The Art of the Cruel Joke: A Friendship Defined by Laughter

Batman: Hey, Superman!    Superman: What?    Batman: I slept with Lois Lane.    Superman: Who hasn't?

Batman: Hey, Superman!

Superman: What?

Batman: I slept with Lois Lane.

Superman: Who hasn't?

By Sean Tuohy

Friendship is an odd concept and a strange part of the human experience. As social beings, we crave interaction with others, but there are a select few that we chose to make a daily fixation in our lives. Those few and proud are called friends; people who decided are good enough to join us on the journey that is life. Hey, even serial killers have friends.

I've been lucky to make great friends throughout my life. These people mean the world to me and are part of my extended family. The core to most friendships are shared interests, including movies and sports. There is always something that ties two friends together, a bond that only they share.

I went to visit my friend Aaron, who recently moved from the sun soaked beaches of South Florida to the chilled streets of Bangor, Maine. Aaron and I have been friends for roughly six years. We have spent a lot of time together. We share very little in common. Aaron is a sports nut who can spew out sports facts like Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man." I am not a sports fan. I like movies, books. and talking about random things. We barely like the same music. We don’t share the same political views. We don’t even agree on beer choices. Despite a canyon of differences between us, we have maintained a friendship that is based built on a similar humor. Our sense of humor is the rope that ties us together at the hip.

Since the beginning, Aaron and I love to make the other laugh. We like to share embarrassing or strange personal stories with one another and try to make the other one crack up. We come up with random scenarios that no sane person would ever think about. We force our minds go to dark corners in attempts to elicit laughter. We have said comments so obscene and out of this world that I've wondered often what is wrong with us. Sometimes our pursuit for laughs leads to us insulting one another by saying cruel and downright awful statements.  

On our most recent car ride to a national park, Aaron and I quickly went to work. This involved a mix of insults, personal stories, and crude comments. Highlights included:

“Your bedroom is like a cancer ward; it only sees awful things”
“I’ll take your mom for a spin.”
“You’re as much fun as 9/11”
“You know what, just kill yourself.”

These comments continued and got worse as the ride went on. We called one another names, compared our sex lives to those of child molesters, and explained the weird and very violent sexual things that we would do to the other’s family if given the chance. It went on and on. Each comment was followed by a wide joyful smile. The goal was to have the other one burst out laughing. Aaron won with one simple and well-timed joke.

We passed a small airfield with prop planes parked out front. A large sign declared the airfield’s name and below it said “biplanes.” Aaron pointed at the sign and said,

“Hey, look those planes are bi.”

It wasn't really that funny, but the tone in which he said it screamed “y’know what I mean?” It was enough to make me crack up. I laughed. I laughed really hard. My voice cracked. I got red in the face. I was really laughing like it was the funniest thing I had ever heard. In that moment, I remembered why we were friends. Aaron was one of the few people who could make me laugh that hard.

I know this doesn't sound like  a healthy or a rewarding friendship, but it is one of the best  I have. The ability to make the other laugh is a great bond that we share. Will the insults continue when we are older and wiser?

God, I hope so.

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