March 27, 2010

Humor is Risky Business

Filed under: MiscellAnnia — Ann @ 7:45 pm

I love to make people laugh. Heck, I love making people smile. But long ago I learned that taking a stab at humor is like bullfighting — it takes courage to participate, and both have tremendous potential for pain and injury. Because no matter how innocuous the joke, humor has the power to offend. In fact, savvy albeit cruel word-warriors know this, and intentionally use its two-edged sword to wound, excusing hurtful barbs as “teasing.”

But even when you mean no harm, and even if you avoid all of the obvious (and unfunny, mean-spirited) pitfalls of race, religion, obesity, etc., there is something in almost every joke which has the power to offend someone. And it’s tricky because, in comedy, timing is everything. The quick-witted casual comedian faces this dilemma: You’re in a group of people, you see the opportunity for a joke, you have less than a split second to weigh its appropriateness and laugh-potential, and you go for it. Then, one of three things happens:

1. It falls flat and there is a mild half-laugh, half embarrassed silence;
2. It totally kills and there is a roar of laughter; or
3. Someone is going to be offended.

And even if #1 or #2 happens, #3 is still a possibility as to one or more of the assembled. (If #1 happens because your material was so offensive, you’d better rethink your entire relationship with amateur comedy.) However, if you take too long pre-delivery in deciding whether your joke is appropriate to the situation, the people, and the moment, you’re sunk, anyway, because comedy has to be quick.

So, there it is: trying to make people laugh is a huge risk and I’ve endured my share of thuds. Maybe I should give it up, and simply err on the side of caution. Still, the Big Laugh is seductive. There was that one Christmas — I was at a huge semi-formal dinner party, with my boyfriend, at the home of his friend’s mother. In other words, the stakes were enormous: there was the new guy to impress, plus I was seated at a table full of strangers, at an event hosted by a very conservative woman. But when I realized the names of the two men between whom I was sitting, and that their names were identical, I couldn’t help myself: At a quiet moment during the dinner, I said brightly, “You know, I really shouldn’t be having this food.” I waited just a beat to collect the puzzled looks, then BAM, hit them with the punch: “My mother always told me not to eat between Neals.” A one-second silence — then everyone at the table HOWLED with laughter. They were mine. They loved me. And I loved them. And for the rest of the dinner party, the new boyfriend gave me a looks that melted two inches off the centerpiece tapers. It was perfect joy.

Did I say seductive? I meant addictive. It’s moments like that which keep me coming back for more, weighing the appropriateness, taking the risk. So, to my friends and family reading this, please know that I have to go for the joke. If I fail, well, my heart was in the right place, even if my sense of timing wasn’t. And if I bomb, I’ll just do what professional and amateur comedians have been doing for decades when their best efforts fail: laugh it off. Because there’s always another show. Thank you, ladies and germs, I’ll be here all week.

March 15, 2010

The 18 Names of Geronimo

Filed under: About The Animals — Ann @ 3:59 pm

Neal and I variously refer to Geronimo as:eatingwithborder
The Little Woojums
The Boy
The Cat Experience
Raymond Purr
And sometimes even “Geronimo”

Do you have nicknames for your pets?

March 1, 2010

Geronimo Inspires Adverbial Splendor

Filed under: About The Animals — Ann @ 4:07 pm

Neal, to me, while petting Geronimo: “His paws are so warm !

Me: “That’s because he’s so thankgodfully alive.”

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