Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sense of humor?

On Facebook an acquaintance of mine posted something cute her four-year-old had said and then commented, "I don't know where she got her sense of humor from."

Really? I don't think your little cutie was being clever.

They way I see it, most kids don't make clever comments to be funny, they make cute comments that turn out to be funny. In fact part of what makes their comments so hilarious is the earnestness they're spoken with. They see life in such fresh ways that we adults are often surprised into laughter. And kids learn from that laughter. I've seen the eyes light up when they realize they said something funny, and I've also seen frustration set in when they see their words aren't being taken seriously.

Not that kids don't try to be funny -- they often do, and most of it we endure with a polite laugh or enjoy because of the general silly, cuteness. But has it ever struck your humor radar? I can almost guarantee if you ask a kid to make up a joke it will include the word "poop" and I'm guessing that's because that word always gets a laugh from their playmates.

With both my kids, cleverness began to develop in about 4th grade. I have no statistics or research on the subject, but I've come to believe that real sense of humor -- starting to see the irony in the world -- begins about age 9 or 10.

There was one possible exception in my experience. I'm not certain, but my five-year-old nephew said something once that might not follow my theory. We were in the car on vacation together. Chongo was going on about how he'd eat any kind of burrito, he liked them all. My nephew was questioning him ala Green Eggs and Ham.

Nephew: Would you eat a chicken burrito?
Chongo: I love chicken burritos.
Nephew: Would you eat a bean burrito?
Chongo: Every kind of bean burrito.
Nephew: Would you eat a cow burrito?
Chongo: I love steak burritos. Mix in some potatoes and cheeese and onions, yum.
Nephew: Would you eat a vegetable burrito?
Chongo: Any kind of burrito. There isn't a burrito I don't like.
Nephew: Would you eat a butt burrito?

His comment stopped the conversation in its tracks and made us all laugh. Granted it had the word "butt" -- a classic kid word used to get a laugh -- but the timing, the way it took the conversation to a humorous level, the puncturing of Chongo's inflating balloon of hubris. I'd almost call it clever.

Was my nephew clever? When do you think the age of humor begins?

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