For Christmas, my parents – being more and more old fashioned as they age – decided to purchase a yearlong subscription for the “Funny Times” newspaper for me. So, once a month, I receive a paper that is entirely composed of comics, short funny (or intended-to-be) articles, and jokes.
Now, personally, I don’t read the paper (for my news I go online; I’m not a fan of the paper usage; and I think the entire industry as a whole is outdated and ridiculous in the world of technology), but if I did, I’d probably only read the politics, science, and comics sections anyways… so the Funny Times, as gifts go, wasn’t a bad idea on my folks’ part.
What’s interesting to me about what I’m seeing in this comics-only paper I receive, is the somewhat sad lack of humor.
Let me break this up into a couple points:
- My view on Humor; forced vs. spontaneity
- The inclination of most humorists and comedic writers
- The material out there to work with
Ok, first my thoughts on Humor. Let me begin by noting that I don’t consider myself a terribly funny guy in any way. Affected: I rarely am moved enough to laugh aloud, so what amuses me tends to make me smile or just noiselessly chuckle to myself. Affecting: I am just not a “funny” person – I have relatively few things about me that evoke laughter, I tend not to be (as an introvert) the “life of the party” and the guy cracking everyone up. If I make a joke, it tends to be dry, sarcastic, quick, somewhat quiet or as a side-note type… or some combination of those things.
But this is beside the point. Suffice to say, I’m not the stand-up type. But, that doesn’t mean that I’m not a fan of humor and, like most things in my life, I think about humor and what makes it good or bad, worthwhile or not.
And my conclusion is that good humor – true humor that is the type to make me actually laugh aloud, is rarely pre-conceived or planned. Even comedic routines, which can have great stuff in them, tend not to move me in the way some small, funny thing that happens in my life might. It’s a difference of contrived vs. spontaneous/natural humor. One is prepared and delivered. The other evolves and might not ever be possible to replicate. And therein, I think, lies my enjoyment of it.
So, given this inclination of mine, you’d think I’d shy away from any forced humor… but this is not the case. As quirky and amusing as any ol’ day can be, I don’t mind some prepared material from time to time. Which brings me back to Funny Times and the authors/artists who comprise its material. What they are doing is the epitome of contrivance. They have to create humor, on demand, on routine, and sometimes on subject.
Needless to say, this doesn’t sit well with me. But I get over it and try to enjoy anyways (often succeeding, I might add). One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that most humorists (comics people and article-writers alike) tend to wind up coming off on the left side of the political spectrum. Now, everyone can hate the banks – Repubs and Dems agree – but MOST of the Funny Times folks are pretty obviously left-leaning.
This is not a big deal to me – I lean left myself in many regards and while I am always interested in other views, there’s certainly some comfort in the mutual appreciation from relatively similar perspectives.
Which is what makes what I’m seeing so damn annoying. Essentially, they have nothing to write quips about. With Obama in office they can’t complain about the administration much. He may not being fixing everything with Miracle-Obama-Wash, but such a high percentage of people (last I read, like 65% I think) agree Obama’s doing well, that, coupled with the Humorists own inclinations towards the left, Obama is no source for amusement.
Add to this that Dubya has been not just quiet as a figure, but supportive of Obama (and honestly, I have more respect for him because of this than maybe anything else he’s done as a political figure), and you have Dubya removed from Humorists’ ammo.
Which leaves the somewhat (to my mind) comical Republican figures – Rush (whose polarizing effect will always relegate him to the fringe), Cheney (wasn’t he supposed to be just about dead with all his medical problems? Oh and yeah, we know you thought torture was ok – that’s why you did it… no need to re-iterate now that your time is done), and a slew of Republican Congressmen who, quite honestly, all blend together since none of them has yet to do anything that stands out beyond trying to block what Obama’s doing or to bitch about Pelosi.
Not great fodder for Humorists, honestly.
So what I’m getting at here, in a long way, is the affect of what’s going on in our world and how Humorists are dealing with it. Bashing or mocking the Republicans seems to be a big part of it, which is kind of like picking on the class idiot – you’ll get some chortles, but everyone’s a little worse from the experience since it’s not fair if the subject of your humor can’t seem to help it. Whining about the banks and bailout is all well and good, but how do you complain about it and not either tie it back to Dubya (who’s protected by his silence) or Obama (golden boy)? The result is a kind of vague displeasure mixed with sardonic musings which fail to really cut to the heart (or throat, if you want really good satire).
Alas, forced humor is suffering from a President who can compose not just sentences but thoughts and ideas! Alas, forced humor is bent to menial subjects like Father’s Day (and stereotypes of fathers), Graduation (and stereotypical jokes about young people who think they’re on top of the world), and vague subjects and ideas (the Economy, Banks and Bailouts, the Housing Market, etc.). Alas, will our country being in a positive-headed position be the death of decent contrived humor, or is the continued down-spiral of our educational system’s affects finally being seen in the lack of original, creative, amusing thoughts of the writers? Is there a problem with the humor in our country?
The question for Humorists now is this: what do you do with a world of things to find humor in, but none of the easy subjects as readily available?
davidrsheehan is a contributing writer for projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog. You can also tweet directly with him: davidrsheehan.