trait shared by others. This is similar to the idea of imagining your psychotic boss wearing fancy pantaloons, as a way to make him appear foolish, rather than fearsome. Self-deprecation can remove the menace from the menacing.
A study from the University of Granada last year found that those who jokingly point out their own flaws have high scores in psychological well-being. Life can be tough – directing gibes at our oversized snout adds a silver lining to an otherwise painful fact. It may look like a rejected zucchini, but at least we can laugh about it. They also found a relationship between self-deprecating humour and personality traits such as kindness and honesty.
Ursula Beermann (University of California) and Willibald Ruch (University of Zurich) found that self-deprecating humour is linked with increased levels of optimism, and better moods. It literally has the power to make us happier.
Laughing at ourselves also reveals a loveable humility and self-confidence. Yes, we have some glaring deficiencies, but we also have the courage to not only display them, but shine a light on them. This willingness to show embarrassment can help to build trust with our fellow chimps. Bullies have nothing to work with if we’ve already pointed out our amusing flaws.
“I finally have the body I want. It’s easy, actually, you just have to want a really shitty body” — Louis C.K.
Must be about time for you to start slapping insults on yourself, right? Tread carefully, because self-deprecation can be destructive unless discharged under the right conditions.
Your gibes must be based in reality
Self-deprecation can only work if you’re being honest. Brad Pitt making light of his gruesome face just doesn’t work. The girls in his audience will be confused as fuck.
Stephen Hawking declaring himself a kung-fu champion does work, they’d probably high-five him if he wasn’t so delicate.
You need to find the joke funny
You must find your self-deprecating joke genuinely humourous. There’s little benefit to calling yourself fat if you’re saying it through bared teeth and clenched fists. This is just taking an axe to your own self-esteem. There’s a difference between lightly taking the piss out of yourself, and unhealthy self-hate.
Don’t target what you want to change, and can be changed
Like me, your favourite kind of self-deprecation might be about your weight, which you aren’t entirely happy with. We can lose excess weight through diet and exercise, so this type of self-poking is just illuminating our own laziness. It’s using self-deprecation as an excuse not to get off our arses and exercise – why make an effort if I can just learn to laugh at it instead? Control is the key factor here – if you’re taking the piss out of something that you can change (and want to change), you might consider diverting your efforts to the thing itself. It isn’t quite as simple as “I want to change this so I will,” some things are fucking tough, but the point still stands. This kind of self-deprecation is just taking the easy way out.
On the other hand, if you’re never going to embrace the #gym4life attitude and want to accept the eternal presence of your man-boobs, laughing at yourself will probably help you achieve that goal.
Be cautious of your environment
Egalitarian societies such as those in Scandinavia are a great place to be self-deprecating – arrogance is to be dispelled so that people are on a level playing field.
“The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” – Japanese proverb
In contrast, highly competitive countries with clear and approved hierarchies are a harmful place for self-deprecation, as it can be easily mistaken for under-confidence or low self-esteem, bestowing a competitive advantage.
Don’t do it if you’re marginalised
If you’re a black person living in an inherently racist society, it’s not a good idea to joke about your own colour, as you’re just communicating your acceptance of the status quo. Racism is (obviously) an awful thing – laughing at it reinforces the idea that it’s ok to be racist.
Hannah Gadsby – a gay, Australian female comedian – puts it perfectly:
“I have built a career out of self-deprecating humour, and I don’t want to do that anymore… when it comes from somebody who already exists in the margins… it’s not humility. It’s humiliation.” – Hannah Gadsby
Laughing at ourselves can be a great way to take the sting out of life, with the potential to make us more loveable, and relatable. This can only be effective under the right conditions though – there’s a fine line between self-deprecation and self-hate. Walk the tightrope carefully, with a good deal of humour and honesty, and you can add a little light-hearted cheer to our often serious world.
Now, I’m off to the shops to get myself a bra.
A couple of years ago I went to Europe and ate enough bread to gain ten kilos over a swift three-week period. Each time we wandered into a new restaurant for lunch or dinner, within thirty seconds, an entire bowl of it was in front of us. Most bread is good bread, in my opinion, but in Paris it was the most delicious fucking thing I’d ever eaten. Have you ever tried Parisian bread? If so you can probably relate. The restaurant owners may as well have been drug dealers — it’s a wonder that anyone even leaves them to look at the city, but instead becomes trapped in a desperate state of wheaty dependence. To make the situation worse, my girlfriend is allergic to gluten, and my attempts to coerce her into consumption didn’t help. This left me with no choice but to eat double servings, twice a day. If there was Eau Du Baguette on sale at the airport, I would have probably drank it.
When arriving in London to spend some time with my family, my dad took me by the wrist, marched me upstairs to the bathroom, pointed at the scales and demanded that I get on. I was fatter than him for the first time in our lives, and he wasn’t about to let that go without some drama. With tentative movements I guiltily positioned myself on the device, and every rising kilo widened the stupid grin on my father’s face. I protested that they must be broken, and that he should really consider shopping somewhere that sells better equipment. I’d never been that weight in my entire life, and I wasn’t above using denial as a coping mechanism for my new-found bulk. I declared that my scales back home would give a more honest answer. I wasn’t about to be called fat by a man who ate a strawberry Cornetto for dessert every fucking night.
In truth, I’m getting a little older now, so unfathomably tasty French bread isn’t entirely to blame for my expansive paunch. I half-expected it to magically disappear when returning home to my regular diet, but it seems she’s a keeper. No amount of sighing and gentle rubbing seems to be reducing it, so I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to put on some shorts, strap on my shoes, and go and buy some salted caramel ice-cream to help me forget about it.
Getting older never really bothered me, but getting fatter does, and that’s basically the same thing. My hearing is getting better with age though — in the right weather conditions, I can detect the word doughnut from up to fifty metres away. A few days ago I heard the rustle of a packet from a shady alley, and ended up mugging a homeless person for a Sausage & Egg McMuffin. Every advancing year seems to strengthen my insatiable greed; I’m on a drum-beaten war path to the rich and sugary land of Diabeetus.
My delightful girlfriend claims to like the additional person that I’ve merged with, as though she wasn’t into the scraggly lolly-pop headed Ethiopian who she was dating before. I can’t figure out whether she’s being honest or kind, either way, she’s appears to also be a keeper.
I think the biggest problem I have with my fresh mass is how much width it’s added to my face, a point that again, my dad delightfully pointed out while on a recent Skype call. While I never considered the distance between my eyes to be extensive, the extra sections that have been tacked on either side of them mean that I now look like a youthful George Bush. I may as well have two closely grouped, tiny white pins in the middle of my stupid democracy-pushing face. The resemblance is so close that a passing Iraqi took off his shoe and slung it at me. Is there an exercise that you can do to tone up your face?
Unless I can muster up the motivation to exercise, I suppose I’ll have to live with being rotund. Circles can be cute, right? I’ll go with that — cute.
In every office, of every company, in every city, people are complaining about the temperature.
Take Sharon in accounts – she weighs about the same as a mangled pigeon feather, so she’s always cold. Shaking her hand is like fondling a pack of skinny frozen sausages. Her perpetually cardigan-clad frame can be seen quick-footing her way from the kitchen to her desk, in an effort to warm up. She drinks eight cups of black coffee a day in an attempt to thaw out her shuddering, icy frame. Her heart will probably give out by the time she reaches fifty.
Sharon has threatened to bring a penguin into the office on more than one occasion, in order to prove that the creature would thrive in this temperature. She’s more than willing to scrub bird shit out of the carpet to prove her point. An inspection of her Google search history would reveal Exotic animals to buy and Penguin delivery to SE London. One her favourite movies is Happy Feet, which she watches at home with the radiators set to max.
Sitting opposite Sharon is Duncan, whose daily calorie intake is comparable to what Sharon eats in a month. His belly sometimes spreads out across his desk as he sits, hitting the lower edge of his keyboard and permeating his emails with nmxz,b,bvn,bnmbmx. He often doesn’t notice this because of his diabetes, which gives him chronic fatigue and blurred vision.
Duncan is always hot. It could be -2 degrees, and Duncan would be hot. His red face appears in the office manager’s door at least once a week, where he forces out a wheezed complaint, hangs around for a few moments longer than usual, and then drags himself back to his desk to write another confusing email.
Sue has been at the company for over a decade, and while she would describe the temperature as pleasing for the most part, her feet are permanently cold. Her requests to wear ugg-boots have been repeatedly denied, and consequently, she demands that the idiots in charge do something to make her more comfortable.
There’s at least another five people at the company who take exception to the temperature, writing regular strongly-worded emails to the suffering office manager.
The office manager’s name is David, and he despises his colleagues. Once, he wrote their climate-complaints on a Word document, printed it out, and used it to clean the mess from his nonchalant arsehole. Sometimes he rubs his dick around the rim of Duncan’s super-sized, golf-ball themed tea-mug, and watches gleefully as he fills it to the brim for his creme-topped, morning hot chocolate.
After receiving enough complaints, David calls the office maintenance company, from which a burly representative promptly arrives, thermometer gadget in hand. While showing as much arse-crack as possible, the temperature is taken from various points in the office, and confirmed to sit at the optimum 22 degrees. After an extended glance at an attractive female employee, the representative leaves an invoice with David, and then makes his way to another office to do the exact same thing. This happens twice a month at least.
There’s a million tormented Davids the world over, fighting in a war that cannot hope to be won. Sharon will be forever chilled, Duncan consistently sizzling, and Sue always frozen-toed. They’ll never agree on the perfect temperature. This is a tale of despicable tragedy, in which David is found hanging from the rafters by his belt, another innocent victim of the Office Temperature Wars.