The older witty man with a bit of contempt to his humour

Dash of Englishness

Space Monkey
space monkey
Mar 21, 2022
We're all familiar with the witty senior male who likes to fool others with their sense of humour. It can seem harmless enough, and even if it isn't harmless one should be able to deal with it, and try to learn from it. But I've questioned a bit lately as to how such characters react when you don't fall for the joke as you're supposed to, and what this might say about them. I'll be honest, I'm not sure if I've expressed myself that well here or entirely sure what I'm asking.

My first memory of this kind of thing was a good bit back. It happened another time that I closed down the main excel file on that most people printed pages from on the common computer, and couldn't find the folder it was stored in. I asked the manager who dealt with that computer and he seemed a bit panicked. He said that he'd just spent 3 hours fixing it and that I'd broken it again. I said something like "oh sorry" and he then said "you're very naive if you believe that". If I hadn't already under pressure due to another task I was dealing with, I probably wouldn't have fallen for it.

Another time more recently one of the managers in our company (who I've only started with) pretended that he was "only new" when our training group happened to cross paths with him. Now we hadn't been introduced to him by our trainer so we didn't actually know what role he had, but it still was obvious that he wasn't new. I was sure he was joking but after his remark he left a small bit of silence. It was something about the silence that made me wonder if there was a small chance that he'd meant that he was 'new' to working in this branch of the company, and not a new employee. He then said "I don't even like computers"... it's an IT company! He then left more silence after this and stared at us. One of us was supposed to fall for the joke. Although I'm sure I felt a lot more pressure on the inside from this silence than he did, I did know from experience that I didn't have to say anything. Now if I was more confident and more sure that he was joking I might have said "ha ha, nice try". I was just about to start whistling as a joke when the new guy being trained in with me began to say "oh, you mean you're... you're...". Only then did this manager say that he was only joking and got to make this guy with me look a bit stupid. I don't think this other guy had actually fallen for it really... I don't know what he was actually about to say. The question here is that, although this guy is just a bit of a joker, on the other hand does a person not have to have a certain amount of contempt for someone to try a joke like that on them? No point in a person getting all bothered by something like this, but you could argue that they're essentially trying to make a fool out of you. A lot of people might go away thinking that such a person is just a bit of a joker and that they're good behind it all, but should one need to keep an eye on these sorts?

I'm not saying that any senior male who's a bit of a joker is a nasty person. That guy with the printer I know is a genuine guy, but the other guy I'm not so sure. I haven't encountered that many men like this in my life. My uncle would be a bit like this... one day he was actually being serious and I didn't believe him and he got a little offended! This also happened with the manager who pretended he was new; the other day there was some sort of fire with a transformer unit that occurred before I'd got to work. I asked him why the lights were off in one section of the building as I was passing through. When I heard him say that there'd been a fire - with the exact same neutral expression that he'd have when making a joke - I thought he was making some sort of joke and that he couldn't be bothered telling me the real reason!!!!

Thanks for reading. Please share any thoughts and experiences of same.
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Staff member
Oct 9, 2012
That's just regular dry/sarcastic humor.

I thought the English were masters of this!

I love this kind of humor and use it extensively myself (and have since I was a preteen). Most people in my experience find it anywhere from somewhat to really funny. But there is a chunk of people who take it personal and think you are trying to make them look foolish with it.

I think what it comes down to is Scott Adams's six dimensions of humor:

Basically people just have very different senses of humor.

IME folks who really dislike dry/sarcastic humor have some other kind of humor they really like. Like they will be laughing at comedies where I will be sitting there going, "Why on Earth does this person find this so hilarious?" You can realize how different people people often are from each other purely based on how different senses of humor can be.

It's actually a good screening tool for interpersonal compatibility. If you laugh at the same kinds of jokes, you are pretty likely to get along. If on the other hand you are sitting there going, "What makes this funny? That's not funny at all. This individual is a total weirdo for thinking that's amusing!" that's a sign need to keep looking (for different friends, girlfriend, etc.).