A horse walks into a bar. The bartender immediately calls the Humane Society while wondering how the horse got the doors open in the first place.
Okay, so I may have told that joke incorrectly but there’s an 18% chance you’re still laughing as you Google the correct interpretation of that timeless bit of mirth. Either way, it’s a good start to this installment, right? Okay, it’s a start. Shut up.
(Or if you’re Canadian like me… Humour.)
My buddy, Rockin’ Ronnie (rock on, brother!) loved to laugh. I mean, he loved it. All my best memories of Ronnie involve his wide-as-Wyoming smile that inevitably followed his constant recycling of the same-old-but-still-awesome jokes, followed by his signature, “Yeah, yeah, yeah!”
Damn it, now I want to cry. I hate irony. Time for some more jocularity!
Apparently the Sumerians were the architects of the world’s oldest recorded joke in 1900 BC: “Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”
I know. I too am shocked that Sumerian culture died out.
What about this 1600 BC gag about a pharaoh, said to be King Snofru: “How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish.”
Who doesn’t love a good human trafficking joke, right?
And finally, the oldest British joke dates back to the 10th Century and gives us some idea where Monty Python got their inspiration: “What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before? Answer: A key.”
Don’t worry, I’m not going to rely solely on comedic history to make my point; I’m going to turn things over to the pros.
She’s smart as a whip (whatever the hell that really means), she’s as gorgeous as someone who isn’t ugly, and most important of all, she hasn’t blocked me (yet) on Twitter so she actually responded to my pathetic pleas for quotes. She’s a sentient being who tells better jokes than The Hook so people pay her to do it, she’s Erica Rhodes and she actually started her entertainment career at age ten as the voice of legendary humorist and writer Garrison Keillor’s conscience on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion. I won’t tell you what I was doing at age ten but it’s safe to say no one would have put me on the radio to do it for the public.
At any rate…
“I think laughing is a really important coping mechanism for all of us, but especially for people suffering in whatever capacity. And that’s why I try to write jokes about somewhat dark topics, because I believe there is an actual healing component there.
My Dad is in a wheelchair and we have to laugh at that to cope with his struggles and our struggles watching him struggle. He’s one of the funniest people I know. And a hero to me for dealing with an illness with such grace and humor.
I think dark topics are really important to cover in comedy. Literally during the Holocaust people were telling jokes to survive. So humor is actually a method for survival during dark times. That’s why I get nervous when we get too PC with comedy, because sensitive topics are even more important to laugh about.
I sometimes try to explore dark topics or the dark corners of my own psyche because I think there’s a lot of discomfort that needs release there. And if people relate they feel less alone in this universe that can feel really lonely sometimes.”
Ain’t she great? I couldn’t agree more with Erica on the PC thing; I grew up watching Redd Foxx on Sanford and Son, so I truly don’t understand this movement to neuter comedy.
Gail Simone is an award-winning comic book scribe (or as one of my non-Caucasian friends likes to say, “Bitch is more decorated than a Christmas tree!”) best known by non-comic fans for her work on the Birds of Prey comic, the movie version of which is currently setting movie screens on fire all over the world. Her work on Crosswind with Cat Staggs is a thing of beauty.
Anywhoo, here’s her two cents on the power of laughter:
“Aimed properly, humor is our way of spitting at fate, mocking the powerful, and keeping ourselves from getting just a little too insufferable. My advice is, aim well. It’s a big part of what makes life joyful.”
Told you she was brilliant.
No post on this subject would be complete without a few (extremely insightful) words from everyone’s favorite Modern Philosopher and professional humorist, Austin Hodgens.
“Writing has always been my escape. When I was a kid, my stepmother would not allow me to follow my dream of joining the Rebel Alliance to fight the Empire. Writing allowed me to have the adventures I was deprived of by an overbearing parent.
I love to sit in the audience during a taping of The Nite Show, and listen to the crowd laugh at monologue jokes I’ve written. It makes me feel like I’ve done my part to make life a little more tolerable for people, who just like me, are sometimes struggling to get through the day.”
It can be said that life is the greatest thing that ever happened to the Grim Reaper, so many of us feel overwhelmed by life’s many challenges and look to death for some sweet release from our suffering. But humor can be a life jacket as we feel ourselves metaphorically drowning. Comedians, and even “regular folk” like myself use suffering and pain as fodder while exposing their own vulnerabilities.
And on that note, here’s a screen-grab from my untitled short film that’s sure to make you laugh (and say, “Oh, that Hook!) and cringe simultaneously. No one, especially me, noticed this wardrobe malfunction once in a six-minute segment. But my unintentional dumbassery is your gain.
So to sum up: The world can be bleak and dark so try to look for a reason to smile in every situation. It may not be easy or seem appropriate in any way at all, but humor can buy you one more day and who knows what that day could bring?
See you in the lobby, friends…