Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an’ Kalamazoo!
Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!
Mike and I have a number of goofy holiday traditions. Among them is listening to his rousing rendition of Deck Us All With Boston Charlie, a satirical carol by cartoonist Walt Kelly sung to the tune of Deck the Halls. It’s a rather esoteric diddy that I certainly had never heard until I met my encyclopedic husband. Mike has a wealth of history and trivia inside his head and never fails to amuse and amaze me. This satirical song is but one of many of his hidden jewels of knowledge and it speaks to his tendency to add a bit of levity to any occasion. I am the saccharine half of our union and he is the one who rolls his eyes when things get too sappy. He keeps his feet firmly planted in reality and allows me to keep my belief that fairytales really do come true. Together we are a nice combination and continue to learn something from one another everyday.
While I was reading Mary Worth and any mystery that I was able to find as a young girl, Mike was poring over Pogo and fun facts in the encyclopedia. Somehow he manages to remember virtually everything that he has ever read, particularly with regard to history. He has a way of viewing the world through the lens of humor and and an understanding of how events far in the past have led slowly but surely to our modern day dilemmas. He is able to put life in perspective such that he is ultimately an optimist while I often feel overwhelmed by our less than perfect society.
Pogo was a comic strip that appeared in newspapers across America from 1948 to 1975. Its creator, Walt Kelly, was a genius at using wordplay, references to great literature, and a cast of animal characters who lived in a swamp in Georgia to poke fun at mankind. He most famously said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” His brilliance quietly attacked pompous and tyrannical politicians and uninformed citizens alike, always with a great big laugh. Because comic strips were considered the lowest denominator of the writing profession his creativity was somewhat underestimated by those who didn’t take the time to unravel the complex layers of his daily commentary. In a sense Pogo was a precursor to television programs like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show.
I find myself wondering what Walt Kelly’s swamp landers might think of today’s cast of characters. Surely Kelly would have a ball depicting Donald Trump, Alexander Putin, or Hillary Clinton. I almost wish that he were still around to edify us with a daily bit of fun to offset the hysteria that is promoted by the media. I suspect that his humor would be smashingly delicious.
I sometimes think that we are taking ourselves far too seriously. A good belly laugh even in the face of tragedy lightens the mood and sets us on a path of analysis that is more rational and less emotional. When we view the world through rose colored lenses as I so often do, we run the risk of being bitterly disappointed. If we admit that we are sometimes ridiculous and are able to joke about our flaws we are far more likely to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground when it comes time to react to events.
Donald Trump is a buffoon but too many are taking him seriously rather than understanding just how ridiculously clownish he actually is. Members of ISIS can’t seem to just kick back and enjoy life rather than embarking on deathly jihads. So many groups have become so lost in a world of self pity that they rarely manage to see the positives in their lives. All too often those who would tickle our funny bones are judged as being insensitive. Much of the literature and body of comedy that once made us roar with glee might now be considered unflattering or inappropriate. It must be very difficult to be a comedian in today’s almost puritanical atmosphere.
Mike often refers to a very silly movie, Johnny Dangerously, when speaking of members of ISIS as “fargin sneaky bastages.” We are able to laugh for a moment before considering how we think that our government should deal with them. In fact we often begin our discussions of current events with a healthy dose of snark and sarcasm. We are both old enough now to understand that the same kind of events that are happening today have taken place since the beginnings of time. Throughout history there have been clever people who found ways to satirize the ridiculous without being caught red handed. Their works have endured because they are a lighthearted way of dealing with very heavy topics. I suspect that those with a sense of humor almost always prevail over those who are far too serious.
I truly love a good laugh. I have watched Christmas Vacation for so many years that I am now able to quote lines before they are uttered on screen. The characters are real because they speak to our own foibles and traditions and weaknesses. We’ve all sat in a room with a crazy but wonderful family. We’ve worked hard to make things perfect only to unwittingly create a mess. If we have been able to laugh at our mistakes we are all the better. So in this most wonderful of seasons let’s all agree to deck us all with Boston Charlie and his cousins from the world of laughter. We’ll all feel a great deal better if we do.