Thursday, September 22, 2011

Humor is Not Like Ex-Lax

I have been told that there is a product called Ex-Lax intended to make children "regular," as if there is such a thing.  Simply said, it is a chocolate-flavored laxative that supposedly is made to be more palatable for children  My Mom told me horror stories of how when she was young, parents had a more interventionist view of digestive processes.

Like gunboat diplomacy; don't leave things to chance.  Make 'em poop daily.

But I digressed, I think.

Much of today's humor falls into the following categories:

(a)  Humor to serve as a bully stick handmaiden to politics:  humor is primarily to further partisan causes.  (Hey, Jon Stewart, you listening?)

(b)  Humor to ridicule categories of people (Aggie/Auburn/Washington State jokes, blonde jokes, much of racial and ethnic humor)  [BTW, I'm a Cajun blonde; and I'm okay to a point about either category.]

(c)  Humor to get cheap laughs based on the missteps of celebrities (Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen, and Paris Hilton are real flesh-and-blood people who suffered anguish, however it might have been inflicted by others and themselves)

(d)  Humor to complain about the injustices of life.

But now let's look at humorists that I thought delivered the goods:

Mark Twain -- He was sometimes bitter and raunchy; but he could be funny and made it okay for us to be.

Jean Sheperd -- An underrated '60's author; best known for his classic, Christmas Story.

Lewis Grizzard -- Light, unhostile Southern humor and commentary.  They should erect a esquiterian statue of him on the courthouse lawn in Newnan, GA.

Dave Barry -- He ALWAYS manages to be funny.  No one deserved a Pulitizer Prize more than him.

Laurie Notaro -- Great chick humor.  She uses the device of being 'the idiot girl; but always manages to produce enjoyable writing.  No male bashing or other self-indulgences.

"Chick humor" should not be taken as a term of disparagement.  Guys don't get solely to make the rules any longer; and over 50% of the population carries two X chromosomes.

Scott Adams -- The Dilbert guy is very funny.

And world-class cartoonists: Dany (Olivier Rameau and assorted racy French cartoons), Dean Yeagle (Mandy cartoons), Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes), Gary Larson (The Far Side), etc. 

These are my heroes.  I try to write humor for humor's sake.  Occasionally successfully; after all, sometimes a blind hog finds an acorn!  No hidden sales message intended.  In the most radical sense, generating and appreciating humor is a device for enjoying the sweet mystery that is human life.  It can stand on its own merits: it doesn't have to be justified as a proper stewardship of time that might be called for in the Protestant Ethic.  Don't make it Ex-Lax humor!


Duckbutt said...

Wiley's Non Sequitur is a daily surprise in the often dismal newspaper comics.

I agree. Dave Barry is a humor god!

Anemone said...

Humor is in scarce supply nowadays. So sad.

Bilbo said...

Your list of humorists is very good, but I don't know how you missed Groucho Marx (read "The Groucho Letters" when you feel the need to laugh hysterically) and, of course, Bilbo. And I'm with Duckbutt on "Non Sequitur" by Wiley. Another good cartoonist is Vic Lee, who draws "Pardon My Planet."

Anonymous said...

Ex-Lax tastes vile enough to put you off of chocolate. What about Ring Lardner and Ogden Nash? And Erma Bomback?

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Anon, I'll familiarize myself with those authors. Thanks.

Bilbo said...

I almost forgot about Robert Benchley. He was one of the members of the famous Algonquin Round Table, and wrote some very funny stuff.

Sinner Bob said...

How about Jeff Foxworthy?