A little over a year ago, I went through what has so far been the worst string of bad dates in my life. There was one guy who stole one of my CDs when he came to pick me up. Then there was the guy who made a big speech about his ex-girlfriend and him splitting everything 50/50, which wouldn’t have been so bad in and of itself, but conveniently it was just before the check came and coincidentally, right after I mentioned I wasn’t into one night stands (an issue he brought up during dinner). I could go on, and on, and on…but I think you get the idea. However, whenever someone says “bad date” there is one particular scenario that comes to mind first, probably because along with being bad, it was completely bizarre. My date and I had gone to see the movie “Hitch” and the date seemed normal enough at first, but as soon as the lights dimmed and the dialogue began, my date started having a Jekle and Hyde episode; he was laughing hysterically, rocking back and forth in his seat, stamping his feet, slamming his fists on the arm rests and transmitting the loudest “HA, HA, HA” from his giant thrown back head that I have ever heard in my entire life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about a good sense of humor, but this was so obnoxious as to make me wonder if I was on one of those hidden camera shows. I sat through the entire movie completely mortified, said a quick goodbye when it was over and ran into the pouring rain to my car with him screaming after me about getting dinner sometime. The next day he sent me an email telling me it would never work out with us because he “can’t be with anyone who didn’t think ‘Hitch’ was funny”. Okay, the email made absolutely no sense to me, but hey on the bright side at least I wouldn’t have to dip into my rolodex-o’-excuses to get out of another date with that one.
What was the point of that little anecdote? Well, mostly it was so that everyone reading this has a little bit of insight into why I’m such a bitter, sarcastic individual. Just kidding. Did it make you laugh? Well maybe you didn’t think it was funny, but chances are if I was your boss you might. A recent article from NY Times titled “What’s so funny? Well, maybe nothing” explains why some people might laugh a great deal about things which aren’t that funny, depending on who said them and in what context.
The article states that “laughter has little to do with humor” and goes on to say that it is a survival instinct and “not an intellectual response to wit”. One of the researchers mentioned in the article, Dr. Robert R Provine, has spent the last 20 years studying laughter and surmises that 80 to 90 percent of things people laugh about “rarely rose above the level of ‘you smell like you had a good workout’” He also found that the person doing the speaking typically laughs more than the listener, particularly when the speaker is a woman. Provine believes that “ha, ha”, evolved from the panting sound made by primates when they play together. He went on to say;
“Laughter is an honest social signal because it’s hard to fake,” Professor Provine says. “We’re dealing with something powerful, ancient and crude. It’s a kind of behavioral fossil showing the roots that all human beings, maybe all mammals, have in common.”
Psychologists at Florida State University also wanted to know who is laughing. They ran one experiment in which female subjects were told they would have to complete a task with another female. The subjects were then asked to view a video tape of the woman they were working with telling a joke. In one group the subjects were told the woman on the tape was their boss. In the other group they were told that they were the boss of the woman on the tape. The joke was the same bad joke regardless of which group the subjects were in. Results showed that the subject laughed more when the woman on the tape was her boss. Experimenters believe that this bolsters the belief that laughing is a social lubricant and that it creates allies or likability.
Perhaps “bad date guy” subconsciously over-exerted himself laughing to try and get me to like him, being that I am such a swell person. More likely though, he was probably just a weirdo. Wherever you are, bad date guy, I hope you found someone to laugh at Will Smith with, god knows I never will.