No Room for a Belly Laugh About This One

Picture: Gilberto Santo Rosa (CC)

My personal opinion is that it’s important in life to remind yourself that some things are not funny even if they might make you laugh. The story of a woman who got her sexy belly button ring stuck while swimming in a pool is a current example. Huffington Post reports the story, which is quite clearly not funny:

GREELEY, Colo. — Firefighters in Colorado say a woman’s belly button ring became entangled with a drain cover in a shallow splash pool but that she was freed without injury.

Authorities say the woman became stuck Wednesday as she floated on her stomach with her child in a shallow pool at the Greeley Family Funplex.

Firefighters tried to turn the ring to free her but then started to drain the pool while working to manipulate the ring.

They said Thursday that she eventually was freed and she wasn’t hurt in the process.

The above news story is without doubt not funny and the poor woman deserves our sympathy. That she was unharmed may cause some Disinfonaughts difficulty when they consider the fact her unpredictable fate was clearly not funny. After all how was she to know that body modification might entail a certain level of caution?

The not funny genre shifts up a notch when a fatality is involved[1]. The cold finger of death means it is even more vital that the untrained brain understands something is not funny. Well known examples often include people who are killed by wild animals. Steve Erwin, and the lesser known Timothy Treadwell, illustrate the point very well. Everybody knows that, Mr Erwin, was clearly an unfortunate victim of lady luck. Who could have expected the care-free “crocodile hunter” famous for his cavalier attitude to dangerous animals would ever have ended up being killed by one?

Even now it seems unthinkable. Why oh why does fate do such awful things?

The lesser known Timothy Treadwell, subject of the cult film “Grizzly Man”[2], is similar and even more not funny. An avid animal rights activist, Timothy knew in his heart of hearts that man eating grizzly bears were in fact just misunderstood. So, he decided to live amongst them in their natural habitat of Alaska. Amazingly, and by another weird quirk of fate, they ate him and his girlfriend alive!

None of these situations are funny.

My brain just, you know, in its unguarded moments, forgets that fact and lets out a little laugh. I mentioned this to a colleague once and she looked right into my eyes and said “that’s not nice”. I tried to explain that I knew it was not funny. I just sort of have a brain that won’t listen to the facts when it comes to not laughing at things. The more annoyed she became the more confused my brain became about what is not funny. This set up a sort of negative feedback loop where she got angrier and angrier and I felt like a kid in a classroom who has been told to stop laughing.

US and UK Disinfonaughts may be familiar with the TV show Jeremy Kyle. It’s a masterpiece of not funny incidents. A recent instant classic on the UK version featured two men who had been having a full homosexual relationship with each other after meeting on the internets. They’d realised they might actually be related and so had a DNA test to find out that, yes in fact they were! The two brothers were devastated by the news and burst into fits of hysterical tears. Once their story was finished (with the show title ‘Am I having sex with my brother?’ and the answer now being a firm ‘yes’) Kyle, with a straight face, actually turned to his audience and said: “give them a round of applause guys!”.

Again, I know that’s not funny, my brain just really thought it was at the time. It’s an ongoing learning process for all of us I guess.

Nick Margerrison

Commentators who can locate examples of things which they know to be not funny are encouraged to point them out. Many people need help with this one. There’s nothing worse than being the only one in the room who hasn’t noticed that something is in fact not funny at all.


[1] Popular website The Darwin Awards helpfully provides a list of not funnies to aid the confused.

[2] The cult film in question is a genuinely moving masterpiece: Grizzly Man.

Nick Margerrison

I write on Disinfo for fun, I've been a fan of the company for years.

In the real world I'm a freelance TV/radio presenter. I've worked for LBC, Kerrang Radio, The Bay, Edge Media TV, Hallam FM and The BBC.

My podcast is here:

25 Comments on "No Room for a Belly Laugh About This One"

  1. This article really strikes a chord with me.. I think some of us just have a pension for cosmic irony. no? Here’s a personal story to add, that is definitely not funny.

    I have a younger cousin, let’s call her Gina. She’s a bit southern . . . and religious . . . and uneducated. Gina started popping out kids around the age of 18, which was actually a little late for someone of her socio-intellectual status. So, one day at a family gathering, which I reluctantly attended, she interrupted a conversation I was having with my uncle who’d asked me if/when I was going to have children. Gina overheard me say, “probably not, I don’t think I want kids.” and she lost it. She started attacking me and telling me that I was irresponsible and selfish. I finally got annoyed enough to explain to her that she was projecting her own insecurities onto me, that in fact, she was selfish for bringing more hungry bellies into an overpopulated world, and then I gave examples of her irresponsible parenting and told her that she wasn’t fit to be a mother and certainly not responsible enough to have children.

    Three weeks later, she neglectfully let her two year-old wander into the driveway and behind a reversing car that crushed his head.

    That was definitely not funny.

    • But you won the argument! 😉 Which is a little funny.. I won’t have kids because I KNOW its the responsible thing to do. Nobody should have children in a world such as ours.

      • jasonwilczak | Nov 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm |

        All other points aside from this comment. Your last sentence either doesn’t make sense or I misunderstand your perception on Humanity. I am assuming that you believe Humanity should continue on. If that is indeed your perspective then at least some of us should have children…

        • You misunderstood my perception of humanity. There is nothing humane about the way we currently run our world. Not to say there isn’t a better way, but no worthy solutions are being phased in. Our education system is broken, our legislative, judicial and executive branches are overrun with corruption. Large corporations operate with more rights and liberties than that of the people. Our food is not what we think it is anymore; you think that McDonald’s burger is actually a burger, HA! Our banking system operates like a group of criminal cartels, always manipulating the system the way they see fit. This is not the world I want a child to grow up in, ANY child. I see the point your making; ‘no children being born means no future for humanity yatta yatta yatta’. BUT, maybe what we need is for everyone to stop participating in this “game” we call life. Which has been artificially created to cause struggle and strife among non-wealthy individuals trying to make it. Basically, what I’m saying is, I think we (humans) need a reboot. Or someone just needs to kill everyone in charge so we can replace them. Either way will work.

  2. charlieprimero | Nov 19, 2012 at 10:58 am |

    No joy for shadenfraud? Comedy is indeed a fickle mistress.

  3. Kevin Leonard | Nov 19, 2012 at 11:22 am |

    “give them a round of applause guys!” is actually quite funny.

  4. Kevin Leonard | Nov 19, 2012 at 11:23 am |

    I’m pretty certain that the belly button ring woman would not have drowned. Instinct would have taken over if she were in deeper water and she’d have a bit of torn flesh at her navel.

  5. cloudnearly9 | Nov 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm |

    this dumb mindless garbage should not be on disinfo. this is not why i come to this website, should be ashamed. THIS IS NOT NEWS. the world has much more *significant* insignificant stuff going on. get a grip. its not even funny. and i like laughing at dumb misfortune.

  6. Sometimes we laugh to relieve tension. The story may trigger something in our subconscious like “I could die from something inane like that” and that realization creates tension and we laugh to release the tension. It might depend on which part of the story we relate to the most, sympathy for the ‘victim’ or our own mortality.

    • I guess if I couldn’t laugh at a little misfortune and instead let in every moment of misery from everyone else all the time I think I would go totally nuts. I guess this sort of humour is also a form of self defence.

  7. InfvoCuernos | Nov 19, 2012 at 3:58 pm |

    Ever look at the Three Stooges critically? Most of the shit they do to each other, if done to someone in the real world would be crippling or lethal( hit someone in the head with a hammer? At least twice in every scene). A great deal of humor is based on the suffering of others. Its not just slapstick either. Laughing at someone who’s ignorance or poor luck have put them into a horrible situation is just part of the yuks if you’re a human.

    • InfvoCuernos | Nov 19, 2012 at 8:43 pm |

      Also, while the idea of gay sex with your brother that you thought was a stranger on the interweb may be at first distasteful, it is not in any way harmful like, say heterosex with your sister, which may produce genetically inbred mutant babies. All these two got was a case of the creeping willies for breaking the taboo of incest. Give those two a round of applause indeed.

  8. I think Comedy itself is “not funny”. Everything George Carlin ever said was “not funny”.

    • HOW DARE YOU SPEAK ABOUT GEORGE LIKE THAT!! Most of the stuff he talked about was serious, but his delivery made it funny. “George Carlin” and “not funny” should never be in the same sentence.

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