Last weekend I did a wedding and it struck me how even after all the weddings I’ve done, I still can’t tell what’s going to get a big laugh or not. Fortunately, I have a good idea of what’s funny, so my ceremonies are always “funny”; I just don’t know what will be the funniest. If you’re wondering: “It’s a wedding ceremony; why would it be funny?” I respond with: “It’s a wedding ceremony; why wouldn’t it be funny?” To me, a wedding is a celebration of love and happiness, and the last time I checked both love and happiness include laughter. If you believe love should be somber and dull, enjoy your relationship… or whatever you do with somber and dull. Sorry, that’s a sore spot for me. In regards to laughter, I’ve learned certain things encourage laughing like the room being chilly (TV sitcoms pump the room with AC when taping), having people pumped with the right amount of sugar and/or booze, having people in their mid 20s to mid 40s (these ages tend to be laugh out loud more and for longer), having enough women (women tend to laugh out loud more and men tend to laugh more when there’s women there), having certain cultures there (some cultures love to laugh while others treat it like swearing), and finally it’s important to give the audience permission to laugh. These factors can give me a gage before I perform the ceremony of what to expect laughter wise, but knowing what lines will get the best laughs is still a mystery to me. For instance, last week I did a wedding and I was pretty far off as to what would be the big laughs and tame ones (names have been changed). For instance I had high hopes for:“I learned that both Jen and Jack grew up in Brampton, which is where dreams are made… about leaving.” Even worse was: “Fun fact, about Jen, before she was born the ultrasound technician said she was going to be a boy… I’m guessing Jack is happy the tech was wrong… it’d be weird if he was disappointed. Getting the gender wrong means this ultrasound tech wasn’t the best at her job or Jen’s mom has a magic womb: You thought it was a boy? Ta-da it’s a girl. Arguably this would make her mom more talented than David Copperfield; he can make the statue of liberty disappear but can’t change children’s genders.” Yet, I thought the following line was okay, but it received a really big response: “Growing up Jack’s dad owned and ran a meat packing plant; meanwhile Jack got a job at a pet shop. I’m hoping there wasn’t any collaborating.” What’s strange is I thought this line was more the set up for the rest of the joke, but this got a bigger laugh than the rest of the joke: “Hey Jack what should we do with these extra cats? Don’t worry I know a guy; you can put anything in a hotdog.” A little later I said: “The couple met when Jen visited PJ Pets where a friend of hers worked, which is where Jack also worked. When Jen saw Jack she asked her friend who that cute boy was. I should remind everyone that this was a store full of puppies and he still stood out as cute; wow, Jack must have been seriously cute: What’s he like? Cuter than a puppy. Whoa. Meanwhile, when Jack first saw Jen he was so drawn to her he made his move. And this move was? He smiled… boom. That’s power. He must have had the sex appeal of William Shatner… or whoever girls find sexy now… or ever.” I’m thinking I found a way to include William Shatner in a wedding; that’s gold. The audience, however, was thinking this is a good time to insert cricket noises: “Under the Southern Cross I stand!”… and that’s a cheer of the Australian cricket team. See what I did there? Yeah, not so funny, and I knew it. And yeah, I had to look the critic cheer up because who knows anything about cricket when you have real sports to watch like hockey?
With such a different response to my jokes than I expected, while I was performing the rest of the ceremony the thought of ‘why am I doing this?’ crossed my mind. Fortunately, after the ceremony I had some very nice people tell me how much they enjoyed it. I didn’t need the praise in order to like myself or prove that I’m somehow better than other officiants. It wasn’t about being self absorbed: “I need your attention and love!” It was about validation that what I’m doing is worthwhile. I believe everyone needs encouragement, but artists in particular need the validation because art is something you do because you want to make people happy. You create art partly for your own outlet, but if what you’re doing doesn’t connect with others, an artist will likely do something else in hopes of finding a better connection. Thus, if you like an artist’s work, you should tell them how much you like it as a way to encourage him or her to continue the craft. The same goes with celebrities. Instead of asking for a picture, simply say thank you for their art and let them carry on their way. Be an encourager; not a user. No matter what you experience, if someone did a good job, let them know. And remember, sometimes rudeness from the other person is a cover for shyness and/or insecurity. If the person doesn’t like being given a compliment, give them a few more and ruin their day… I believe in encouraging people, but that doesn’t mean I’m a good person.
This week may you encourage someone who needs it.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people