Why not begin with an image that makes me giggle?!
Go on any dating site and you'll find hundreds of people all saying the same thing in their profile information: they're looking for someone with a good sense of humour.
I was no different, either of the times I signed up for online dating. In fact "someone who makes me laugh" is amongst the very first things I say when asked what I'm looking for in a partner. Life can be hard and laughter is not only a nice bonus from time to time, but as far as I'm concerned, it's pretty bloody crucial. In my family, we laugh at the bad as well as the good; I suppose it's a coping mechanism, really, but it works for us.
Laughter makes us forget our own personal troubles, or at least minimises the pain they're causing us at that particular moment. Laughter relaxes us and is medically proven to have health benefits - when we laugh, we feel good. It's no wonder that so many of us refer to ourselves as looking for someone with a good sense of humour to share our lives with - who would want a partner you can't laugh with?
Going right back to my childhood, a lot - and I mean a lot - of my celebrity crushes have been on stand up comedians or comic actors. Two of my earliest crushes were (and you can mock if you like) the late great Robin Williams, because he made me laugh in some of my favourite films, and Chris Barrie (he of the gif at the top of this page), because he played my favourite character in one of my favourite sitcoms (Red Dwarf). Years later, once I was in my teens, my most-fancied male member of the cast of Friends usually rotated depending on which of them I felt had had the funniest lines in recent episodes.
I went through a BIG Chandler phase.
Fast forward a few more years and I got really into stand-up comedy. It began with a Sunday morning radio show on 6Music, hosted by the comedian Russell Howard. I had seen Russell on TV and thought he was strangely cute (I am Mistress of The Back-Handed Compliment, clearly), but listening to him on the radio week after week led to me developing something of a crush. I travelled to see him perform in a comedy club in Bristol and I absolutely fell in love. Not with Russell Howard himself, but with stand-up.
There's something genuinely fantastic about live, stand-up comedy. The way you can walk into a comedy club after a hellish journey through terrible traffic, take off your coat, settle into your seat and be helpless with laughter minutes later never ceases to amaze me. Your shoulders feel lighter almost as soon as the first big belly laugh happens. Stand-up, done well, feels intimate, no matter how big the venue. You're listening to a person tell you about their life. You're being allowed access to someone's thoughts and opinions. You feel as though you're collectively sharing views, even though you haven't said a word - and that's because a good comedian can capture those little moments that we all share and make you feel somehow included in their world as they spin anecdotes, or go off on a rant. Of course, the more uplifted, happy and relaxed you feel in that environment, the more you want to go. I wanted to go a lot. The more I went, the more I began to have my favourites, of the many performers I saw.
And I saw a lot of people in small clubs just 7 or 8 years ago, who are hugely well known, today. Sarah Millican, Greg Davies, Josh Widdicombe and Jon Richardson, to name but a few. Aah, Jon Richardson. I admit it; that was a crush on a comedian that made me ever so slightly insane for a while.
I must have seen Jon at least a dozen times. He originally co-hosted the aforementioned 6Music show that unwittingly kick-started my love affair with stand-up, before Russell Howard left and Jon took over completely. Back in those days, I had so many texts read out on his show, that for a long time, complete strangers on the internet would refer to me as "THE Emma from Cornwall." Jon himself occasionally waited to say hello after gigs and, given that I was single and so was he, I was was even so bold as to slip him my number in a card, once. A decision which I now realise was probably ridiculously stupid, seeing as he was on his way to television stardom and I was just a very average-looking fan. Like I said, I'd gone slightly mad, at that point. I mistook polite friendliness for genuine interest and I'm saying this openly, because when I take the piss out of obsessive fans who tattoo band-members' names on themselves, or who threaten to kill themselves if One Direction don't return following their planned split, I'm doing so with knowledge of what it feels like to have that one thing (or person) in your life that you pour all of your energy into, regardless of whether you get anything back, purely because that one thing (or person) is the only thing that makes you feel good. And I also know how it feels to come out the other side and realise you're attaching meaning to something that doesn't mean anything at all and that maybe your actual life needs looking at, before you start thinking that that that one thing (or person) is all that matters. Thank God the worst I ever did was slip him my number. Imagine if I'd had "Jon" tattooed in a heart somewhere about my person?! It doesn't bear thinking about. Take it from me; if you have an urge to do something that stupid to "honour" a celebrity crush, then please just give your wallet and bank cards to a responsible adult until you've realised how silly that idea is. Because it is. "This too, shall pass" and all that.
Undoubtedly the worst I've ever looked.
I suppose what I'm saying here, in my time-honoured rambly way, is that I attached a deeper meaning to this particular crush because, in a weird and possibly vain-sounding way, he reminded me of myself. I was painfully shy; he was saying he was, too. I was going through a rather neurotic phase; he was known for being neurotic. But whilst these things got me down, there was this very handsome bloke, standing up on stage and getting people to laugh about them. It seemed like such a positive way of dealing with what I'd always seen as my faults, that I guess I felt that Jon spoke for me as much as for himself and that created this bizarre sensation that maybe he'd "get" me in a way that others hadn't. Like I said earlier, good stand-up feels intimate and there are few things more intimate than feeling like a stranger is talking with your mouth.
So, I, as a comedy fan, was perhaps "not done cooking," as my friend Lizzie and I like to say. I was still lacking life experience and a certain level of maturity; I didn't have the same confidence in myself that I have now (and, ironically, that would crash completely before I ever would have it to this current, occasionally shaky degree). What I'm trying to say is that comedy came into my life at a time when I needed it. I was a bit low; not living the life I wanted to live and unsure of what to do about it. I coped by laughing about it and in comedy clubs, I found a place full of people, many of whom were doing the exact same thing. Laughing at the things that torture us is a common coping technique and not only were many of the people I went to gigs with back then battling their own demons, but many of the comics we saw on stage were, too.
The link between comedy and tragedy is well known; we need only look at the fate of one of my first loves, the brilliant Robin Williams. Yet, in a strange way, I think that link between laughter and sadness only served to strengthen my love of comedy and indeed, my propensity to form crushes on comedians (because Jon Richardson may have been a big crush, but he was really just one in a long line...).
I'm sensitive and I've had my own issues to deal with over the years. Recognising sensitivity, or a tendency towards self-doubt in others is something of a skill of mine. I tend to gravitate towards people who understand what it's like to brood or overthink something; people whose minds are always ticking over. I've known a few people who've tried their hands at stand-up and they've always been the people whose brains seem wired similarly to mine.
Then there's the fact that I enjoy letting other people take centre stage if they have that kind of personality where they feel the need to be "the funny one," yet I equally like making my own friends laugh. And, of course, I look to seek out people who will be on board with my rather black-humour when it comes to taking the piss out of something horrible. We all deal with things differently, but that's definitely one of my major coping mechanisms and when I recognise it in another person, for some reason it attracts me to them. I think I've also got a very caring nature and something of a need to be needed, if that makes sense. If someone has got a sensitive side and they do hide behind their smile, I not only know what that feels like, but I want to support them, because I know how vital it is to feel cared for when you're in a dark place. Add to that the fact that I genuinely do feel as though life is too strange, too silly and and too painful to be taken seriously all of the time and you've kind of got why "good sense of humour" is something that will always be near the top of my list of attributes I look for in a partner - and why it's important to so many others, too.
Yes, if you can make me laugh - whether it's by making a sarcastic aside, being quick with a pun (God, I love a good pun) or by doing something silly just to get a reaction - then we're off to a good start. I'll feel relaxed, I'll be smiling and let's face it, we all get a confidence boost when someone laughs at our silly jokes, so you'll be feeling good, too.
It'll be no surprise to anyone reading this that it's a comedian who currently tops my "celebrity crush" list. In case you're interested, it's this one:
If he had to click his fingers every time I had a mildly dirty thought about him, his hand would eventually fall off.
Josh Widdicombe is very funny, is a similar age to me (so makes references to things from my youth, making me feel that "ooh, I can identify with you" thing that is also SO attractive), has proved on The Last Leg that he has a strong moral compass and is generally very bloody cute. It's a testament to how cute that it took me about fifteen minutes to type that last sentence, because I kept being transfixed by the gif above it. Click that sexy finger, Josh. Aaaand that's the weirdest sentence I've ever written.
I doubt there'll ever come a day when comedy isn't something that means a lot to me. Whether it's switching on a sitcom guaranteed to make me laugh, or booking tickets to go and see a favourite stand-up live, it's unlikely I'll ever lose my love of comedy in any form. After all, we all need a good giggle now and then. And as long as a sense of humour is so vital to me, I'll just carry on fancying the pants off guys who can make me laugh, too.