Sunday, May 4, 2014

How Is That Funny?

I want to write a funny blog this week. Why is that so hard? Why is comedy so much more difficult to write than straight-serious? Probably because comedy is combustible and slippery. It can blow up in one’s face. What if I write something embarrassingly not funny? But I swear by humor. Humor is healing and delightful. Humor is the key to longevity, good parenting, productivity, friendship, and so much more. So why is it so hard to write?

I probably should have done some research for this blog. I suppose I could have googled “the psychology of humor” or “why is something funny?” You can google anything these days. I do, too. I could google “What color is my underpants?” and I would not only get the answer to that question but a satellite view of me, here in my study, with an X-ray-vision picture of my underpants. Google knows where to find me. Why are underpants funny? And are they singular or plural? Can I have a show of hands about ‘is’ or ‘are’ with respect to underpants?

A classic underpants family story about Ron goes something like this:  He was in line at the cashier in Mervyns’, where he was buying socks and underwear. The fellow in front of him told the cashier “They’re all of a sudden making us wear neckties at work now, so here I am buying a stack of ties.” After the man paid for his ties and left, Ron stepped up to the cashier and said, “They’re making us wear underwear at work now so here I am.” I think that’s funny. But then I married this guy based on his bizarre sense of humor. So what is funny about underwear? The neckties were not funny. The underwear was.

And what is it about farts? Why do people think farts are so funny? Especially the male variety of people. Men can’t get enough fart jokes. They also can’t get enough of farting, it seems, too. I have a good friend (will not name Jim to protect his reputation) who recently posted on Facebook “describe your last fart using a movie title.” The week he posted this, Ron and I went to visit him and we spent the two days coming up with movie titles and howling with laughter. You see how quickly men can get a woman to sink to their level. My best movie title was The Scent of a Woman. And now, whenever Ron farts, I shout La Bamba! I have stopped farting as a result of this traumatic series of conversations.

I have been reading some of the jokes that Obama delivered at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner last night. They are pretty funny. He said “Let’s face it Fox, you’ll miss me when I’m gone. It’ll be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya.” He also made fun of the botched roll-out of the healthcare website for the Affordable Care Act. When I think about why his jokes last night were so funny, I have to say it’s because they are so painfully true.

Comedy helps us laugh at our human foibles and failings. That’s probably why farts are so funny also. They remind us not to puff ourselves up. (Oops, was that a bad pun? Sorry about that. Bad puns are genetic. Got that from my father and I can’t help myself.) Farts remind us that we are inconsequential little human creatures trapped in messy uncontrollable bodies. No matter how lofty our ideals, we still have an ass. Without benefit of google, I have come to the conclusion that the best comedy is either magnificently true or magnificently not true. Our real human predicaments are funny. The absurd and unlikely are also funny.

When I started writing my blog, I wanted to write funny blog posts as often as possible. This turned out to be much harder than I had imagined. So my posts have been more serious in nature most of the time. I try to make them a bit inspirational. Perhaps insightful. I would like them to be more fun, like this post from back in 2008 when I first started the blog.

My 2008 is off to a good start. The unthinkable happened. My husband Ron cleaned his closet. I didn’t even ask him to do it. At first I wasn’t sure what possessed him, but then I realized it was very likely the avalanche of old clothing that tumbled out on our bedroom floor when he went to look for something to wear for New Year’s Eve. Once the clothes fell out we could see what he had back there. Squash racket. Wrapping paper (and I thought I had run out). Air mattresses (that’s where they went). Foot bath. Ping pong balls (we don’t have a ping pong table). Ping pong table (yikes, I guess we do have a ping pong table). One-year supply of biodegradable drain cleaner. 1982 Chicago phone book. Two boxes of old phone bills. Cuckoo clock. My nephew (thank goodness, my sister-in-law will be so relieved that he turned up).
I even noticed that he still has the photography dark room in the back corner of his closet. His dark room is a large cardboard box with two black sleeves for his arms. I’m not sure how exactly you develop the film in there. Especially since you can’t see into the box. And wouldn’t you think that cardboard would dissolve when it comes in contact with film-developing chemicals? Well, I guess I’m too thick to get how this system works. Although I have yet to recall any photos that Ron has developed in that box, I do know it has been in his closet for at least 25 years. But we can’t throw it out. I mean what if he discovered film that needed developing? In the meantime, it seems like a halfway decent repository for the old pairs of jeans that he swears he’ll get back into by the spring.
When I started my blog, I warned Ron that he was going to be fodder for my blog entries. He replied, “I expected it. I’m already the fodder of your children.”

That blog post was truer than true and also an exaggeration, thus false. It was absurd while at the same time it accurately described the challenge of a pathologically organized person married to a master of chaos. I didn’t have to google the psychology of comedy or my underpants to figure this out.

Before I give up on trying to give you a chuckle today, I want to share the masterful work of our resident family comedian, my 12-year-old nephew Benjamin. Here is one of his homeworks that my brother Dan recently shared with me. Benjamin apparently has a very wise fish. (Although I would tend to say that if you feel trapped you should move to a smaller house since that’s what I’m in the process of doing. But that might be a senior thing.)

by Benjamin Wachspress
1. Not everyone lives forever, so have fun.
2. Eat until you’re full and you will grow (a lot).
3. There is such thing as a second chance.
4. Suck it up and live on.
5. Look good.
6. Open your mouth when you want something.
7. Begging will get you everything.
8. Ignore people that annoy you.
9. Sleep a lot.
10. When you feel trapped get a larger home.

No fish were harmed in the making of this blog.

No comments: