Sometimes one just really needs a good laugh, something straight from the gut that will make doubts flee and chase worries into a dark corner. Without getting into the details, lately I’ve been feeling the need.
If you believe what you read (and see and hear and feel), the world is a pretty dark place these days. We’ve got melting ice caps and climate change deniers and stealth drones and fiscal cliffs. We’ve got influenza epidemics and vaccine skeptics and Fox News Network. And we’ve got so many different ways to learn about all these atrocities; you’ve got twits and tweets and MyFace and YouTube and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
But what is special these days is that along with all the darkness and dread, there is an equally overwhelming amount of levity and lightness.
Let’s take Congress, for example. You might not think there’s anything amusing about the way these jokers are trying to ruin our country. But you know what’s really funny? The fact that Congressional Majority Leader John Boehner has convinced every major newscaster in the country that “Boe-” is pronounced “Bay-.”
You know what else is funny? The fashion sense of teenage boys. My late wife Beth once described watching a very talented young man riding a unicycle along the top of a metal handrail in downtown Bend. He was dressed all Goth, and it was an awe-inspiring feat of balance and daring with a finale that included a front flip with a half twist dismount he landed perfectly just five feet in front of her. Beth’s awe was short-lived, however, when the waistband of the brave boy’s ridiculously baggy jeans dropped from half-crack straight down to the top of his ankles. And you can’t just walk away from something like that. The best you can do is a kind of short-step shuffle.
I came of age in the ‘70s, so my own generation didn’t dress nearly so funny when we were teens...
I still feel the humiliation. My one and only attempt at a teenage fashion statement lasted about seven minutes, when I proudly walked out of my bedroom straight into the guffaws of my older brother David. With his (wasted) musical genius, he immediately composed a catchy little ditty about the stripes on my new bellbottoms that I can still recall to this day and which keeps me forever from straying any further afield than wearing straight Levis and a T-shirt.
Laughter, of course, is a potent weapon for social change. Based on personal experience, I believe if adults really wanted to influence the fashion sense of youth we’d stop complaining and simply laugh out loud.
I think it’s funny what we think is funny. We often laugh at some truly horrible things. There is an enormously popular genre of YouTube videos known as “Epic Fails.” They are series of short clips showing people hurting themselves, usually doing stupid things involving high speed, an immovable object, and someone’s crotch. My sons think they’re hilarious and can watch them for hours.
We can laugh at some really morbid things. For instance, my younger son told me this joke the other day:
Question: “Why did the little boy drop his ice cream cone?”
Answer: “Because he got hit by a truck.”
I don’t think there is any sane person in the world who thinks it’s funny when a child gets hit by a truck. So why did I practically wet myself?
My older son followed it up with this screamer:
Q: “Why did Peggy fall off the swing?”
A: “Because she had no arms.”
That didn’t make me laugh, but this did:
I once saw a T-shirt with a drawing of a smiling Buddha. Underneath were the words, “Wake Up Laughing.”
This gave me a great idea for a new kind of alarm clock. You set it for six in the morning, and instead of a heart-infarcting, blood-curdling beep, it wakes you at the appointed hour with a joke.
This is a “Bizarro” cartoon gag: Two Neanderthals are sitting near the mouth of their cave.
One says, “Knock knock.”
The other says, “What’s ‘knock’?”
How funny is that? Maybe it’s not hilarious, but sometimes you just gotta laugh.
Craig Danner is a novelist and physician assistant living in Hood River with his wife and two teenage sons. He can be reached at 541-436-4144.