If I get stuck contemplating current events, money, health or my children’s future in a wobbly world, then my face will show it. I won’t look happy.
But there’s a part of me, too, that pushes back against too much wallowing in serious things. My mind only has a certain capacity for heavy stuff, then it shuts down in some way and seeks the escape, an activity, or something to be in a different frame of mind. Humor is one of the best escapes. And being silly is helpful in a real way, even if it makes me annoying to people close to me at times.
For instance, our new, web-based page production system at the MainStreet office is called “Blox.” It has new terminology for us, too — a photo with a story is now a “sibling asset,” not just a photo. “Sibling asset?” What the heck? One co-worker, Scott, and I have been cracking ourselves up as we design pages by inserting “Blox” into famous songs. It is stupid. Really dumb. And it surely would be obnoxious to most people. But it’s this sort of silliness that makes the world a better place to me. So, the Cutting Crews’ 80’s hit, “I just died in your arms tonight” becomes “I just bloxed in your arms tonight. It must have been a sibling asset.” Or maybe the Police’s “Roxanne” becomes “Bloxanne.” Or Robert Plant’s famous hollering in Immigrant song, his extended Ah, becomes “Blaaaaahx.” Anyway, you get the picture. Being stupid is fun at times — but often horribly annoying to anyone subjected to it. (I’ve also been on that side plenty, too.)
I like comedy, but I’m not a joke teller. I don’t have the knack for that sort of humor. I can’t remember jokes and my timing is bad. I say this based off just one experience nearly 30 years ago, because that was my last time trying to tell a joke. It was in American history and during a break, I tapped a popular upperclassman on the shoulder and said, “You want to hear a joke?” I can’t remember what the joke was. But the expression that big football player gave me when I finished made me swear off telling jokes to this day. It was that embarrassing. It was that bad. It’s just not my thing.
Some people can tell good jokes, but I find the percentage is pretty low on success. The telling of a joke carries the “now-prepare-to-laugh” expectation. And that seems to put a damper on the whole thing. It makes the listener sort of self conscious as the joke teller watches their face for evidence of a successful joke. Most of the time, I find jokes pretty cringe-worthy, particularly because I feel put on the spot, feeling obligated to try to fake laugh. I’ll generally pass on being told jokes, but if there’s something absurd you saw or heard that makes you laugh, then I love hearing that.
Whatever laughs we have with our children certainly rank high in the humor universe. My son is still at an age where I can be truly odd and catch him off guard and he will still laugh. Occasionally, if I see him in the house, I will just break into a game of chase out of the blue and run around chasing him. I just start a game of tag for no reason. I doubt my son will play along with this in a couple of more years, but it’s fun to be 9 years old with him on occasion.
It’s strange to think of our own evolution in humor, how certain things crack us up when we’re young, then hold no humor later. For instance, I remember laughing really hard when George Carlin said in a newscaster voice: “A man attempting to walk around the world today drowned.” Why did I think that was funny? I remember my dad looking at me puzzled as I rolled on the sofa, cracking up. I remember laughing at Steve Martin’s “The Jerk,” especially when Martin’s character, “Navin Johnson,” gets put in the phone book and feels famous, then some guy picks his name out of the phone book and randomly starts shooting at him. Martin is working at a service station and hides behind cans, which get hit, then he hides behind other cans, which also get hit. “He hates these cans! Stay away from the cans!” he yells out. I spent much of my childhood chuckling to myself about “He hates these cans!” That holds no humor to me now. And comedy has totally changed since then. Look at the trailer for “The Jerk” and you can see that it wouldn’t fly today. Culture changes. And our individual tastes change, too.
But embracing the silly will, hopefully, never totally graduate from my brain. I enjoy sitting in my recliner and snapping the most unflattering selfies possible to mortify my daughter. I have a special talent at this. I am hard to beat in this way, and it is gross enough to make me recoil and chuckle.
Things may get us down, but the adage about laughter and medicine rings true to me. I think laughter is often better than any actual medicine, because when I get that tunnel vision of negative on this world, it’s the laughter that pulls me back. I need it and appreciate it whenever it comes.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.