Reverb Broads 2011, December 7: Who or what makes you laugh so hard that milk shoots out of your nose and why? Slapstick, dry witty comedy, your kids, Monty Python? (courtesy of Kassie of http://bravelyobey.blogspot.com)
It might actually be easier to write a list of things that don’t make me laugh. But I’ll give it a stab, if only so I can share some of my favorite funny things. In general, I’ll just say that I’m a complex person, so don’t judge me. 🙂
I am surrounded by hilarious people every day, even on the days when I don’t fully appreciate the humor of the situations they instigate. I’m married to one of the funniest people in the world, and I know many people agree with me. Part of this is because he’s so smart and creative — that kind of people are always the funniest. I often say that he’s got a direct line into the Primal Well of Story, which is what makes him a phenomenal storyteller, game designer, and GM. But he also has access to the same Random Closet of Weird as Eddie Izzard, and frequently delivers bizarre misinformation with the same deadpan style as John Hodgman. We have so many inside jokes, running gags, and one-liners that no one else understands. I’m sure it’s completely obnoxious, and some of them would prefer blatant displays of affection to our stupid giggly shorthand.
And I know every parent thinks their kids are hysterically funny, but anyone who’s met them would probably be inclined to agree that mine are like cartoon characters; I swear they’re drawn by Tex Avery. They’ve got it all: killer comic timing, the Seinfeldesque capacity to observe the weirdness of their surroundings, a natural affinity for performance, and super-quick wits to come up with mad, clever responses. I’d like to think that they inherited their skills from us both, and that our efforts to raise them with lots of humor and quality entertainment are taking root, but let’s just face it — they’ve got it in spades, and they’re a mystery to me.
I’m an intellectual, and a geek, so I can have a pretty high-falutin’ taste in humor. Of course, I adore the Brits, new and old: Monty Python, The Goons, Douglas Adams, Little Britain, French & Saunders, and so many others. I like web comics like xkcd and Penny Arcade — the nerdier, the better. I love sight gags and cultural references and grammar jokes. Even math humor makes me laugh, because I know more about math than actual math. Musical humor, like P.D.Q. Bach and Flight of the Conchords, absolutely slays me. I listen religiously to NPR stuff like This American Life, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me…, and A Prairie Home Companion (especially the joke show). I love parodies, the more cutting or absurd, the better — I’ve been reading The Onion since it was just a local Madison paper, I used to assign a reading to my World Religions students from the LOLCatz Bible, and Drop Dead Gorgeous is one of my favorite movies. And I’m completely wild about political comedy (probably because I’m wild about politics), so Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert are must-sees. My eldest even had a Jon Stewart 3rd birthday party (all his idea; he used to put on a clip-on tie and do his impression of Jon Stewart in the bathroom mirror. When he was two.)
All this being said, lots of completely low-brow stuff makes me giggle and snort uncontrollably. Ever see that SpikeTV show back in the ’00s called MXC? It was a Japanese game show called Takeshi’s Castle, overdubbed in America by two ESPN-like “announcers” and a cast of others who ascribed the most bizarre dialogue and commentary to an already-bizarre spectacle. I used to regularly laugh until I cried, and I still miss it. Luckily, America’s Funniest Home Videos still does the job for me on a regular basis. And you can’t live in a house of boys without being a connoisseur of scatological humor.
I could go on and on with this one, but I need to wrap up, so I’ll just share two other gifts that were apparently bestowed upon me by the Comedy Fairy at birth. The first is that I see hilarious things that no one else around me sees. This isn’t like a Sixth Sense thing. It’s just that, if I’m standing in a crowd of people, and someone across the street falls down, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’m the only one who’ll see it. Which always means I’m the idiot who busts out laughing for no apparent reason. Yeah, I’m that person.
The second is that, for no good reason that I can intuit, people feel the need to tell me their acid trip stories. I’m not sure what it is in my aura that compels this. I don’t do and never have done illegal drugs of any kind. I didn’t even have my first drink of alcohol until my wedding night, ten months past my 21st birthday, which I celebrated in Europe for gods’ sakes. But I’m a non-judgmental listener, and I’ve got quite a collection of other people’s weird LSD-induced memories. One in particular has served as genesis for a stable of characters who regularly appear in our household brand of humor. A college friend told me how he once drove a tripping friend around town while the friend had an intense three-way conversation with Seth (his left hand) and The Magic Vacuum (his right hand). I’ve got a long-standing comedy love affair with puppets, so it was natural that they’d just become part of my lexicon. And once you know about them? You see them EVERYWHERE.