My brother, in a moment of anger, once accused me of having no sense of humor. Maybe he’s correct, but, geez, I like things that are really funny.
by Charlie Leck
“…of all our different expressions of beingness, only laughter was pure enough, complex enough, free enough, endowed with enough mystery of meaning, to accurately reflect the soul…”
[Tom Robbins: Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates]
My brother, John, has many good friends. He’s a loyal guy and spends time with them and jousts with them and is always making them laugh.
One time, while visiting his home, I joined him on a trip down to the little town coffee joint. He gathered with his friend there almost every day of the week after his retirement. They told each other tall tales and plenty of lies and everyone tried to out-do the others when it came to telling a joke or a flat-out lie. Everyone at the table understood the rules; except, of course, I; for I was a newcomer – an outlier, so to speak – and I didn’t have the big laugh or collection of stories they all seemed to have.
My brother, it seems, worked on and actually rehearsed his chosen joke for the day. At the proper moment, you know, he’d put a hand out and bring the group to silence by saying, “Here’s a good one I heard!”
The group of men grew quiet and looked over at my brother expectantly. He grew quiet theatric and began.
This little boy returned home from grocery shopping with his mother. While his mom was putting away the groceries, the little boy opened his box of animal crackers and spread them out all over the kitchen table.
“What are you doing?” asked his mom.
“The box says you shouldn’t eat them if the seal is broken,” said the little boy. “I’m looking for the seal.”
All the men at the table laughed riotously, throwing their heads back and clapping their hands or slapping the back of the guy next to them.
“That was a good one, John.”
I smiled, but the joke didn’t get a loud chortle out of me.
My brother was convulsed in laughter at his own joke. His face turned red and his eyes filled with water. He nearly choked on his giggling.
I said something that I thought was clever about the way he laughed at his own joke even though he knew the punch line ahead of time.
A flash of anger sprung from his eyes.
“At least I have a sense of humor,” he said, accusingly.
He knew he had stung me good, and he turned back to his friends and waited for the next joke to hit the table. I smiled at them all, but, underneath, I had to think about whether John was correct. Was I void of a sense of humor?
I’m sure I wasn’t and that I’m not. I have, as they say, a dry sense of humor. I like to tell zingers that half the listeners don’t get while the eyes of the thinking people in the crowd light up with awareness and big smiles spread across their faces, but there might not, necessarily, be any laughter and I don’t even crack a smile that might enlighten the unaware.
Dumb blonde jokes, Olé and Lena jokes, and knock-knock jokes just don’t pull my chain. The good joke, I figure, is one that sneaks up on you and slaps you on the side of the head and asks you why you didn’t get it.
All of this is introductory. When I cleaned my desk yesterday, I found an extraction I had written on an index card and noted on it that I should use it in a blog sometime. It was a quotation from Tom Robbins’ book, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates. I wrote about the book here a couple of months ago. Good read! Clever! Witty.
The main character in the book – the protagonist – is Switters. His grandmother is known to him as Maestra. She couldn’t stand being called “Grandma” or “Granny.” She had instructed him firmly during his younger years that he was to always call her Maestra.
The dialog between Maestra and Switters is priceless and makes the book an amazing thing to read.
Now to get to this one little bit of comment by Maestra to Switters during one of his infrequent visits to her at her home.
“What is it,” Maestra had asked quite rhetorically, “that separates human beings from the so-called lower animals? Well, as I see it, it’s exactly one half-dozen significant things: Humor, Imagination, Eroticism – as opposed to the mindless, instinctive mating of glowworms or raccoons – Spirituality, Rebelliousness, and Aesthetics, an appreciation of beauty for its own sake.”
“Now,” she’d gone on to say, “since those are the features that define a human being, it follows that the extent to which someone is lacking in those qualities is the extent to which he or she is less than human. Capice? And in those cases where the defining qualities are virtually nonexistent, well, what we have are entities that are north of the animal kingdom but south of humanity, they fall somewhere in between, they’re our missing links.”
In his grandmother’s opinion, the missing link of scientific lore was neither extinct nor rare.
“There’re more of them, in fact, than there are of us, and since they actually seem to be multiplying, Darwin’s theory of evolution is obviously wrong.” Maestra’s stand was that missing links ought to be treated as the equal of full human beings in the eyes of the law, that they should not suffer discrimination in any usual sense, but that their writings and utterances should be generally disregarded and that they should never, ever be place in positions of authority.”
“That could be problematic,” Switters had said, straining, at the age of twenty, to absorb this rant, “because only people who, you know, lack those six qualities seem to ever run for any sort of office.”
I threw my head back when I read that and I had a great laugh. I thought of Michel Bachman, and George W. Bush and Mitch McConnell.
I wanted to call my brother – to explain to him what a really funny line could be. Shit! I knew he wouldn’t understand and only think me crazier than a hoot owl.
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