I enjoy it when I make a joke and people laugh at it. However I would not want them to laugh out of fear; if, for example, they are afraid they would get punished if they didn’t laugh at my jokes. What if they were not afraid of punishment but were seeking a reward — for example, they wanted me to give them something? I still wouldn’t like it. No, what I want is for people to laugh at my jokes because they actually think they are funny. It is validating. It makes me feel good.
However if I learn the sorts of things that make people laugh and say them because I know people will laugh, even if I don’t think they’re funny, I don’t like that either. Because in that case the person being motivated by fear, or the hope of a bribe or treat, is me. For me to be happy at making jokes and being appreciated I have to know that neither me nor my audience is motivated by fear or the hope of a treat.
It requires a high level of trust between me and my audience. They have to trust me not to say things I don’t genuinely feel are funny and I have to trust them not to laugh at things they don’t actually think are funny. I have to make sure I am not imitating someone else, including myself five weeks ago. They have to be careful they are actually laughing because they find what I say funny, and not out of nervousness, or the desire to be the sort of person who would find that sort of thing funny. But if pull it off, if we are there for each other the result is a moment of genuine intimacy.