Saturday, November 26, 2011

Comedy is funny unless it's happening to you. Or, apparently, when you simply declare it isn't.

OK, so a guy I know on Facebook posted a simple truism.
"Drunks are funny."
This is fairly unarguable.  Endless classic moments of comedy are rooted in inebriation, either via the scene, the actors, or on occasion the state of the writer when he thought it up. Foster Brooks and WC Fields made millions on the concept.
The conversation continued on for a while until one fellow piped up with...
"Drunks are not funny when they get behind the wheel of a car and kill an innocent person."
Well thank you, Wendy Wetblanket.

This was supposed to be everyone's cue to, you should pardon the expression, sober up, admit that alcoholism was A Terrible Problem, and walk away dour and shamefaced, guilty that they could ever find something so serious could ever be humorous.  I could actually envision the guy's arms crossed, a holier than thou look on his face.

But of course, I was there.  I don't chagrin easily.

After I attempted to call him on his attempt to dictate comedy to the world, he replied with...
"I hope one of your friends or relatives is never killed by a drunk driver like I have had."
But you know what?  I bet he does.  In his secret heart of hearts, the part of his soul he dares never show to anybody, he feels the desire to have others go through what he went through, because That Would Show Them.  It's universal.  It used to be handled by becoming supervillains, not it's done by walking into a crowded room full of happy people and announcing "I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed"

If he didn't feel that way, he wouldn't be diving into conversations unbidden and sharing his tragedies with total strangers because they were guilty of the sin of being happy, or finding humor in a situation that he does not, and being so callous to find it funny in his presence.

Years ago, when that kind of thing happened, people did something weird - they'd excuse themselves and leave the room.  And maybe the someone would ask why, and someone else would explain "Oh, Bill's brother was crushed by a piano, so he can't bear to hear anyone play one" and they'd feel bad, and go apologize.  And usually use the phrase "I had no idea" because clearly, they didn't.  But note the way it was handled.  The person who was upset, offended, or simply didn't find it funny would remove themselves from the situation politely, because why should everyone else have a lousy time on account of them? 

Cut to today. Years of empowerment and mollycoddling have left us with a world of people who are convinced that they are the center of the universe, and it must bend to their will.  The laws of physics notwithstanding, this is not possible unless everyone agrees.  The phrase "like herding cats" comes to mind.

So now, if someone finds issue with someones attempt at humor or entertainment s a result of some personal tragedy, peccadillo or simply mood at the time, it's become perfectly acceptable to stand up and announce that this act makes them sad in some way, and therefore it should cease.  Becasue as we know, the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many, especially if the one has a chip on their shoulder.
Q - How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Sometimes if they don't have their own personal tragedies to cash in, they'll just point to some nebulous sadness ("I don't know how you can find this pie fight funny when there are children in Africa who are starving and would be HAPPY to eat that pie"), cluck their tongues like so many hens and watch disapprovingly for people to realise what callous boors they've been.

Comedy is a tool used to entertain but also to help deal with tragedy.  Cries of "too soon" aside, it's the ability to find humor in even the worst of situation that allow us to keep from putting shotguns in our mouths.

My daughter is autistic, but Gilda Radner's "basket case" character is still screamingly funny  I have lost both my parents, but I have yet to ask Disney to change their films because seeing characters with one or no parents and STILL find a way to be happy just tears me apart inside.  I am an Overweight American, and can still not laugh when I watch one of those guys have to be taken from their home with a forklift.

Becasue I am able to grasp that these people are not aiming this comedy at me individually, and I am able to separate my personal tastes and opinions from the rest of the world.  And on the rare occasions I find something offsides, I sit quietly, or change the channel for a while, and wait for things to be funny again.  Because I realize that I am not so much more important than other people that things that only entertain me shall exist.  In short, I'm not five.

I fear for the day when a stand-up comic will be required to have all attendees fill out a form listing their personal tragedies, religion, favorite foods and allergies so they don't actually start a bit about vacationing in Cabo, only to have a person from the fourth row stand up in tears, complaining that Uncle Olaf died of skin cancer and how DARE you bring those memories up when all I was trying to do was have a little FUN.

Comedy was a lot funnier when we just didn't care about other people's feelings. 

And when other people all weren't the subject of that Carly Simon song.

No not "Anticipation", you knothead...


  1. This is wonderful. PC unfortunately is the unfunny flavor of our times. Where's the old schadenfreude of people like Rodney Dangerfield or Don Rickles.
    How about..."Interesting...but schtoopid!" :)

  2. "Years of empowerment and mollycoddling have left us with a world of people who are convinced that they are the center of the universe, and it must bend to their will." Says it all, Vinnie! I have a very sick, dark sense of humor, and I have seen such a change in people over my lifetime in being able to laugh at sick and dark stuff. Pisses me off, actually. I too am an Overweight American, and Catholic, and a smoker -- the 3 things left that no one minds if you make fun of. I don't give a damn -- I like a good joke no matter what it is. Actually, I am sending you and Dorian something you might want to post here if you think it is politically correct enough - ROTFLMAO!!! Good post, Vinnie...

  3. Vinnie, you and I have often discussed the whiny "Me, me, me, it's all about ME!!!" types in the world. I'm delighted to see that Becky and Desert Rocks agree with your/our take on gallows humor; it's a great reminder for people that "It's not always about you"! Indeed, for those of us dealing with various challenging issues, having a wry sense of humor is practically mandatory! You mentioned our daughter's autism; specifically, she has been diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome. However, she has the good fortune to be extremely high-functioning, going to mainstream school ever since first grade, getting great grades, and in most ways generally being a lot like most other kids her age. One of her best qualities includes having pretty darn good timing with a joke, as well as doing spot-on impersonations of her favorite funny shows and movies!

    Speaking of funny, I want to thank Becky for the hilarious "Handel Disaster" YouTube clip. Easily-offended types need not apply! :-)

  4. Vin, I sort of agree with you...Well, yes, of course I agree with you. I dislike the PC police aspect of modern life.

    Except that I honestly and truly don't think drunks are funny. So I probably would not have responded to that Facebook comment at all.

    My sense of humor is so weird that I have been known to be the only one in a movie theater howling with laughter at what's happening up on the screen while everyone else just sits there and wonders if I'm a nutcase. Ha!

    P.S. Don't think bodily functions are funny at all. What's up with that? Just sayin'.