Humor is an individual thing—one man's banana peel is another man's lawsuit, and some folks don't care how many people it takes to change a light bulb, no matter who's doing the changing. This is probably not new information to you, nor was it new information to me, but the truth of it recently struck home in some novel ways.
My partner Kathy and I have been reveling in our new nephew, born just a little over nine months ago. There is, of course, no one on earth more handsome or smart. But what has especially endeared him to me is that he thinks I'm the funniest person in the world—a compliment no humorist can resist. Naturally, he hasn't exactly said he thinks I'm funnier than everyone else ( he's not quite that smart ) , but I seem to have an uncanny ability to make him smile and laugh. I have actually brought him to the point of snorting—the pinnacle of laughter, according to my gal—and to pounding, with mirth, a nearby surface ( Kathy's belly ) .
So what's so hilarious? Apparently what tickles Miles's funny bone are the seemingly nonsensical noises I make for him. We have suspected that my 'comedy routine' would kill in the Diaper District—the neonatal version of the old Borscht Belt. 'Two babies crawl into a bar ... ,' or as I might tell it, 'Bleh, bleh-uh, bleh-uh.'
Despite the fact that Miles's tastes are above reproach among those in his fan club—I mean his family—I suspect his comedy preferences are not exactly universal. An equally select audience, I suspect, would be found for the various Christian clown troupes around the country. No, I'm not making that up! There's actually a clown ministry handbook, complete with scripts for such obviously fun-filled skits as 'The Captive Is Set Free' and 'Object Lesson.'
If my cynical side was awakened by the handbook's description of a clown as being able to 'touch, at one time, all ages, all intellects ... ,' the names of some famous Christian clowns—and I don't mean George Bush—did nothing to quell that cynicism. While 'Obie Good' groaningly fits the moral bill and 'Micah' has clear biblical roots, 'Fingers' and 'Uncle Billy's Pocket Circus' seem like the sort of clowns a parent might not want their children around. And let me tell you, there should be some sort of warning to accompany the photos of Lutheran Minister Floyd Schaffer ( a.k.a. Socataco ) in full clown regalia brandishing a large cross: Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ meets Ronald McDonald? But maybe I shouldn't rush to judgment ( if you will ) : perhaps there is something to be said for livening up a christening by spritzing the baptizee with water from a prank flower rather than from the baptismal font.
My own tastes in humor run more toward the subtle, let's say. Although I'm not above falling out over a piece of well-executed slapstick, give me something with witty word play, political satire—The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or Kate Clinton's new book, What the L?—which allows you to carry Kate around in your pocket and get a little smart-fix or a laugh whenever you need one—and who doesn't, with a bushy Dr. Evil at the country's helm? For instance, Kate, in talking about the powder-puff football hazing ritual at Glenbrook North High School—'Dirty girl-on-girl action, something Clarence Thomas might like in a video. Lord of the Fly Girls.'—makes it all bearable ( or almost ) by putting it in perspective: 'The Powder Puff Girls' story also distracted from the Donald who told the Senate that he needed some itty bitty nuclear weapons to bust bunkers filled with evil-doers. Pentagoners call them mini-nukes and make them sound like baby carrots or tiny corns at the salad bar. At this point, the Hazer in Chief wants to develop the nuke lites, not to use them. Like Lenny just wanting to pet the rabbits. And I mean no insult to Lenny.' Dontcha just love a good Steinbeck joke? That's what happens when an English teacher becomes a comedian. Or when a buffoon becomes president. And I mean no offense to clown ministers. ( Or not much, at least. )
Yvonne Zipter can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or via her Web site, www.yvonnezipter.com .