Joke’s On Me

Frank: It isn’t right for a college to buy football players.

Wagstaff: It isn’t, eh? Well, I’ll nip that in the bud. How about coming along and having a nip yourself?

Frank: Anything further, Father?

Wagstaff: Anything further, Father? That can’t be right. Isn’t it ‘Anything Father, further?’ The idea! I married your mother because I wanted children. Imagine my disappointment when you arrived. – HORSE FEATHERS, starring the Marx Brothers.

Humor is a funny thing. You either get the joke or you don’t.

Which is why I rarely watch contemporary sitcoms. From time to time I’ll give one a try, but humor requires a latitude I just can’t make myself extend to what I’m watching on today’s television.

If you enjoy Modern Family or The Big Bang or Bob’s Burgers, I envy you. I love a good belly laugh as much as the next mark, but, to me, nothing I’m seeing on the tube these days is even chuckle-worthy, much less chortle inducing.

Mulling my obvious and sad defect, it occurred to me that a person’s sense of humor can reveal much about the person. What it reveals first and foremost is the person’s age. Humor changes generation by generation, as I learned while raising kids. A joke or scene that wold have me rolling of the floor so often produced little more than a roll of the eyes from Nate or Rebecca.

We did find common ground, thankfully, with such treasures as Ghost Busters and Animal House and early episodes of The Simpsons, but the act of renting a movie could be fraught with peril.

What does my sense of humor say about me? Again, the first thing it says is I’m old. I try not to be a crusty old curmudgeon (could there be any other kind) but the effort from time to time overwhelms me.

From my aged beef point of view, the greatest comedy ever made is Blazing Saddles. I’ve watched it hundreds of times and I swear I still come unhinged every time Mongo tells us all he’s only a pawn in game of life. Or when Taggart confronts the William J. Le Petomane Toll Booth in the middle of the desert. Or when Lily Von Shtupp, asks Sheriff Bart “Tell me schatze, is it twue what they say about the way you people are. . . gifted?’’

The tragedy of this comedy, however, is that it could never be made today – which a part of me doesn’t understand. Sure I recognize that it’s outrageously politically incorrect, and I do recognize the need in these politically charged times to show all people of all persuasions the proper respect they deserve.

But in Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks, bless his delightfully demented soul, wielded satire laced with a certain word that is jarring to today’s sensibilities to absolutely shred bigotry in all its unsightly forms. He left no doubt with this classic just how stupid stupid can be.

So obviously I lean toward the absurd and I appreciate a good social commentary. But I also get off on word play, and total, unadulterated chaos. Which is where the Marx Brothers come in.

I love the Marx Brothers. We watched Horse Feathers just last night (a perfectly precedent statement on the unholy marriage between big-time football and institutions of higher learning) and I reveled in every pun and pratfall. Groucho can have me in stitches just by walking in a room.

While reflecting on just what my sense of humor says about me, I decided to draft a baseball team of my favorite comedians. Every time I did, I remembered a favorite I had left out, but eventually I came up with the following lineup. I’d be curious to hear from you on just who and what tickles your own personal funny bone.

Batting order
1. Richard Pryor CF
2. Charlie Chaplin SS
3. George Carlin 3B
4. John Belushi C
5. Robin Williams 1B
6. Bill Hicks DH
7. Eddie Murphy RF
8. Dan Aykroyd LF
9. Harpo Marx 2B

Rotation
1. Groucho Marx
2. Steven Wright
3. Gilda Radner
4. Chico Marx
5. Andy Kaufman

Bullpen
Long relief – Lilly Tomlin
Set-up – Andy Kaufman
Set-up – Chris Rock
Closer – Steve Martin

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