Monday, April 27, 2020

"So these two viruses walk into a store..."

"The Laughing Audience" by William Hogarth (Met)
     As a rule, I don't criticize other parts of the paper. But it wasn't my colleagues writing the jokes featured Sunday. And besides, my job, as I see it, sometimes involves pointing out an awkward truth. 

    The hard part about 9/11 for me — and I have to emphasize the for me part, because for other people the hard part was burning to death in a pool of jet fuel — was that nothing was funny anymore.
     There was no ironic distance. No sense of relief, no minor mastery over circumstances that comes with finding humor in a situation.
     It was all sincerity — George W. Bush-level sincerity, the really strong stuff, 151 proof sincerity. We were defenseless, carried along by the torrent of history without the stout paddle that a solid sense of humor gives a person.
     For about a week.
     And then, I was watching TV news — that great font of unintentional comedy — which introduced a segment with a logo. You know: flickering candle, weepy soundtrack. I looked at the screen and thought, “I’m sorry all those people are dead ... but if I have to hear ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ one more time, I’m going to puke.”
     And with that, normality — my normality anyway — whirred to life, like a computer rebooting. Blank screen then, zing, back in business again.
     So it was with admiration and interest that I approached our Sunday front-page feature, “WE COULD ALL USE A GOOD LAUGH ABOUT NOW.” The Sun-Times dragooned 10 Chicago-area comics to share their COVID-19 jokes with our readers.

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  1. When it comes to what’s funny, I laugh when you make funny comments to your wife: “This s--- just got real,” I gravely informed my wife. “They’re out of Fresca. And here I hoped we’d get out of this unscathed.”
    My husband does the same thing — every day. I laugh because the things he says would never even pop into my head. Don’t know where he comes up with the stuff he says. To me that’s comical — just something off the top of his head in the moment. You do that, too — love when you include them in your writing — gives me a chuckle in an otherwise serious and informative blog.

  2. We all could use a good laugh now is right. Trying to find humor with the virus, or with Trump, isn’t going to happen. Both are dangerous, not funny. As much as I admire Mel Brooks’ work I always took exception when he used Hitler to make a joke. There is nothing funny about Hitler either. Yes, “Springtime for Hitler” at first gets a laugh. A laugh that is until you realize you are one of those who is a friend of the person who fell into the sewer. We do need to find some humor. Let’s find other outlets. They’re out there.

    1. I remember seeing interviews with Germans who said if they had comics making fun of him like Brooks did, he would never have come to power.
      And Dick Shawn as Hitler is flat out hysterically funny.

    2. Dick Shawn was hysterical in everything he did. We'll never know about what would have happened if Germany's version of late night TV would have mocked Hitler. We do know that there is no shortage of comics making fun of Trump and I hate to say, his chances of re-election are still pretty good. The Producers was brilliant. Mel Brooks defended his work by saying, “... if you can make them look ridiculous, then you can win over the people.” Unfortunately his play came out after Hitler left infinite irrevocable scars. I guess everyone has their humor threshold. I can't get myself to laugh about anything involving him.

    3. The Bad Humor Man has been around for a long time. From Hitler jokes in junior high to "sick" humor (Lenny Bruce, anyone?) in high school to space shuttle jokes (Need Another Seven Astronauts) to the zillions of smirks and images about Trump, awful humor about awful topics is nothing new. So there will be a lot of "sick" (no pun intended) and sardonic snarking about the pandemic, to help us whistle past the graveyard. It's part of human nature.

      "Hey, did you hear about the talk show host who got sick and died?"

      "No, I didn't. Who was it?"

      "Yeah. Good-bye Rosie, Queen of Corona."

      Stuff like that. My wife sprung that one on me over the weekend. I roared.

  3. Humor is as necessary as water and food to living. Without it we are certainly all doomed. It kept Robin Williams alive allot longer than if he wasn't a comic. It was his way to deal with his demons. My late wife passed in her sleep. I woke up and my life was changed immeasurably. The worst day of my life and I still feel the pain every day. Yet, I can still laugh at that old joke. "I want to die like my dear grandfather, in his sleep, not like the passengers in his car."

  4. A very good column on a tough subject, the difficulty of which brings to mind E.B. White likening analyzing humor to dissecting a frog. "Few people are interested and the frog dies."

    I liked the Fresca joke.


  5. I had similar feelings watching the movie Jojo Rabbit. I found myself laughing and then wondering if it was okay to laugh. The story includes idiots in Nazi Germany with the Hitler Youth trying to turn 10 year olds into brutal soldiers. Their failures are comical. I think.
    The Jewel by us had a new Fresca flavor last time I was there. You’d think the Coca-cola folks would know not to mess with a classic.

  6. I’ve always found that the more dire the situation, the funnier a humorous comment becomes. Or maybe “funnier” is the wrong adjective; I would say instead “appreciated”.

  7. I refuse to believe that I am the only one who laughs at their own jokes. I mean, they are the damn funniest after all?
    Plus, that's how I get through my days 'bout all of the time.

  8. i'm sure there is a lot funny stuff happening right now that won't be funny until 2035 or so.


  9. Agreed, the comics’ efforts, while appreciated, are not top quality. Or even as good as your jokes, and I’m not one to toss flattery around, especially about something as serious as good humor!

    Perhaps there is an element of “too soon?” involved here. But I don’t think any topic is off limits for joking, as long as you’re not laughing at the unfortunate/victims but mocking the evil/tragedy. And you consider your audience. Humor is the best coping mechanism I know.


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