In case you’ve missed it there is a great deal more going on in the world than just the events that have affected citizens of the United States. As is typical of the summer months the world is on fire. We need to closely monitor the economic crisis in Greece because one way or another it will have an effect on all of Europe and eventually the rest of the world. Spain, Portugal, and Italy are not too far behind Greece in having difficulties maintaining the social programs and monetary security of their governments. China is quietly weathering a slowdown in growth that the nation can ill afford. The governor of Puerto Rico has announced that the public coffers are empty and the territory will not be able to meet the obligations of outstanding bills. As if these developments were not worrisome enough on their own ISIS continues to rear its ugly head with terrorist attacks in France and Tunisia. They have boasted that many more countries may endure violence in the coming weeks. It’s enough to make one feel as though the world as we know it is coming to an end. All in all there seems to be little that those of us who are ordinary citizens may do and so I’d like to suggest that we learn how to laugh again.
Sigh…I suspect that at this point many of you are scratching your heads and asking yourselves if I have finally lost my ever loving mind. Actually I am quite serious. I think that we have been far too quick to lose our collective sense of humor of late. It seems as though nobody can say anything these days without bringing down the ire of some group. We have become all too sensitive. Political correctness has its place but so does a good joke whose intent is not to demean anyone. The trouble is that we are now being told that even when we don’t think that we are hurting someone, we probably are. In other words we must carefully monitor any pronouncement that falls from our lips. Humor tends to be particularly lethal in a world where even inane comments may be deemed to be triggers.
We used to laugh at ourselves all of the time. Will Rogers was dry and sarcastic. Dilbert slyly poked fun at the state of work. Comedians were unafraid to approach virtually any topic and to put a funny spin on the way we live our lives. Now an individual runs the risk of losing everything dear if a person or group suddenly finds the jokes to be offensive. “I’m only joking,” used to signal that it was time to make fun of ourselves while enjoying a good belly laugh. The art of a good joke is such that almost universally it has the possibility of being misunderstood. I’m not sure why anyone would want to risk their reputations to entertain us because surely there will be someone who walks away mad every time someone utters a amusing line.
My dad loved a good joke. He had a number of books that were filled with humorous yarns and cartoons. He perfected the art of making people guffaw and everyone loved being around him because he was sure to send the room into gales of boisterous belly rolling laughter. I suspect that we all need more moments when the tears of pure unadulterated joy run down our cheeks and lighten the heaviness of our hearts. For some reason we’ve reached a point in time when we are more uptight than during any era that I can remember.
I loved the kids with whom I studied back in high school. We had an inordinate number of comedians in our midst and on a daily basis we enjoyed multiple moments of levity. On one occasion our English teacher described his prostrate exam and we wound up laughing so hard that we probably sounded like a bunch of drunken sailors on shore leave. It has occurred to me how much I enjoyed that moment and also how unlikely the teacher would be to tell such a story in today’s hyper sensitive environment. We would have missed one the the most memorable and hilarious days of our education had the fear of offending someone been like it is today.
My favorite television shows have always been the ones that make me roar. If you haven’t watched Grace and Frankie you need to treat yourself. Don’t get upset with the premise of the series. Just let yourself go and enjoy the antics of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. They are both adorable in their parts, that’s where the fun is. You really don’t need to be judgmental or concerned about Jane’s past history in Vietnam. Just laugh!
There are those who worry that the sitcom Big Bang Theory stereotypes intelligent people. So what! I’m an official nerd and I think that it is one of the most clever programs on the air. The jokes remind me of the kind of sophomoric fare that I heard from my classmates and I love it! The program has humanized the highly intelligent and made them lovable to the masses. The brainiac even gets the pretty girl. Sure there are oversimplified images but the jokes are harmless and hit the nail on the head more often than not. If the real deal geeks like me think that the show is funny then it must be okay.
I grew up watching sitcoms and comedy shows when my father was still alive. We enjoyed Jackie Gleason and The Honeymooners. We never missed Red Skelton, Lucy, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, or Sid Caesar. Our living room was filled on most evenings with our chuckles and I can still see that look of satisfied enjoyment on my dad’s face. Perhaps one of his favorite comedians was Johnnathan Winters. That man had the ability to launch into an impromptu dialogue without even thinking. He used his whole body and mind to entertain and he was always hilarious.
After my father was gone we continued to prefer comedy over drama or westerns. Daddy had influenced our taste in entertainment but somehow the shows weren’t quite as good as they had been in those early days of live television. Still I always enjoyed The Beverly Hillbillies because I swear that Granny and my Grandma Little were sisters. Watching the show was even better when my grandmother was present because she so enjoyed the antics of the characters and said that they reminded her of people that she had known when she lived in Arkansas.
When I was a young mom raising two little girls we didn’t go out very often, not even on Saturday nights. We didn’t care that we were stuck at home because Carol Burnett and her cast of geniuses came into our living room to delight us. Was there ever a funnier program on television? I can almost recite the tales that we enjoyed the most. I can still see Carol wearing a set of drapes, curtain rod and all, while parodying Gone With the Wind. Tim Conway cracked me up just standing there. My weekends were made better because we laughed together as a family.
I think that if we all started laughing again as a country without bringing in politics we would become a much stronger nation. We should not be afraid to push the boundaries with our humor. John Belushi showed us that sometimes all it takes is a very funny face to bring us to our knees with convulsive laughter. Today Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Julia Lewis Dreyfus have a great talent for tickling our ribs. We need more of their sort and we should encourage anyone whose goal is to bring us merriment with a bit of mischief. So if you have a knack for tickling the human funny bone keep up the tradition of the jester. We need you now more than ever.