Always Leave 'Em Laughing

Travel writer and humorist Chuck Thompson on how to tickle anyone's funny bone.

"This American idea of a joke, with a setup and punch line, doesn't translate across cultures. There's no tradition of ‘Two guys walk into bar …' in Africa, so a joke isn't going to help you. But one thing that is universal is food. People like to stick their most outrageous dish in front of you. They want you to cringe at some disgusting pile of kitten ovaries stewed in sheep's urine—and your unpleasant face always gets a laugh. Another surefire tactic is to learn one or two dirty phrases, because no matter how much you practice, it's going to sound like some idiot foreign accent. It's the Yakov Smirnoff effect. Just learn to say penis or twat or fucking like a fiddler's elbow in whatever the local dialect is and you'll have them rolling."

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