For many of us there are quite a few things that cease to be funny as you get older. If you have a sprained ankle or are waiting for a hip replacement or are having to walk slowly because of an attack of angina or have one of your dizzy spells and stumble, jokes about disablement are as unfunny as you can get. Able to grin and bear it when things are hard going is one thing, laughing about them is another. Slap-stick comedy is the anaesthetising of mishaps by turning them into humour, but we are no Laurel and Hardy, encountering too many such incidents to find them funny. At least at the time. With ingenuity we might just be able to make them amusing when we tell others about them. But jokes about Zimmer frames are out.
Forgetting where you last left your glasses, weary of sorting out what food you can manage and what now disagrees with you, trying to remember someone’s name, making shopping lists and then losing them, unable to recall something which apparently you were told seconds before, sorting out the change in your purse and in the process dropping it, missing a step on the stairs, asking for the TV volume to be turned up so that you can hear it and then for it to be turned down because its too loud.
Such is life. I suppose it is quite funny, but more for others than for yourself.
The really unfunny thing which may still be amusing to others because to laugh at it keeps the thought of it at bay, is the ending of life, for each day we older people are nearer to that than we have ever been before. Some people are very good at preparing for death and in an age of faith perhaps it was easier than it is now. You believed you knew where you were going and you settled your mind – your soul – on that. Whoever we are and whatever our tradition, we hold to life as long as we can, but have private thoughts about dying that perhaps we need to talk to others about, and that doesn’t happen very easily in our culture.
Or do we just ignore it? Some people perhaps may cope doing that. But not to laugh about it. Jokes about funerals, coffins falling off hearses, burying the wrong body : they are really, really unfunny.