Sarcasm and why it's not really that funny

sarcasm.jpgWhen I was 11 we travelled back from Pakistan to Australia for a holiday, stopping in Singapore on the way. Usually on transit stops in Singapore we just hung around the hotel, had a swim and ate out at the hawkers markets, but this time my parents took us to visit some friends of theirs who were living there at the time.

We kids asked the usual question: "Do they have any kids our age?" and were happy to find out that yes, they had three, all around about the same as us, including a daughter who was 12. We were set for a good afternoon.

Unfortunately I was disappointed. The little boys were a bit useless to play with due to age and gender, but I wasn't really expecting much there. What was much more disappointing was the 12 year old and her attitude.

She was boastful and generally a bit snotty but she was most of all extremely pleased with herself because she had obviously just mastered sarcastic remarks. In fact, her most often repeated line was this: "Well, I get an 'A' in sarcasm." She spent the afternoon using her new skill making comments about me and my brothers and then laughing snootily to herself. When we didn't laugh along she said, "Well, it's just a joke, you know. You don't have to be so serious."

Trouble was, her jokes weren't funny. They were basically rude comments with a sarcastic hat on, which was somehow supposed to make it funny. The supercilious smile she added in was supposed to help the humour, but it just made me feel uncomfortable and slightly small.

Look, I'll put my hand up and say that sarcasm is definitely in my box of 'funny' tricks. It's easy and quick, and it can get a good response. But I'm not proud of it. I need to remember that sarcasm is basically treading on someone else's reputation for a cheap laugh. I also need to remember that it doesn't make the people around you feel good. If I'm trying to make myself look bigger, others around me have to look small. A relationship based completely on sarcastic cracks quickly becomes toxic.

I'm challenging myself to be funny without being sarcastic. It must be possible, right? If you hear me make a sarcastic crack, let me know. I'm trying to break the habit.