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ADHD Humor: My Gift and My Curse

Sometimes my quirky jokes bring down the house, and other times my ADHD brain misfires badly. Through trial and error, I’m starting to learn who ‘gets’ my jests and who takes them the wrong way.

Humor is a gift of attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD). Our busy ADHD brains can impulsively put random, seemingly unassociated items together in funny ways that entertain those around us.

Like the time when I was watching a fantasy film with some friends—during one scene, the music swelled, and the camera traveled along the ground, inexplicably freezing on the earth for a moment. Without missing a beat, and before the camera panned up, I blurted out in a great, melodramatic, Gandalf-esque voice, “Behold! I am dirt!!” The entire room burst into laughter, robbing the moment of its dramatic importance and setting up the rest of the movie for snarky quips from all of us.

Humor is all about timing. For the ADHD brain, this can be a challenge. Not only are we chronically late, but sometimes our spontaneous jokes are all wrong for the moment because we’re not good at picking up social cues.

[Free Download: Your Guide to All the Best Parts of ADHD]

I had a roommate once who cleaned his half of the sink or his half of the shower. I cleaned the entire sink and shower, but only once a week or so. One time, he nagged me to clean the toilet. I told him I was busy with a conference, and I promised I’d get to it when the conference was over. But, he continued to nag, so I broke down and cleaned the whole toilet. Then, I told him that I cleaned my half of the toilet. I thought it was hilariously funny. I was laughing as I said it, and I continued to laugh as I left the room. He got angry. How dare I clean only half of the toilet?! He completely missed the joke. It still makes me chuckle, but I probably should have checked his mood before teasing him.

Humor also hinges on comprehension. My mother, for instance, doesn’t get sarcasm. I have spent a lifetime teasing her because of it. However, sometimes humor needs to be appropriate for its intended target. The urge to jest is not enough of a justification.

I have a daughter with learning disabilities. The other day, I took her to Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake City. I was filling out some forms at the records office and my daughter was exploring all of their fancy, goofy pens. Most were of the faux flower variety to prevent accidental pocket theft, but she became fascinated by a set of flamingos. The helpful records clerk told her that the feet came off to reveal the pens.

This entertained her for a bit, but then I noticed stuffed dolls on my left. I told her that the dolls were pens, too. You just needed to pop off their heads to access the pen. I was smiling. I winked. I had my “I’m making a joke” smirk broadcast on my face. The clerk thought it was hilarious. My daughter, however, pushed my shoulder, which is her way of telling me to cut it out, but then, as I continued to fill out the form, she walked behind me and tested the doll heads! The look of disappointment on her face was precious.

[Open Mouth, Insert Foot]

I burst out laughing and gave her a hug. I had no idea she’d taken me seriously. Poor kid. She got stuck with me for a father.

My misfires have taught me to (mostly) bite my tongue when I have the urge to make a colorful joke. But, I’m not perfect…yet.

3 Comments & Reviews

  1. Ugh, I can identify, unfortunately. I consider being funny a talent that I have, but sometimes everyone agrees and other times it’s only funny in my head but I realize after it falls flat that the thought behind what makes it funny doesn’t automatically occur to most people. Without some explanation about how my brain arrived there, conversation goes suddenly quiet with confusion but eventually moves on in the best case scenario, or someone completely misunderstands what I meant in the worst case scenario, and now believes I am boldly condescending toward others and/or a variety of other negative attributes. I am a slow learner, though. Even though I realized a long time ago that this wouldn’t happen if I took my time assessing how to put my thoughts into words and when to keep my thoughts to myself, this has proven to be one of the most difficult things for me to work on. It comes so natural to just blurt out whatever is on my mind (which leads me to talk fast and change subjects quite abruptly, which is obviously overwhelming to some people) that to keep so many thoughts to myself or to lower my voice even though I am passionate about the subject, feels like it takes a ton of effort and more importantly, feels inauthentic, as if I’m not being my true self. There is one positive to speaking without thinking- I’m an extremely honest person. With a thousand other on-the-spot ideas running through my head, I don’t even consider the ordeal of making up a lie, having to remember what I said to whom and actually preparing what I’m going to say way ahead of time. It’s much easier for me to use a million other words to try and explain myself impulsively and hope for the best. I am forced to be mindful of this sometimes, however. I often attack my Husband with words and thoughts the minute he gets home from work but eventually between his body language and the look on his face I am reminded to dial it down a few notches. The bottom line is that I am still figuring out how to balance this within my true personality but that’s ok since I believe no matter how old we are or how wise, we’re still forever a work in progress.

    1. Wow, karma20w I had to check and make I sure I hadn’t written your comment myself! I can relate to every part of it, from feeling inauthentic when I hold too much back, to being an awful liar, to bombarding my husband with stories at the end of the day! I have gotten myself into trouble several times saying too much at work, when I (still) see it as just saying the truth. I get exhausted with “politics” in the workplace and hierarchies and what you should and shouldn’t say in front of whom…it just feels so fake too me! I love to laugh and make others laugh, and “refining” myself to think about how there’s “a time and a place” for spontaneous, witty jokes is definitely–as you said–a “work in progress.”

      I really enjoyed the article, overall, because I have never really thought of my sense of humor as being related to my ADHD brain or way of viewing the world, but this really helped me see myself and others a little more clearly.

    2. I was in a room with about 10 recovering addicts, watching a seriously intense movie. Behind me I had one man snacking loudly on popcorn, and in front of me, I had a man sleeping, snoring loudly. Well, an intense part of the movie came on, and I’d been holding back, then at that intense moment, I bursted out laughing. Everyone just looked at me obliviously to what I had been hearing. I said, “I’m sorry but I’ve got one smacking and one snoring loudly”, as I laughed telling the others. I couldn’t believe I was the only one seeing how funny it was, and being my silly self, I just smiled and tried to continue watching the movie, but I kept thinking about it, giggling and I had to remove myself from the room for a few moments. I’ve had ADHD all my life, but I wasn’t diagnosed until in my late twenties and I didn’t start medications until my forties. Now, at 51 years old, I’ve finally found a medication that works for me, but I’ll always have my Gift of Humor, maybe using a better time of judgement, during an intense movie. This magazine is wonderful, helping me understand more of my ADHD and that we are not alone. Laugh, Live, Love and Laugh some more!

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