Too Serious to be Fun – Seriously?

For 2013, I solemnly promise my readers a different side of me – not everyone may like it and some may want their old “Dr. Sharma” back – but this new version isn’t new at all – it’s actually older than the serious side faithful readers may be accustomed to.

Proof is in this class photo from 1974 – spot the kid not following the rules – the anarchist -that’s me:

This picture was recently sent to me by a former classmate, Aneeta (also in the picture). Here’s how she remembers me:

“You were always a goofy guy…lean and lanky, and used to make a pun out of everything…..The teachers used to love you a lot for your mischievousness.”

Really? That’s not how I remember it. Rather, I distinctly recall having to stand at the back of the class or outside the door quite a bit. I also remember the occasional trip to the Principal’s office for a caning (yup, that’s having your bottom polished with a cane – we’re talking Public Schools, New Delhi, 1974).

But what I do remember is the thrill that comes with making people see the funny side of things – especially of things that one may not consider all that amusing.

And this is where, in 2013, I hope to finally come around full circle – obesity is a serious issue and nothing to laugh about, but any humorist will tell you, “The more serious the issue – the greater the comic potential.”

And sometimes, those, who take themselves (or their work) too seriously, are the best targets – myself and my colleagues included.

Good comedy provides novel insights – we laugh when we recognize ourselves or others, when we unexpectedly switch perspectives, when we see connections between seemingly unrelated issues, when we shatter assumptions and stereotypes and when we take arguments to their ultimate extremes (the time-honoured reductio ad absurdum).

Of course we also laugh about stuff that is simply silly, weird or stupid – even slapstick and screwball comedy.

Humour is highly subjective – what some people find hilarious may provoke a weary smile, a groan, or worse, even upset or annoy some readers.

But if there is one thing for sure – there is nothing more unfunny than a well-balanced viewpoint – comedy needs to be opinionated – even if just for the sake of argument.

How does this relate to any of the “serious” work that I do?

Apart from the occasional original insight into issues and (even) more provocative discussions, a more jovial look at things will hopefully also allow me to reach an audience that would likely tune out to overly serious scientific discourse.

If nothing else, at least we’ll have some fun.

Happy 2013 everyone!

Calgary, AB