Over at The Weekly Standard, Joshua Gelernter has an interesting and light hearted piece on why Germans have trouble laughing. It’s an intriguing topic. As I’ve written before, Germany was a special breeding ground for envy and resentment, and envy and resentment are not good wellsprings for mirth and jocularity. Gelernter concludes by noting:
What makes the Germans the way they are? Perhaps all the light-hearted, benevolent ones emigrated to the United States and founded Wisconsin. Or else they were murdered by the Nazis. Robin Williams used to tell a story that a German reporter asked him why Germany wasn’t known for comedy, and he answered “Well, you killed all the funny people.” Times change and peoples change with them. Remember, in the 19th century, everyone knew that Germans were most notable for their composers and philosophers, and that the most fearsome warriors in Europe were the French.
Patton Oswalt has a slightly different take. He thinks that Germans clamp down on any joke because they’re afraid it will lead to mockery of Germans over the Holocaust. It’s a very funny bit.
But I think the real reason has to be that the Germans understand that laughter can kill: