If you’re a middle-aged parent of young adults or teenagers then you’ve probably noticed the great divide between yourself and the younger generation. And, it’s not just lifestyle, fashion (visible bra straps and pants falling down), body art (tattoos and piercings), music, and entertainment (What is it with “The Walking Dead?”) as these things seem to plague every generation. Humor, which is generally thought of as universal within a culture is as much a part of the generational divide as everything else. Allow me to explain.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me a 1-minute video called “Funny Commercial Sexy Window Cleaner Hairdresser” of women getting their hair done in a salon while a young, buff, and handsome window cleaner proceeded to clean the windows displaying a bit more flesh with each swish of his brush:
That the video was sent to me by a gay woman in her 60’s is important to consider because even she found it funny. The video is laugh-out-loud hilarious and so I forwarded it to several friends who also thought it was hysterical and who told me they forwarded it to their friends. Then I e-mailed the video to my husband who sent it on to his friends because he too thought it was just too amusing not to share. Thinking that my daughter would also find the video funny, I sent it to her but when she didn’t say anything, I asked her if she saw it and she simply said “yes” to which I asked “didn’t you think it was just hilarious?” Silence. More Silence. And, then she said “mom, it must be a generation thing.” My daughter didn’t find the video the least bit entertaining.
Afraid to ask what her generation finds humorous, I moved on but then I started thinking about humor and my parent’s generation. Back then, Johnny Carson and Bob Hope were the kings of comedy but I don’t recall laughing at anything they said. In fact, they bored me (although looking back I probably didn’t understand what they were talking about). Flip Wilson as Geraldine was my idea of comedy when I was a kid. There was also Jackie Gleason (who can forget the Honeymooners’ episode when Ed Norton addresses the golf ball?) and Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy (the chocolate factory scene still enjoys a cult following). And, then Seinfeld came along in 1989 and continued for nine years gaining popularity every year because the show really did get funnier and funnier each season. 20 years after the final show aired, Seinfeld is still one of the funniest syndicated television shows on the air (Kramer, Elaine, George, Newman, and Jerry never fail to crack me up).
Still, I longed to know what young adults find funny. A few years ago (2014), the Atlantic Monthly published an article entitled “Sense of Humor Changes With Age” which basically says that older people are more accustomed to a gentler kind of wit whereas the younger generation is used to a more aggressive humor. Fair enough, given the free for all on social media and people’s inclination to tweet or write whatever comes to mind. But, then Buzzfeed really enlightened me with their “21 Things You Don’t Get About Young People if You Were Born Before 1980” – which, by the way is totally hilarious.