Sometimes, when I write a humor piece, my readers respond, “Tomorrow is another day. ” Or, “Hope things brighten up. Thoughts and prayers.” Or, “Try self-medicating! Works for me. ” Or, “DM me if you need a therapist.” Or, “Keep passing open windows.”
I didn’t notice a pattern at first, but then I realized that some of my readers thought I was depressed. They were trying to cheer me up. Oy. I was trying to cheer them up. Freaky Friday alert! This was a comedic conundrum. What was going on? What was I missing?
It’s like when I’m flirting with someone on the bus and they say, “Would you like my seat, ma’am?” Here I was thinking “We could sneak into the back row and snog” and they’re thinking, “I wonder if this woman is gonna fall over the next time this bus hits a pothole.” What was I missing?
The Art of Funny is the ability to read a room. Not like that lady on the bus, aka me, who forgot she aged thirty years in the past three decades. Comedy is the skill that says to others, “I get it. I know what’s up, and I’m still okay.”
The point of being funny is making people think that you can find a hee-haw in a cow pie. That you can laugh when everybody else is throwing down Prozac and tears. That you’re one of those schmucks who can kick tragedy in the balls and say, “HA! HAHAHAHAHA!”
Seinfeld, I had a problem. I was getting stuck in tragedyville with no map to comedy city. My funny wasn’t working. My clown car was empty. All roads led to, “Are you, okay sweetie? You seem sad.”
I wasn’t fooling everyone. Some of my readers were sending me electronic Get Well Cards.
It made this funny woman think. I closed my eyes and remembered that famous comedy/tragedy image. There had to be answers in that image. It had been hanging over theaters and gracing playbills for centuries. I wanted to understand where tragedy ended and comedy began.
I searched comedy tragedy. This appeared.
This wasn't the comedy tragedy image I was searching for. You know the one I mean, right? I have no idea who these guys are. That’s the image that comes up on CreativeCommons when you search comedy tragedy.
Who were these men? The universe was trying to tell me something. I was no fool. “Hit me, Universe,” I said.
I thought the guy on the left was supposed to be comedy. I looked at that face, and it screamed, “Humor hurts. Humor’s been through the wreckage. Humor is a survivor.”
That face knew about global warming, war, Jared Kushner. But he was okay. He wasn’t dead. At least not when that photograph was taken.
He was thinking, “Meh. At least my wife didn’t throw out my Playboys from 1970 when ladies were bushy.” He was an optimist. He overcame tragedy. But he was also depressed. That’s what I wanted! Deep depression masked by comedy. Lovely.
I’m not even discussing the guy on the right. If I did, I suppose he was tragedy. His face didn’t scream Hamlet, though. He looked like if you tickled his feet with a feather while he was whining about the state of cheese in France, he’d giggle.
So, if these two men were my entire framework for understanding the intersection between comedy and tragedy, I got it. They overlapped.
No one is purely comedic who doesn’t understand tragedy. No one is truly tragic who doesn’t understand comedy. You gotta cry to laugh. You gotta laugh to cry.
So, what was I missing? Why were my readers concerned about my mental health? I had to further investigate my relationship with humor and figure out why my readers wanted to throw me into a padded room with uppers.
I would have called my therapist and asked her what she thought, but she was on vacation. From me.
So I did what any narcissistic comedian did. I gazed down into my portable reflective pool I kept in the garage for emergencies. What? You don’t have one? Good for you. You win.
I marveled at the watery image of myself and contemplated my metaphorical navel. That’s the thing about narcissism. It’s very reliable.
The only thing that makes narcissism go away is when you start thinking about other people. Then, it pretends it has a headache or explains it has a previous engagement.
But as long as I was sticking my magnifying glass into my own belly button, narcissism was a loyal companion. So what did I discover in there? You ask. Some lint, some hardened tomato sauce, or maybe it was blood. Nothing useful. Biological yes, but no Eurekas in my lint trap.
So, I cleaned it out. First with soap, then Windex, then WD 40. It’s good to go.
Sometimes, when I’m trying to make people laugh, I forget what I’m talking about. I got no sense of direction. Some of my readers worry about me, but as long as they’re reading, who gives a shit?