Looking through my stack of books, I decided that I wanted to read something light after my Wheel of Time adventure. Taking a quick glance through everything, I picked up Dave Barry’s History of the Millennium (So Far). I’ve enjoyed all of Barry’s writing that I’ve seen in the past, and after reading the first two sections of this book, I was going to call it a night. That was until I flipped to the next page and saw what Barry wrote about 2001.
Basically, he wrote nothing. He didn’t do a review for 2001 because he would have had to write it a couple of weeks after 9/11, and he didn’t want to try to make light of the situation. Nor did he want to joke about the rest of the year and then get serious when talking about 9/11. Under most circumstances, I wouldn’t argue with that. But I’m a fan of George Carlin, and I immediately thought of his opening routine from his special “Complaints and Grievances” which was filmed shortly after 9/11. Carlin recorded the special in New York City and he knew that there was no way to avoid talking about what happened, so he went right after the single most taboo thing he could have talked about. As much as I love all of George Carlin’s comedy, this is arguably one of his funniest and most profound bits of comedy.
Comedy is one of the most powerful things we can experience. When it’s done well, it makes you laugh. But the really good comedians (led by Carlin) also made you think. And that’s what Carlin’s bit is doing for me right now, even after having watched it dozens of times to the point where I’ve memorized most of the special, Carlin’s words still make me think.
So I finally get to the title of the post. When is it too soon to joke about a subject? When is something too serious to ever be joked about?
I don’t think there is anything that is so serious that it can’t be joked about. I’m willing to joke about pretty much anything. I do realize that from time to time my jokes miss for other people, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten shy about letting them fly. There have been plenty of times where I’m the only one laughing at my jokes, but they help me get through the day when I’m tired or angry or sad.
For the earlier question, if it’s a good enough joke, it can’t come too soon. Laughter is a way of helping us get back to normal. In the examples I talked about earlier, Carlin was able to get back to normal faster than Barry. Laughter is one of the most important things in my life, it’s why I watch a lot of stand up comedy, it’s why I’m always looking for a good joke, it’s why I look for anything I can find that’s funny in a situation.
As always, no matter what the topic is, someone else has already said it better than I possibly could have, so I leave you with another clip. This one is a condensed section of a History Channel special from several years ago. The History of the Joke. There are a lot of funny jokes throughout the 10 minutes, but the parts that I would like to direct you to start at the 7:24 mark, where George Carlin and Shelley Berman talk about the nature of jokes and laughter. It was easily the high point of the two hour special.
Thoughts? Comments? Jokes? (5 bonus points to anyone who has a joke that makes me laugh out loud when I read it in the comments.)