I’m an anachronism … a relic of times gone by.
I’m an anachronism … a relic of times gone by. We get newspapers delivered to our home, three weeklies and a daily. I read them all.
And I have a reading routine. The papers are opened to one place, first, every time: the funny pages or comics. The funny page is my favorite part of the paper, especially the daily comics and above all the Sunday edition when the funnies are printed in color.
Even the word “funnies” is a fun word. And they’re funnier in color. They’re more like real life.
But the black and white comics are good too. A recent Tom Wilson’s “Ziggy” from the daily funny pages is a testament of our times. In it, Ziggy is being told by his pet parrot as a couple of birds are laughing at the window, “You wouldn’t get it. It’s a bird thing.”
HAHAHAHAHA! That’s a good one! A bird thing. That comic is a testament of our times because these days, it seems, we don’t get the joke regardless of whose “thing” it is, bird or otherwise. There’s comedy most everywhere we look, but we just can’t seem to find it.
I’m not sure why this is, but we’re losing the ability to even see the funny side of life, let alone laugh at it. And laugh at ourselves? Why, that shows weakness. We take offence at what everyone says and does. Self-deprecation is old fashioned.
“Ladies and gentlemen, assume the position. We’re going to crash land soon. Our humor reservoir is indicating a low light.”
It may be our bombardment with constant TV and internet news. The old adage “bad news sells” isn’t really old. Conflict gets far more coverage than humor. Maybe that’s why everything and everyone is so solemn.
Certainly there’s sadness, unfairness, sickness, poverty, and war amidst us and we should care about these serious matters. But suffering has existed and always will. Does everything have to be so severe, so grim, so staid?
I’m not suggesting, necessarily, that we should joke about everything. There are some lines so tragic, so horrible, that we should be careful about crossing, humor-wise.
In a March 2013 Huffington Post blog, Rabbi Jason Miller wrote, “Comedians crack jokes about 9/11, worldwide natural disasters, the Chernobyl incident, plane crashes, Space Shuttle tragedies and horrific mass murders. A common refrain following such off-color jokes is ‘Too soon?’ But, when really is it not ‘too soon’ to tell a joke about a catastrophe on par with the Holocaust?”
Rabbi Miller, among others, was critical of comedienne Joan Rivers’ Holocaust joke on the red carpet before the Oscars. “Rivers, who is Jewish,” Miller wrote in his blog, “and whose late husband lost most of his family in the Holocaust, deadpanned about German supermodel Heidi Klum’s dress at the Oscars, ‘The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.’”
So maybe the Holocaust is off limits to humor for most people and should be.
But someday, perhaps, even the Holocaust can be a legitimate target of comedy like genocidal leader Genghis Khan is today. (Khan’s mother says to him, “Genghis, stop being negative. You’re Genghis Kahn, not Genghis Kahnt.”)
But why can’t we see the comedy in circumstances such as a new U.S. president with no political experience learning the ropes through some of his missteps? Instead we humorlessly chastise everything he does and says as well as those who voted for him. Why have we lost the ability to see humor in the paradox of life?
Possibly we need to think more like Cartoonist Bob Mankoff who said, “Humor is the antidote to over thinking. Humor contains contradictions; it does not resolve them but revels in them. It says that the right way to exist among the contradictions, paradoxes, and absurdities of life is to cope with them through laughter.”
Print newspapers are dying because those who read them are too. Millennials, who are taking over our world, get their news online mostly through scanning the news.
And they don’t read the funny pages. Try to quickly find the comics in the online edition of any paper. Even if they exist online, it’s not easy to find them.
So another solution to our humorless society is to bring the funny pages back. Make them the front page of the online editions so millennials will read them. We could all use more funnies.
Q: What do you give a sick bird?
Oh, sorry. I hope I didn’t offend someone with a lisp. But maybe they won’t get the joke. It’s a bird thing.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.