Coping: America’s Missing Funny Bone

As the election left-overs continue to flow in – and I’m sure it was just a clerical oversight that I haven’t been invited to the Obama-Trump transition talks – it’s time to once again focus on what is important in America.

For one thing, I expect that we will go back to being a country where you can say Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Kwanza again, without people getting their knickers all twisted up.

It’s very sad, really, how we have lost our national sense of humor.

The problem is humor is a sort of “bounded art form.” That is, like anything else we study around here, there are ways to slice and dice the subject such that it is immediately comprehensible.

Since Donald Trump is rumored to have a pretty good sense of humor (and joking ability), particularly on the golf course, I thought a refresher course in “What Makes Humor Funny?” might be in order.

Relief: In this kind of humor, people feel a huge weight has been lifted from their shoulders. As I was heading out to the local (45-miles away) custom millwork emporium in Rusk, Texas to pick up a new steel door for the guest quarters remodel, a fair number of people were remarking on how they felt like some kind of “big weight” had been lifted from their shoulders.

Either it’s because John Podesta et al were outed as “soul cooking” advocates, which runs down the black magic / Satanic ritual magic path, OR is it because getting wrapped up so deeply in an election really is some kind of cosmic joke. Jury’s out on that one.

Ambiguity: This one is one where one makes fun of one thing or another while the listening one wonders which one one is talking about. Or, it comes from wondering “Was Hillary really sick or was that just a psy-op?”

Incongruity: This is because – as in a shaggy dog tale, for example, you build people up to expect one answer and really hit them with something else.

My favorite example (going back 50 years) is the old “What were you playing this morning in the bathroom that was long and hard and kind of hairy on one end? Why, your toothbrush, of course!

I like incongruity and staples like “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” are classics worth remembering. Or not.

Recognition: This is where you talk around something and the listener or viewer, reader, or pizza delivery boy, has to figure out what the hell you’re talking about. And when it suddenly all makes sense, they are supposed to laugh.

Here’s the problem out here: No one will deliver pizza, and the mailman has heard me “talking around things” as couple of times and he’s never so much as cracked a smile indicating “recognition has occurred.”

I’m sure he thinks I’m a crazy man, but that’s OK. Maybe there’s a trick in how the civil service and post office entrance tests are worded so people with a good sense of humor don’t get to work there.

I know it’s true for most cops. Try and find the funny bone of a cop after he has pulled you over. If you can manage it, try writing for television because you’re a natural.

Timing/Anticipation: This is where the recipient of the attempted humor just knows something funny is coming and can’t wait to laugh.

I take great joy, after a few well-delivered jokes getting people involved in a story. A good shaggy dog story with an obvious punchline. Except that I toss out the punchline and turn it into a heartbreaking, tear-jerker.

Then I laugh at the listener and I’m never invited back.

Oh well.

Absurdity: Some sources call this “Protection” as a label. It’s where a cartoon figure (think Itchy and Scratchy) never seem to die. And Wile E. Coyote (or however it’s spelled) never dies when a 1,000 pound anvil is dropped on them.

The joke made sense back when America actually made things and people generally knew what an anvil was. The jokes lost their punch as the kids moved off-planet though, so it was left to Itchy and Scratchy to update the punchlines with modern instruments of pain like microwave ovens and lawnmowers.

Exaggeration: This is the Texas Special on our list.

Everyone knows a cowboy hat will only hold about a gallon of water, so what is with the 10-gallon hat stuff?

Texas is so big that…. (fill in the blank).

And Alaskans proudly take anything from Texas and marginalize it as too small to trifle with.

One form of humor – maybe it’s two – have disappeared. Maybe victim of political correctness disease.

The category is “Embarrassment” and the expression is ethnic jokes.

No, I am not supporting their return (although a good Ole and Sven joke about melting pot Swedes was popular in our Scandinavian church when I was young) but I sometimes wonder if such humor isn’t one of the spices in the Melting Pot.

Having Scottish in the family meant Scotsman jokes when I was young. Danish didn’t seem to have many jokes made about them. No idea why the Poles and Swedes – and Italians, come to think of it – were the brunt an unreasonable bit of the time. When you think about it, it wasn’t racial (although the PC police might claim it so); it was more embarrassment or learning to cope with others not just like Us.

There’s a serious problem in academia today: Foregone conclusions.

Humor is bad, humor victimizes someone, yeah, got all that.

But somewhere in what’s known about humor there must be a key to making people laugh.

Perhaps one of the good things to look forward to with a new president is to see if we can light a Renewal of National Humor.

For it is as the Reader’s Digest so aptly titles one of its humor columns: Laughter is the Best Medicine.

Laugh and be well.

Did Your Hear the One About?

Chris Tyreman up at the Chronicle Project sent this along,. Courtesy of one of his readers:

The Blue Collar Reason

Remember, remember, the eighth of November

when the blue collar workers said not!

I know of no reason why this blue collar season

should ever be forgot.

Hilary and her companions did scheme

that she become the queen of the land.

And the media backed her, pro stories they stacked her.

With lies that were most underhand.

But the people said no, and down you shall go,

with a message for all the elite.

We are those without work, without food, without land

and with families that sleep in the street.

We are tired of the lies, deals wrapped with disguise and mostly all of your stump!

Here is the message for all of your friends…

your plans we decided to trump.

– Jo Blough –“

I did a quick search and didn’t see it was copyright, but that gets us into another long and not particularly pleasant discussion about how we have become the most litigious country on Earth.

Back to the rigors of work now…write when you get rich…

10 thoughts on “Coping: America’s Missing Funny Bone”

  1. It’s the political correctness you touch on that has made humor less humorous. People hear a joke and immediately worry that it isn’t PC, that some – something, somewhere – has been slighted and the joke is not funny; but, rather, racial, sexist, etc.

    Like new speak, humor has to be whittled down to a few old saws that don’t offend. I used the term Tar Baby in a post that was completely appropriate to the conversation, but was immediately flamed for it. The people doing the flaming has no idea what I was referring to, obviously never having read Uncle Remus and were incensed about something they assumed was racist.

    Hence, humor is dead for fear of “triggering” some response in another human. We have come so far!

  2. Two blondes are sitting out on the porch late one night. One blonde asks the other, which is farther away the moon or florida? The other blond says, are you kidding me? The Moon is closer! You can’t see florida from here!


  3. I did make a cop laugh once, on Route 66 in Virginia when I was going a lot more than 55. I said “Oh, you mean the blue sign is route number and the white sign is the speed limit?” (it didn’t work) fun though. I always enjoyed flirting with the cops when I got stopped for speeding. The joys of being young and cute.

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