Friday, July 1, 2011

Adjustments Part Four- Humor

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?"


  1. Chad, unfortunately everyone was not raised on Looney Toons. HaHa great story!

  2. Two great moments in a missionary's life:

    1. The day they realize how little of the funny stuff they say is actually funny to the nationals.

    2. The day they figure out what IS funny to the nationals.