The Old Guy: On why comedy is so important (with some attempts to make you laugh) –

Comedy has become as important to me as music over the past five years and for much the same reasons: they both seek to make sense of the world through expression and insight.

I have a long list of comedic heroes: Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Marc Maron, Robin Williams, Jim Gaffigan, John Pinette, Lewis Black, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle. These people can make me spit take on a dime. They also make me think really hard about the world and what it contains.

I realize that not everybody laughs at exactly the same things. My parents didn’t. My father laughed at slow burners. My mom giggled at everything. I laugh when other people fall down because I’m so frightened when that happens to me. Laughter is generated by a range of emotional responses.

Marc Maron is a tough nut to crack. He’s a triple threat (standup comedian/podcast pioneer/actor), and each time at bat, he brings something new to the game. There are a million reasons why I respect and admire him. However, I get that some folks might bristle with him the same way they do with Lewis Black: both tend to work rather blue and I don’t mean the language.

Speaking of language, Lenny Bruce and George Carlin (who has many times acknowledged his debt to Bruce) both fought long and hard to allow people to say what they want to say in the way they wish to say it. Bruce was busted so many times he lost count. And, as he once said, if town A busts you and town B busts you, then town C has to bust you, otherwise what kind of {****} town are they?

Carlin not only obsessed over language, but about the workings of the American Dream. His famous 1980′s rant about “The Big Club” that you and I are not members of is a staple of both YouTube and Facebook. In his way, he’s way more political than either Bruce or Maron or Black…because he didn’t see the value in anything political, nor religious.

Bill Maher takes a page from Carlin’s book and rants about both politics and religion constantly, and while I do have issues with his disdain for religion, he usually nails his politics every time. He senses a change in the political climate before many others do.

But, why is comedy so important? We’ve all heard it’s the best medicine and, even in this time of a plague, it still rouses us and helps us to move on day by day. Comedy is often linked with intelligence, as with the farcical and subtle humor one finds in Shakespeare. I used to tell a joke in my classroom and see who would laugh. Inevitably whoever did was the keener of the students. Comedy involves the mind, the heart, and the body. While you’re thinking and reflecting “Yeah, I understand that!,” you’re also chuckling or ready to ROTF laughing your various body parts off.

We admire a doctor or a teacher or a healthcare worker or a telemarketer with a sense of humor because, somehow, that assures us that these people are in touch with their humanity. Dylan famously sung that it takes a lot to laugh and it takes a train to cry. G-d knows what he meant, but I think I get it.

When Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius, his stepfather, Claudius, questions him about the latter’s whereabout. “In heaven. If your messenger find him not there, seek him in the other place yourself!,” Hamlet replies. Ohhh…Renaissance BURN!

Some humor is situational, like that of John Pinette, who talks about waiting in lines and starving for food. Some is observational, such as Carlin’s, Maron’s and Pryor’s. Some is silly like Jim Gaffigan’s and some is super serious like Lenny Bruce’s. There are at least 57 shades of hoo-hah here. You get to pick and indulge in your favorite.

But, especially during these dark times, humor keeps us in touch with our humanity. Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “If” begins:

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”

Obviously, written after the French Revolution!

Humor helps us to keep our head and see clearly. It is a form of expression and offers insight and clarity through your funny bones.

The way to a man’s heart might be through his stomach, but the way to a person’s mind might be through their laughter. How many times has something that was presented as funny got you to say “Hey, ya know…that point she made was really…”

Laughing and thinking are not mutually exclusive reactions. As a matter of fact, it appears that they are innately symbiotic.

Mark Twain said that humor is the good natured side of a truth.

I’ll take a cup of good nature right now!

Hold those grey heads high!

Comments to this and all my columns may be submitted to “Talk To The Old Guy” on Facebook. Make me laugh! I dares ya!

Leave a Comment