I know, since only one of my parent’s had a sense of humor, I am only half as funny as I should be.
And I know such a silly old expression –so funny I forgot to laugh– dates me. I heard it jeeringly said in the parking lot my Catholic grade school called a ‘play ground’. Probably no one says that now. But it really has been a problem thorugh my life. Just like I never stopped to smell the roses, or even enjoy the parties it took so much effort to get a family of six to, I sometimes forgot to laugh at the joke.
My mother, who was not the parent with a sense of humor, had been brainwashed by her very serious and hard working parents into believing it was a waste of time to sit around and laugh. But some of her brothers did not fall into lockstep: Uncle Ralph had a great sense of humor. I remember once when I was about 9 years old, my mother had been nagging me to write a thank you note. As incentive to get it done, she told me it would be cheaper to send it today because the postal rate would increase next week. Uncle Ralph gave me 25cents, a small fortune in those days, and told me to take my time writing the note! He was famous for buying postcards, writing a note on them to his friends and then giving them to someone who was flying to an exotic place with money for postage and asking them to mail the cards for him. He perfected being in two places at one time.
My father had the cheerful disposition and a great sense of humor. When I would ask him what kind of tea he would like, he would say, “Subtle-tea or LeviTea!” Wouldn’t you know, I found two tins in my mother’s cabinet, filled with more than a years supply of tea, that bore the names “Subtle Tea”, and “Levi-tea.” (Two more things I CAN’T throw out!) My father had the only clean book of jokes in existence, mostly puns: “Why can’t Cinderella play basketball? She had a pumpkin for a coach.” He engaged in situational comedy. One time he sneezed so hard he scared the pants off my younger siblings who were so startled they started to cry. Dad looked at them and said, “Let that be a lesson to you!” I still laugh when I think about it.
I like every kind of humor. I love watching well written comedies like Modern Family. Heck, I still like to watch the slap stick Get Smart. But most of all I love laughing with friends. Lori & Hal and a good book of jokes. Gary & Deb – laughing so hard my face hurt by the end of the evening.
But how can a post on humor be so serious? It is like the The Dick Van Dyke Show episode where Rob tries to describe being a comedy writer to his son’s classroom. He coughs, hems and haws and uses theoretical jargon, boring everyone. But tripping gets them laughing. Just like when Tim Allen wipes his brow with the hem of the dress of the doll he brought to show the class he was a toymaker in THE SANTA CLAUSE. Clever writing and acting! I have to step up my game!
It is very hard to be funny. It is so time and place and culture specific. I think a well written comedy has more life lessons than a “real life” tear-jerking drama. I hate it when my friends say,”Go see this movie, it is really good. It’s disturbing. I cried for hours.” Why would I want to do that? I can cry for hours after just seeing the news.
I sometimes make it my job to be funny. We had a stuffed animal salesman at our store whose sales calls I would dread. He had absolutely no sense of humor and he sold stuffed animals for a living. This guy would come down the aisle, a grimace on his face, lugging two huge cases of samples. I could hear the theme song from Jaws as he bore down on me. Every time I saw him I tried so hard to make him laugh. I made puns, I told funny stories. Sometimes it actually worked! A proud accomplishment.He would sit at the table, look at his script and say stuff like, “Introducing WILBUR” pulling a goofy stuffed doll-like thing out of his bag. “Wilbur is sure to delight your customers with his witty sayings.” He would wag Wilbur up and down and make him dance. “See, on Wilbur’s shirt it says, ‘Get Well’ Isn’t that funny?” I thought the talks to bring about Nuclear Disarmament with the Russians were probably more lighthearted. Our funniest meeting was when he said,’So ok, you like jokes.” I stared blankly at him, but nodded yes. He reached into his shirt pocket, moved his pocket protector to the side and produced two index cards from which he read the least funny jokes I ever heard! Hysterical! I gave him A for effort and bought some stuffed animals.
I try to incorporate humor into my writing. My Enjella Uprooted: A Tooth Fairy Gets a New Job has a pun in the title just to prove it. And I did get a reviewer who said “. . .with humor and charm as every page unlocks unexpected action . . . ”
But THIS POST IS NOT FUNNY. Sorry! I will try harder next time. Did you know laughing is actually good for your body? It’s good exercise for your lungs and it releases Dopamine – the happy hormone.
Let that be a lesson to us all — we want everyone to catch us laughing – it is infectious. And it really is the best medicine.
© Jane F. Collen January 26, 2016