I love to laugh. I love to joke. I like slapstick humor, corny humor, dry humor, sarcastic humor, and even puns. I love to laugh with others, and if I can brighten someone's day by making them laugh, I do. Khmer people love to laugh; but they don't always get my humor. The following is a classic example of my attempting to joke with a Khmer in my own weird way, and utterly and awkwardly failing.
A few weeks ago, I borrowed a hammer from my next-door-neighbor, who happens to be my landlord. He and his wife are in their early 60's, and are possibly the friendliest Khmers that I know, and I thank God for them. After I was finished with the hammer, I went downstairs to give it back to my landlord, and his wife just happened to be outside.
"Are you through with the hammer?" she asked me.
"Yes- please tell Om Proh (uncle) that I am very grateful for his allowing me to use it," I replied as I handed the hammer to her.
"I will tell him," she replied. Then she asked me a rather odd question. "So, you know how to use that hammer, huh?"
As soon as she asked me that question, I saw an opportunity to throw a joke into the conversation- a joke I was certain would cause hysterical laughter.
"Oh, yes, I know how to use it. Do you know how to use a hammer?"
"Yes, Pastor, I know how to use a hammer."
Enter the joke. "Oh, I know how you use it! You probably use it on your husband when he doesn't obey you, right?"
She just stared at me. Not a smile. Not even a smirk.
After a couple of seconds of contemplation, she responded as seriously as she could by saying, "No, Pastor! That would really hurt him if I did that!"
"Right, Om (aunt). I, I was only kidding," I explained.
"Oh, okay. Well, I'm going to give the hammer back to him now," she said.
This is not the only example of utter humor failure on my part when dealing with a Cambodian. It won't be the last. But that's okay. Even though they completely do not get my humor, I still get a kick out of seeing their facial expressions as they look at me, not knowing what to say, trying to figure out, "What is this white boy talking about?"