The Case For Humor or Amanda Palmer Brings The Funny
So I was talking with my friend, the wild winsome Breann, the other night and I had found myself not actually having an idea what to write about. So when stumped I turn to Breann since she has a good mind that I enjoy picking from time to time. Forget her penchant for being the most quotable person I know for all the wrong reasons. So I found it interesting that Breann told me I should write about humor in a general sense. Of course she didn’t just come out and say “Oh my God James, you should totally write about humor!”. No she recommended I base today’s post on her recently updated Facebook status. This meant I had to go to her Facebook wall and look up what the hell she was talking about. What I got was a quote from someone named Amanda Palmer. Of course I had to know something about who I was going to quote so I used that wonderful system of tubes known as the Internet. Well it turns out I actually am familiar with Amanda Palmer as she was the singer for The Dresden Dolls. Strike one on Amanda Palmer. I’m not what you call The Dresden Dolls biggest fan. This is based solely on a former roommate of mine listening to The Dresden Dolls non-stop. I mean like every fucking waking moment of the day. Actually it is less of a strike against Palmer as much as it is against the former roommate. As for the quote Breann supplied me with by Ms. Palmer, I was genuinely impressed by it.
“When you cannot joke about the darkness of life, that’s when the darkness takes over.”
Actually a very apt statement. Basically it is analysis of Black Humor. It holds true to the old idiom that comedy is a direct result of others people’s suffering. It doesn’t matter if it is Black Humor or just a simple pratfall, Humor in general is us laughing at something happening to another. We laugh because it isn’t happening to us. Amanda Palmer is right, when you lose the ability to laugh at life then darkness takes over. It takes over in the form of melancholia and depression. I don’t care who you are, everyone has been depressed at some point in their lives. Anyone who claims otherwise is just plain lying. It is impossible to be content and happy all the time. Being content and happy takes a lot of work. There has to be those times when you don’t want to get out of bed, not because you’re sick or being in bed is so wonderful. Sometimes you don’t want to get out of bed and you don’t know why. Even worse are the times when you do know why you won’t get out of bed and you just stay there not wanting to face the world. Remember what Pagliacci taught us? The lesson that for every clown there is a man behind the make-up in pain. The pain Pagliacci provides from being a clown is what we laugh at but it is the pain Pagliacci suffers in life that we sympathize with the most because, in essence, we are all Pagliacci.
Humor is what we need as human beings to fight off the pain of life. We need it more than fantasy escapism, as sometimes a simple stupid joke will do more good than 2 hours in a Movie Theater. I have a simple motto in life, “I Bring The Funny”. I make it a point to always make the people in my life smile. I do this because they are my friends and I cannot bear to see them in pain. The problem is, there are times that I am in pain and my own sense of humor cannot save me. I went through that recently, dealing with some personal issues. I would still bring the funny for my friends, but I was having a very difficult time coping with my issues. It was difficult for those close to me to help because they were so close to my problems and they knew that the only way to help was to let me work through it on my own. I knew I had worked through my issues, for the most part, when I read a random quote by Groucho Marx. Now when I say I laughed, I mean I just began laughing uncontrollably. The Quote was “From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it”. The thing is, it was a Groucho quote I’ve heard before and always chuckled at. There was no reason that I should find it hysterical all of a sudden. I mean that just didn’t make sense. It then hit me like a fist “I’m better, I can function normally again”. Apparently, Groucho Marx is the best remedy for depression known to man. What? You disagree with me? Go watch Duck Soup or almost anything else by The Marx Brothers and try not to laugh.
Seriously though, it wasn’t a case of one turn of a sentence by Groucho that made me laugh. It was a case of I had let my melancholy undermine who I was. My natural state is to be wise-cracking. I am a born class clown. When I’m not talking or laughing, my friends become very worried about me. Sometimes it is unwarranted but most of the time isn’t. There was a time in about 2003, I was staying with a friend who had given me he use of her sofa. After being there for a few months I had suddenly found myself not talking or smiling or doing much of anything. My friend returned from her day at work and saw me sitting, not smiling. She looked at me and immediately asked “Why aren’t you smiling? What’s wrong?”. I told her nothing was wrong and that I was fine. This continued for 2 more days before I opened up to her. I don’t even remember what was wrong but when I am upset, it is the most obvious thing in th world apparently. All my friends pick-up on it. The ones who have known me longest know that it can take a little bit of time for me to get to a place mentally that I can either talk about my problem or deal with the problem myself. Some of my friends, that I haven’t known as long, can try to get me to talk but if I am not ready to talk about it then they end up very frustrated. God forbid they try to force me to cheer-up, that gets them straight up hostility and open resentment. But in the end what usually brings me out of a funk is something that makes me laugh.
So make no mistake, Ms. Amanda Palmer is right. When you cannot joke about the darkness of life, that’s when the darkness takes over. This is why we need the darker shades of humor. We need to be flip and sarcastic so we can actually expose the darker things in life and make them NOT dark anymore. Humor, even Dark Humor, is a metaphoric light that we use to chase the darkness away. All humor is good to an extent. The reaction to humor is really what is key though. Ideally you want people to laugh but that isn’t always the case. As long as a bad joke gets some kind of reaction, even a groan or someone facepalms or pinches the bridge of their nose in mock pain, then is humor imparted. I have told so many tasteless jokes over the years and everyone has a different reaction. A joke I may tell Cindi may not fly with Breann. A witticism rattled off to my buddy Zac may have cracked him up but might not go over with my buddy Bill. It all depends on the person in question. I promise you this though, at one time or another I’ve made each of my friends laugh either as a group or individually. I’ve taken the light of Humor and got rid of some of their darkness, even if it was for just a few fleeting seconds. It is like I said before “I Bring The Funny!”. Being able to laugh at another’s pain is something that we need to be able to do because if we didn’t then all of life would be pain and a life of nothing but pain is akin to the darkness Amanda Palmer is referencing. At least this how I interpret it. Watch, now I am going to get some angry letter from Amanda Palmer telling me to shut up because I’ve totally missed the point of what she was saying. Now the odds of this happening are pretty slim, one might even say minuscule but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Remember, “Probably Won’t” and “Definitely Won’t” are 2 entirely different animals.
To sum up, we need to laugh. All of us. We need laugh long an hard at things in order to remind us that, while life can be terribly serious it can also be quite ludicrous and utterly hilarious at times. Humor can sustain the soul and even replenish it. It is something we need on spiritual level to be complete. No one wants a life of constant pain, everyone needs the release of a good laugh to remind themselves that while life can suck there are those times when it doesn’t and you actually can enjoy it. I know it, you know it and make no mistake Amanda Palmer damn well knows it!