Whether we find a joke funny or not largely depends on where we have been brought up. The sense of humour is mysteriously bound up with national characteristics. A Frenchman, for instance, might find it hard to laugh at a Russian joke. In the same way, a Russian might fail to see anything amusing in a joke which would make an Englishman laugh to tears.
Most funny stories are based on comic situations. In spite of national differences, certain funny situations have a universal appeal. No matter where you live, you would find it difficult not to laugh at, say, Charlie Chaplin's early films. However, a new type of humour, which stems largely from America, has recently come into fashion. It is cal1ed' sick humour '. Comedians base their jokes on tragic situations like violent death or serious accidents. Many people find this sort of joke distasteful. The following example of 'sick humour' will enable you to judge for yourself.
A man who had broken his right leg was taken to hospital a few weeks before Christmas. From the moment he arrived there, he kept on pestering his doctor to tell him when he would be able to go home. He dreaded having to spend Christmas in hospital. Though the doctor did his best, the patient's recovery was slow. On Christmas day, the man still had his right leg in plaster. He spent
a miserable day in bed thinking of all the fun he was missing. The following day, however, the doctor consoled him by telling him that his chances of being able to leave hospital in time for New Year celebrations were good. The man took heart and, sure enough, on New Year's Eve he was able to hobble along to a party. To compensate for his unpleasant experiences in hospital, the man drank a little more than was good for him. In the process, he enjoyed himself thoroughly and kept telling everybody how much he hated hospitals. He was still mumbling something about hospitals at the end of the party when he slipped on a piece of ice and broke his left leg.
Small boats loaded with wares sped to the great liner as she was entering the harbour. Before she had anchored, the men from the boats had climbed on board and the decks were soon covered with colourful rugs from Persia, silks from India, copper coffee pots, and beautiful hand-made silver-ware. It was difficult not to be tempted. Many of the tourists on board had begun bargaining with the tradesmen, but I decided not to buy anything until I had disembarked. I had no sooner got off the ship than I was assailed by a man who wanted to sell me a diamond ring. I had no intention of buying one, but I could not conceal the fact that I was impressed by the size of the diamonds. Some of them were as big as marbles. The man went to great lengths to prove that the diamonds were real. As we were walking past a shop, he held a diamond firmly against the window and made a deep impression in the glass. It took me over half an hour to get rid of him.
The next man to approach me was selling expensive pens and watches. I examined one of the pens closely. It certainly looked genuine. At the base of the gold cap, the words 'made in the U.S.A.' had been neatly inscribed. The man said that the pen was worth &10, but as a special favour, he would let me have it for &8. I shook my head and held up a finger indicating that I was willing to
pay a pound. Gesticulating wildly, the man acted as if he found my offer outrageous, but he eventually reduced the price to &3. Shrugging my shoulders, I began to walk away when, a moment later, he ran after me and thrust the pen into my hands. Though he kept throwing up his arms in despair, he readily accepted the pound I gave him. I felt especially pleased with my wonderful bargain--until I got back to the ship. No matter how hard I tried, it was impossible to fill this beautiful pen with ink and to this day it has never written a single word !