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When Culture and Humor Kiss


I got pretty excited when I stumbled across the trailer for Pulling Strings. A chick flick about a white girl living in Mexico who falls for a Latino musician? Yes, please.

Naturally, I convinced Billy we should watch this stellar epic after the kids went to bed one night. He obliged because he’s nice like that.

Apparently, it’s been a good year for Mexican film, and I definitely enjoyed Instructions Not Included. I liked this one, too, although I may have been too excited and over-hyped it for myself.

I mean… it was what it was. A chick flick about a white girl living in Mexico who falls for a Latino musician. I think you get the picture. I would watch it again. Ha!

But what stood out to me (besides a continued love of the natural Spanglish and subtitling these movies are including) was the humor. In particular, there was the funny sidekick, Canicas, played by Mexican comedian Omar Chaparro.

First of all, a little research has revealed this guy is my new found hero. He has traveled to the Olympics and the World Cup with Televisa simply to “make comedy sketches,” according to the well-trusted news site, Wikipedia. How awesome is that?!

Billy was already familiar with him from his role on a family comedy show called No Manches. And Billy thinks he’s hilarious… and proceeded to laugh at all his jokes. Even when they weren’t that funny. Okay, that’s my opinion.

At first, I wondered if the subtitles weren’t conveying the humor accurately. I know enough Spanish that there were a few expressions I was surprised at the English translation. It wouldn’t be how I would’ve explained them, so I thought maybe I was missing something.

Later that week, I came across this NPR article on "the funniest joke in the world.” It offered some interesting insights into the role of culture in what we find humorous. I was disappointed to read, “Americans like jokes that include insults or vague threats.” C’mon folks, we can do better (or else….)!

Humor is one of my favorite things. And it’s fascinating to me to think about how that varies based on our cultural background.

I have, at times, seen this play out in my marriage. I recently had an episode of Friends on the TV, and I realized Billy was chuckling. “You used to hate this show,” I reminded him.

“Yeah, I know,” he replied. “I think the longer I’ve lived in America, the more I get the jokes. The funnier I find it.” Interesting.

Where do you see culture influence humor? And, of course, you can always tell me a joke in the comments! I will laugh. Promise.

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A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.