Filipinos have a sense of humor appropriate to their social condition. That would be earthy rather than nuanced.
"Huh? Nice going, Crazy Joe, confusing us in the very first sentence."
By earthy, I mean Filipinos "get" sex jokes and ridicule because sex is very popular here and ridicule is an art.
But take a stab at satire and minds glaze over. Or humor that requires having read a lot or traveled a lot. Little foundation exists here from which to laugh. If you don't know stereotypes of Mexicans in America, you don't get ethnic digs aimed at Mexicans and the Americans who are so biased they end up being the butts of their own jokes.
My readership drops like a rock when I publish book reports or articles on reading, and my readership brainpower is probably among the upper 10% of Filipino intellectual might. Maybe 5%.
I bring this up because I am reading a totally hilarious book and I'd guess I get only about 25% of the jokes. They come so fast, faster than the three stooges can throw pies. Pages and pages of the author's wild-ass I'll make it up as I go slapstick on a novel.
The author may surprise you if you are a spy buff and enjoy the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum. Because the writer of this hilarious book is Robert Ludlum. Yes, that master of multi-dimensional spy intrigue.
The book is "The Road to Omaha", written in 1992. I found it at my favorite used-book store at Robinson's Mall in Tacloban.
Figuring out the plots for all those intricate spy books must have driven Ludlum up the wall because he lets his laundry out in this masterpiece. If a racial slur exists, it is used in this book. Ludlum applies stereotypes and slurs like Sancho Panza applies idioms. Hebes and Wops, Spics and Darkies, Chinks and Redskins romp through the plot burying our ordinary outrageous stereotypes in an abundance of laughter. There are about a dozen main characters and they are positively uproarious. The main main-man is General MacKenzie Hawkins'. My favorites are his two adjutants, D-One and D-Two, a couple of Spics who tried to mug the General in the men's room.
Meet the General:
The lone figure in the nondescript gray suit huddled over the rolltop desk, which wasn't much of a desk, as all its little drawers had been removed and the rolling top was stuck at half-mast, was General MacKenzie Hawkins, military legend, hero in three wars and twice winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor. This giant of a man, his lean muscular figure belying his elderly years, his steely eyes and tanned leather-lined face perhaps confirming a number of them, had once again gone into combat. However, for the first time in his life, he was not at war with the enemies of his beloved United States of America but with the government of the United States itself.
Here are our esteemed General's professional values, expressed out of his own mouth during confrontation in the men's room with his future special forces:
"Get this straight, soldados estupidos! Never in all my years have I ever let a man's race, religion, or the color of his flesh have a goddamned thing to do with my appraisal of his qualifications. I've promoted more Coloreds and Chinks and Spanish-speaking personnel to the officer corps than most anyone in my position - not because they were Coloreds or Chinks or Spics, but because they were better than their competition! Is that clear? . . . You're just not in their ranks. You're pissants."
Well, fortunately, the great general was also a great trainer, and the two pissants were trained up to become his most loyal special forces, rising within the span of a few days from private to corporal to sergeant to lieutenant to captain. That's where I am now, halfway through the book.
What is my point in raising this matter?
Well, for one thing, to say without equivocation that humor is good for the soul. Sex jokes are funny (I have an extensive repertoire of two jokes), but I prefer the innocent and impromptu kind. Like when I told my son to go take his bath. He raised his head up from his toy trucks to exclaim loudly: "I can't hear you, I have bananas in my ears". He is 3 1/2.
I also enjoy word play. . . an original JoeAm-ism: ". . .declare an empanada and wage a fat war."
My second point is that fiction is fun and I rather think fiction writers are among the deepest souls on the planet. Mr. Ludlum made his name with spy novels. But clearly there was a deeper and broader writer underneath.
The humorous Ludlum.
Possibly he prayed, too, eh?
Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. Two of my favorite writers, one British, one American. Tremendous senses of humor, often attached to compassion, rendered within totally serious affairs. Kafka, master of the absurd. Jonathan Swift, master of satire. Humor requires seeing things in different dimensions, true and warped. Timing is everything.
So, to my recently adopted motto, I add a third and fourth admonition.
Aim high. Shoot straight.
Read lots. Laugh well.