Thai Humour Country Style

If you’ve ever watched a full evenings worth of Thai TV then you will surely have come across what is in my opinion typical Thai humour. Slapstick comedy. It can appear on screen at anytime but late at night Thai TV is normally guaranteed to air at least one show. Cue the straight man and bring on the ladyboy because that’s Thai humour in full swing.

I guess I’m a little biased about generalizing Thais sense of humour as being slapstick. As a kid I laughed out loud at Laurel and Hardy, Norman Wisdom and my favourite film star Jerry Lewis. Thai people have many different kinds of humour but perhaps I just happen to notice the slapstick variety most of all.

On a recent trip to Udon Thani with Wonderful Wi, I came across a little slice of Thai humour. That’s not quite the truth, because it was Wi who noticed it first. It wasn’t slapstick, although just like that brand of comedy it was very visual humour. It had wry and dry written all over it. Visual humour is a multi national thing.

We were driving from our village home to Udon Thani and had just passed through a small town named Phen when we stopped at a crossroad’s traffic lights. Those things confuse me, I’m never sure if they’re working or not, then again I’m not the driver. Normally we go straight ahead but this time Wilai took a right and we headed along the alternative route.

We were driving through a village about five kilometres from Phen and as we were about to leave it behind, Wi slowed down and hit the brakes stopping just past the village security hut (top photo). She glanced back then turned around and spoke.

” Hus…band, I think I see something for your dia…ree (blog). I want you take picture security man sleep. I think you like.”

I got out the car and edged a little nervously towards the security man sleeping outside his box. I could see his bicycle against the side wall and assumed a lengthy ride to work had tired him out.

Work is probably the wrong word because these guys are always locals who do voluntary shifts on a rota basis. That’s why nine times out of ten the boxes are unmanned. Who wants to work for free.

There was a village style restaurant just over the road and the handful of customers were watching my every move. I guessed they were thinking what the hell is this crazy westerner up to. They weren’t thinking that at all because they knew something I didn’t.

I edged a little closer, closer still. I could hear stifled laughter coming from the restaurant. The security guard sure was tired, he didn’t move a muscle. Maybe he’d been on the lao khao (rice whisky) because he looked really stuffed. That was when it hit me and the laughter got louder and louder. I just had to join in even though I was as red faced as the ‘security guard’.

Thai humour is a wonderful thing. I was taking pictures of a bloody straw man.


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

17 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Martyn a great tale and photographs. I agree about the humour, although to be honest I don’t like the Thai slapstick that much(probably due to my language skills).

    To be fair my neighbours always appreciate it if I am playing the fool (99% of the time) even though MTF usually has to explain my actions.

    They also really enjoy my language gaffs which used to worry me but not now, in fact I occasionally use the wrong word intentionally to give them a laugh 🙂

  2. Boonsong says:

    Hay! What an egg-straw-dinnerry story…..

  3. Catherine says:

    Fabulous Martyn 😀

    What we need to do is get Wi a video camera to take photos of you talking photos around Thailand. Although I have a decent enough imagination, being able to see you sneaking up to a dummy in living colour would be a hoot.

  4. kaewmala says:

    Very cute straw man! Cleverer than most slapstick humor (which this Thai doesn’t find very funny – I’m more literary than visual).

  5. Hoo Don says:

    Mike – I like many kinds of humour and slapstick is one of my favourite brands. It is very big in Thailand. One of Wilai’s uncles loves watching Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean ( employs lots of slapstick) series and when I’ve been to his house and he’s played them, whoever is there just seems to roll around laughing. Whatever happened to Mr Bean.

    I don’t get the language laugh gaffes, I think Wi’s family don’t understand my Thai at all. I think they probably assume I’m still talking English unless I keep it very basic. Bloody tones, just can’t get them right.

  6. Steve says:

    Martyn I can see where you got fooled by the straw man, whoever made him did a super job. Still it would have been priceless to watch you sneaking up on him to get his picture…worthy of late night Thai TV I believe :>)

  7. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine I should wear glasses full time but I never do and perhaps I’d have seen the joke a little before if I did. Wilai said afterwards she wasn’t sure if it was somebody real or not but she had an inkling (my words not hers) it was. Travelling the country roads you see some great things and luckily I managed to capture this one.

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Boonsong I wish I had thought of your egg-straw-dinnerry story quote…that’s what I’d call slapstick wording. Keep em coming and once again thanks for the read.

  9. Hoo Don says:

    kaewmala – There was no sex talk coming from this security guard ( I guess that’s what most of the real one’s think of ). I think a lot of slapstick comedy involves visual things, not necessarily words, although they are a big part of its make up.

    The straw man was very well made and does look kind of cute. Thanks.

  10. Hoo Don says:

    Steve thanks for dropping by. You must be very busy at the moment looking after the two loves of your life.

    The villagers must have had an even bigger laugh at me after I’d gone. Thankfully I wasn’t caught on film myself. Happy sleepless nights, I’m sure it’s all worth it.

  11. Steve says:

    Quite busy, but also happier than ever. Alivia is quite simply a little angel. Sleepless nights are also worth it and fortunately (for me) Golf has been taking care of the night shift so I can get my rest. Even so, the baby is sleeping 3-4 hours at a stretch overnight so it’s really not too bad.

  12. Talen says:

    Great story Martyn, I would have probably been fooled as well as one sleeping Thai looks like all the rest…straw man or not!

  13. Hoo Don says:

    Steve I know all about the night shift. I’ve just finished a three night set, had one hour’s sleep and will be soon going out to watch some football and have a few beers. I might have 3-4 hours sleep myself after that. No work tonight. Lovely.

  14. Hoo Don says:

    Talen I think I’d have seen the catch if I’d had my glasses on but I only wear them for reading. You’re right about the sleeping Thais, any place any where.

  15. Catherine says:

    Martyn, what it is with men not wearing glasses when they need to? The man of the house has the same problem, as did former men. And you all look so sexy and smart in glasses, so I don’t know what the fuss is all about.

  16. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine I’m sure some men do look sexy in glasses but for most of us mere mortals, wearing them gives us a better view on the fact that we don’t look sexy at all. Glasses are only needed for important things like reading the sports news and clocking the odd fair maiden passing by. Also if you’re not wearing them then you have a much better chance of standing on them and breaking them, that’s pretty hard to do with them on. Broken glasses are a good thing.

  17. Erich says:

    I’ve seen that guy sitting on a porch here in Sakon drinking everyone’s lao kao.

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