At a school presentation recently I was asked a question I could not answer. This is odd because I’ve wiggled myself out of some tough spots when questions have been a little off base, but this one? This one had me stumped.
I love presenting to student bodies as it is the most dynamic and intimidating audience to present to. To be an effective presenter at this level one has to have absolutely no shame in self-deprecating humor and to have a confidence which doesn’t appear to be confidence. It’s hard to explain, but this, whatever it is, allows for a dialogue to happen in the questions and the final question of this presentation was the one that had me stumped.
It had been going great as of the nearly 500 students I had more than several dozen hands up wanting to ask a question. The principal gave me the notice that it was final question time and this 8th grader asked, “Yeah Aaron, you seem to be a hilarious guy and I was wondering if you could tell us a joke?” I froze, I stumbled, and I stared at him expressionless because I had no idea what to say and my brain was scrambling trying to tie a question a teacher had asked earlier.
Earlier in the presentation a question was asked about humor and if it’s possible that either A. a person on the autism can be funny or/and B. a person on the autism spectrum can understand or can give sarcasm? I gave a long answer to this essentially saying that, “if you’ve met one person with autism you’ve only met one person with autism” but I also mentioned that more and more actors are stating they are on the autism spectrum. I finished by saying humor often is a one-way street meaning I can state something and know that I meant it in a joking way but if someone I don’t know that well were to try the same thing it may not have the same effect. Bottom line is that expressive can be more than not better than receptive.
Okay, thinking about that wasn’t helping me answer this 8th grader’s question. The question at hand was to tell a joke. How hard could it be? I mean, I do tell plenty of jokes during my presentation but here’s another thing about being a good presenter; if one is scripted one must make seem as if it isn’t scripted. I think I do a great job at this (a script is going to form naturally when one has presented as many times as I have) but all my witty lines are in response to a story. I can have the proper voice inflection to stress a funny moment, or to make something go from funny to hilarious, but to just tell a joke? Where does one begin?
It was the final question which usually means I need to give an answer quickly but I remained there, silent, staring at the crowd. Dead air isn’t a good thing but I had nothing and then I realized that nothing was the answer. I finally had my answer and I thanked him for thinking that I was hilarious, but I then pointed out that all my witty comments had been story based because those things actually happened. Now, when it comes to a traditional joke, it’s abstract to me. I can tell a story that has a potentially funny outcome depending on how one looks at it but when it comes to chickens crossing a road or any other joke setup line I don’t know any nor do I think I could learn that skill set. And besides that, as I finished that answer, I don’t find traditional jokes to be funny at all but then I once again mentioned that the next person on the autism spectrum may be an excellent joke teller but as for me, well, my humor will remain in the realm of dry wit and reality.