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Fight with Funny?

If I learned anything from teevee sitcoms, it’s that summer is a time for re-runs.  Actually, I learned everything I know from sitcoms, which is why I’m never going to get off this damned island.  I hope you like this piece from last year.

What makes something funny?  It turns out that there are many different Humor Theories and none of them are funny.  That may seem like a problem right there, but the irony that you expect it to be funny and it isn’t could be funny if you … Hey!  Wait!

OK, so this duck walks into a bar and asks the bartender, “Why is it so often a duck?” and the bartender says, “Look, if you want to analyze stereotypes you could ask why it’s always a bar.”  The duck shrugs his wings, sits down, and gets so hammered he doesn’t even remember pecking the priest, the rabbi, and the lawyer to death.

The point is that some things are funny and some things aren’t.  What’s the difference?  No one really knows.  And that’s kind of funny, at least if you don’t think about it too much.

What most theories of humor all have in common is that funny seems to be a process of something not turning out the way you expect it to.  A word is used badly as a pun, the very proper looking news show has a potty mouth, or your best friend laughs so hard at a joke that the milk he was drinking shoots out of his nose.  Nearly everything has a setup or an implied setup to be funny and then goes against it.

OK, I’m losing you.  The point is that funny has to sneak up.  But at the same time it helps if you’re in the mood to laugh.  That’s why old standards like “A blank walks into a bar” work so well – they tell you to be ready to laugh while they set the scene.  Besides, what would a blank drink in the first place?

There may not seem to be much point to this, and perhaps there isn’t.  But in a world where everyone seems to be outraged by nearly everything it doesn’t take long for nearly everything to become very funny.  It’s all in the setup, which real life doesn’t do quite to the same form as a duck walking in a bar.

But it’s there.  And it’s time to mine this for comedy gold.

I’ve been advocating humor to fight the rise of anger, selfishness, and general grumpy-grump that has plagued our “politics”.  The problem is that in order to organize around humor you have to teach it, at least to some extent.  You have to bring da funny.  So how do you do it?

I think that the more I watch people being grumpy the more I realize that the setup is already there.  Mocking is a form of satire which can take off from nearly any situation.  It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it opens the door to a lot of other forms quickly.  It can get us in the mood for bigger things.  It works on both grumpy people and the jargon class, too.

But that’s about it.  If there’s one thing I know this subject it’s that since at least Shakespeare a comedy has been 70-90 minutes and a tragedy 120+ so it’s best to wrap it up quickly.  Will this work?  I’m not a psychic, but the last time I saw one she was laughing and carrying on so much I hit her – I always like to strike a happy medium. Goodnight everyone!

12 thoughts on “Fight with Funny?

  1. That’s the plan. It’s all funny, when you think about it. Could you possibly mess things up more than, say, JP Morgan? (earnings today!)

  2. Mitt Romney walks into a bar and the bartender says, “Mitt, I thought you, as a Mormon, didn’t drink!” Mitt looks at him and says “Do you want me to drink?”

  3. Hu Jintao is at the Half Time Rec inSt. Paul. Barack Obama sits down with hime. Obama, ever the gratious host, says “What kind of beer yuan?”

    In comes Norm Coleman with Katie Holmes on his arm. He says, “Are you Suri want to be here?

    • Very close, I always imagined that duck joke at the Dubliner. 🙂
      Barack Obama is a lot like an Irish bar on St Patrick’s Day – getting a beer is all about “Hope”. 🙂

  4. Romney is meeting with Kristen Stewart in the basement of the White House. Romney asks Kristen, “How can I get rid of the vampires in here?”
    Kristen goes, “Are you proposing a tax cut or a stimulus.” Romney goes, “Taxt cut.” The ghost of the first President Bush appears. He says, “That’s voodoo to my ears.”

  5. Child: Mommy, mommy, are those Chinese Americans?
    Parent: No, honey, that’s the US Olympic team.

    Child: Mommy, mommy, why did Tom Cruise marry Katie Holmes?
    Parent: Because she is pretty.
    Child: Did they have anything in common?
    Parent: Scientology and a ginormous house!

    Child: Mommy, mommy, what is a limousine liberal?
    Parent: That’s a St. Paulite who wants to help the poor and wants to help BMW!

    Child: Mommy, mommy, what is the national debt?
    Parent: That’s a big number that never gets paid back.

    Child: Mommy, mommy how can the national debt be reduced.
    Parent: Mark Zuckerbug knows how to make value disappear.

    Child: Mommy, mommy, do bureacrats make a lot of money?
    Parent: No, honey, the ones at the University of MN just make $80,000.

    Child: Mommy, mommy, why do some people call Republicans repugnicans?
    Parent: Don’t be rude,honey, I never heard of that!

  6. Sign seen in the window of the Day by Day cafe:

    No shoes, no Obama shirt, no service

    Sign seen at Cafe Latte in St. Paul:

    Investment bankers need not apply

    Sign seen at Irvine Park, St. Paul:

    No Goldman Sachs partners allowed to sleep here

  7. Conversating with a Minnesota liberal

    Conservative: Why do you think Minnesota is the greatest state?
    Liberal: Who says it isn’t?

    C: Are you open minded?
    L: Yes, I hate Rush Limbaugh and Ronald Reagan.

    C: Why don’t you like Rush?
    L: He wants to watch me have sex.

    C: What don’t you like about Ronald Reagan?
    L: He cut taxes and is for trickle down economics.

    C: Trickle down economics didn’t work?
    L: Trickle down my ass.

    C: Do you like Katie Holmes?
    L: Yes, is she going to be in the Grand Avenue parade with a briefcase?

    C: Are you for the old guard or new guard?
    L: Old guard. I’m a thunatic.

    C: How can we make the world a better place?
    L: Kill all the capitalists.

    C: What don’t you like about capitalists?
    L: Greedy bastards.

    C: Do you like Christmas?
    L: No.

    C: What do you do for Christmas?
    L: I do something pagan and I sulk.

    C: What do like about St. Paul MN?
    L: It is European.

    C: What do think about Norm Coleman?
    L: Traitor. Has a shit eating grin on his face.
    Add that to his bell’s palsy.

    This is a fictional interview and not based on anyone in particular.

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