Most of the time when someone precedes a story by declaring “this is a funny story,” the story they then tell is not funny. It also puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the listener, who feels that he/she is under obligation to laugh, and very few people have genuine fake laughs. My fake laugh is particularly hollow and synthetic; it sounds like something a less-than-stellar actor would come up with if the script specifically called for him to pretend to laugh at something. I suppose fake laughing is better than the alternative, which is to do nothing, whilst the person who just told the story looks on expectedly, hoping, praying for some sign that their listener has been entertained. A similar situation arises whenever one eager-to-please person threatens to show his buddy a YouTube clip or an episode of a TV show, with the disclaimer that the newcomer will find it entertaining. This is the sort of confidence borne of a supposed knowledge of a friend’s tastes and proclivities, and while it can end with both people rolling on the ground in hysterics, it can also end with the new viewer staring silently at the screen, the veteran shooting constant, frantic glances in his direction for some sign to validate why this particular show or clip has been chosen. In the latter case, the person who has just viewed the new material for the first time will usually mutter some words of encouragement to his crushed friend, something along the lines of “That was pretty funny” or “It was good, I’ll have to watch more of it at some point.” If the person is unflinchingly honest, he’ll just say “Eh, wasn’t really for me,” which might seem like a dickish thing to say, but we could use a little more honesty in the world, no?