Meanwhile, I managed to win with Funny despite the absence of my adorable baby or any visible plague. Just tales of using Funny as my main coping mechanism, conversation default...and life saver. For those that couldn't make it, or those that could and would like to see the two paragraphs I cut on the fly in order to come in under seven minutes, I have it all here. Huge shout outs to Merrie Greenfield and Scott Pasko for feedback and edits and listening to my ramblings and helping make them into something for other people to listen to. You are the best looking people ever.
Also, Lisa Buscani, Tim Stafford, Nik Gallik, Kait Ziegler, and Ian Belknap were degoddamnedlightful to watch. The whole evening is super swell to be a part of, and I'll happily throw down words for it any time.
On September 11, 2001 - calm down, everyone, I know what my topic is - on that day, I sat at a diner and pushed my food around my plate, watching old men drink beer at 11am because fuck it. We were all in stunned silence, glued to the tv screen and staying downtown against our better judgement.
I got up to go to the bathroom, and spied a comic strip on the wall. Two aliens were congratulating each other on finally eliminating all forms of humor on the planet Earth. Then one farted. They guffawed and one exclaimed, “We’re doomed!” I laughed. Audibly. It was out of place. But the aliens lost. The terrorists didn’t win. Because we still had funny. In that moment, I realized we were anything BUT doomed, because we still had funny. Also, I just said “but”.
Not to be super Jewy or anything, I’m gonna talk about my shrink. Once I had a therapist by the name of Honey Rosenfeld. I said Super Jewy, did I not? She once said to me, in an attempt to get me to dig deeper, “We know you’re funny. It’s time to see what else you are.”
Whaaaat a bitch.
Sure, sure fine. I use humor as a knee jerk reaction to difficult situations rather than taking in the full weight of the thing right then and there for fear that it might crush me entirely and I will be rendered incapable of handling the sheer tragedy, the seriousness, of it all and will be reduced to a crumpled, drooling, mass of skin and bone and post baby and post custard donut fat who understands that her life is a complete failure and she is a phony and everyone everyone everyone fucking knows it. Fine. But you know what? Farts. And probably? Poop.
I was raised on Funny, and told to respect it or be forever humiliated at every meal for not getting the banter. My family, by the way, is full of horrible people.
Last weekend, I accidentally said that my middle sister was experiencing 16 feet of snow in Vermont instead of inches. My oldest sister and I laughed and laughed because, ha ha, everyone in Vermont is now dead.
The first time my brother in law met my family, we all sat upstairs, conspiring how to kill my mother’s wretched boyfriend. Perhaps an air bubble in his insulin? Poison? He suggested a pillow over the face, and was instantly welcomed as one of us.
My father picked us up from school with a duck on his shoulder because...he had a duck.
At work, I cursed aloud before I could stop myself. A co-worker asked if I kiss my mother with that mouth. Without so much as a breath, I said, “No, I kiss YOUR mother with that mouth.”
This is how I operate. Under the blissful functionality of Funny. It is my breath and my goddamned life force. Why? Why not just be stoic and solemn and dependable and be taken seriously by people and NOT...you know...me? Why? Because Funny makes the better memory. It’s no less true than Serious, but it’s the spoonful of sugar on the shit sandwich medicine of tragedy. Example: You’re talking to a doctor because things look grim for a loved one. With me? There is the serious side of this, where it looks SO bad that they start handing you pamphlets on how to deal with loss, but grandma isn’t even dead yet. She’s unconscious. This is awful. And real. And you’re sobbing because you’re confused and sad and scared.There is, however, another side of this that is just as real. The doctor you’re talking to is interrupted by his cell phone ringing. The ringtone begins, “Imagine there’s no Heaven.” He then tells you, by way of explanation, that there’s a thing...called a coma. This ALSO happened. This is ALSO awful. But it’s funny. So that’s the memory you keep at the top of the stack from that day.
If finding Funny in the terrible is bad, then I can tell you that we are all complete wastes of skin. Because we all do it.
Listen to the news for a bit. Just listen to how fucking awful the world is for a moment. How SERIOUS shit can get. And after a while? It gets funny. Whether you want it to or not. And you know what? Thank God. We already know how serious the world is. We know the unrelenting austerity of hunger, of war, of violence and grief. After a certain amount of time, that solemnity gives way to the giggles. If it didn’t, we’d never leave our houses. We’d be too overwrought to turn ourselves over in our sleep, let alone face the day. There’s a certain point, right after the NPR newscaster says, “and once the child armies had eaten most of their enemies, they proceeded to beat one another playfully with the limbs” or “he wore a hooded sweatshirt as pants because it was the only thing that would contain his enormous testicle.” (only one of these is true) There’s a certain point right after those soothing yet awful words come out that you just lose your shit laughing. Because it’s just...so awful. So funny.
The tricky part is that Funny does not appear just because you want it to. You can’t just come up to me and say, “Hey, I hear you’re funny. Say something funny.” That will not get you anything funny. I don’t know you, we haven’t talked. There’s no foreplay. But at a funeral, where NO ONE is asking for Funny, it’s like flies on shit. Or...a...dead person.
By the way, the person that comes up to me and says, “say something funny” is an asshole. Apparently, Ian Belknap is that guy today for giving me this topic. No one likes that guy.
And just so we don’t go thinking I live under some delusion of frivolity, that the world is just hilarious and cancer is the silliest joke God ever told, let me be clear: Funny does the heavy lifting no one else wants. It saved my life more than once. I had a cab driver once tell me about how he used to beat people and leave them for dead. He kept turning around and pointing for emphasis, and something told me that it wasn’t all past tense. I told him to be careful - I might be packing and would kill him in an instant. He laughed his ass off, and the rest of the ride was quiet. Sure, I had him drop me off a few blocks away form my destination because telling jokes doesn’t make me DUMB, but hey...I’m alive, thank you Funny.
I’m willing to bet that Funny got most everyone here laid at one point in their lives. Let’s be honest, as good looking as all of you are, I’m gonna guess an icebreaker joke helped to drop some pants for you. It wasn’t your stoic demeanor. Trust. When trying to get laid, never go with Serious. You’ll end up with bad poetry. Or a restraining order.
So yes. I know that I am many things other than Funny, thank you Ms. Rosenfeld, but it’s staying at the top of my roster. I’ll be damned if I am going to disassociate myself from the thing that made 9/11 tolerable, acted as a conduit for family communication, saved my goddamned LIFE, and got me laid. What has serious done for you? It probably grounded you for a week, told you about your clogged arteries, shushed you in class, and killed all of your erections. No one has a friend as good as Funny has been to us all. Serious? We all have that friend. But we didn’t bring him tonight. Because fuck that guy. He isn’t funny.