If You Laugh at Different Comics…

…If you root for different teams,
Waste no time, weep no more,
Show him what the door is for.
Rub him out of the roll call
And drum him out of your dreams.

Oscar Hammerstein II, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair”, South Pacific (1949)

Dearest Rachel –

I mentioned before about the fact that there are so many potential pitfalls as one tries to reconstruct a relationship from scratch. The fact is – and it’s so much more pronounced as we get older and build up an archive of life experience that the other person has had no familiarity with – each of you are not tabulas rasa, but rather a collection of memories and preferences that by their very nature won’t always mesh with each other. And the two of you are left to decide where to adjust… and when to just give up, presumably before committing to a permanent relationship (and before doing anything salacious that would force such an issue).

In that letter, I talked about some of the biggest deal-breakers I could think of, before I realized that the topic was getting waaaay to big for one letter. So, I’m back with another collection of possible topics that might seem trivial and insignificant in comparison, but let’s face it, are just as likely to push some folks over the edge as the Big Issues.

Might as well start with the above lyrics…

Comedy. Given that no one reads the funny pages like you hoped to (not even you, for that matter), the original meaning of this line is probably something of a moot point. Whether someone prefers Peanuts or Dick Tracy (or even knows what either of those are, at this point) is probably hardly an issue anymore. There are plenty of comic strips out here on the web, to be sure (and you might recall a few of my favorites), but it was never much of a big deal between us – and it wasn’t as if you read any of them, let alone enjoyed different ones than I. But the term ‘comics’ also has a whole other meaning, and one that pretty much covers the entirety of one’s sense of humor.

It wasn’t that long ago that most television comedy shows were based on the stylings of one stand-up comedian (or, if you prefer, ‘comic’) or another. From ‘Uncle’ Milton Berle on Texaco Star Theatre and Sid Caesar’s ‘Your Show of Shows,’ to Jackie Gleason in ‘The Honeymooners’ – all of which were before my time, and known to me only either by reputation or reruns – to Bob Newhart’s buttoned-down mind and multiple acting credits, to Robin Williams’ closest thing to an alien a human could ever portray, to that relatable father figure – whose one TV daughter was unpersoned for playing a voodoo-crazed slut in some obscure movie, but it’s the comic playing the dad character that turned out to be the real-life sleaze, ruining all the truly funny stuff he’d ever said before – to the guy who literally incorporated his stand-up act into his (then groundbreaking, now copied so much that it’s not really all that funny these days) ‘show about nothing,’ to any number of “The So-And-So Show,” everything was a vehicle for the star comedian, and whatever his schtick was.

Currently, there’s this fellow Dave Chappelle who’s been making waves (apparently for a second time, as he had one of those “So-And-So Show”s over a decade ago), but apart from the memes…

…I don’t know that much about his material, and I’m not entirely sure I would necessarily want to.

Fortunately, it’s apparently not necessary to be familiar with it in order to have an opinion on him:

Which also brings up one of the things about comedy; in a lot of cases, someone’s gonna be offended. In fact, that’s often the point of comedy – you mock something you think is stupid or foolish… which means someone who takes it seriously is gonna be offended. If the two of you are on opposite sides of a joke, that could be a problem. And if it happens too often… maybe you’d best get out of the relationship… before something ‘funny’ happens.

Of course, there are other sources of humor that could prove to be a bone of contention as well. You might remember that one couple who seemed to turn up on various truTV clips – alternately World’s Dumbest and Most Daring/Shocking – because they would not stop pranking each other. From dumping flour on one in the bathtub, to greasing the bathroom floor while the other was showering, to rewiring the remote to turn the television off during a playoff game, to convincing the other to participate in the Cinnamon Challenge (which would be bad enough without substituting cayenne pepper in her spoonful), these two were relentlessly brutal to each other, but “it’s all just a joke.” Of course, it may have been all for the internet karma and the views on television, so perhaps, to borrow a phrase from our Lord, “they have their reward in full.” But that brand of humor seems to be an acquired taste, and a rare one at that, and not something to celebrate finding in potential mate. Although, if you’re into that, who am I to kink shame? Not for me, though.

And let’s not forget about the bottom of the totem pole, the pun. Combine it with a soupçon of hyperliteralism (“Did you take a bath today?” “Why, is there one missing?”) and you arrive at a level of humor so basic, anybody’s dad can do it – usually, like a scientist, without thinking about whether or not he should. It’s gotten to the point that they’re actually called “dad jokes,” and how you feel about them could just as easily pose a problem in one’s relationship as any other form of humor. Here, I believe there ought to be a little give and take; if your girl wants to take a swing at this form of humor, let her. Sauce for the goose, after all.

Still, a little acknowledgement is in order from time to time. You might remember that I would occasionally admonish you (and I’ll still needle Erin or Ellen from time to time) that you hadn’t the ‘equipment’ (nor offspring, in the girls’ case) to be telling jokes like that – usually, right after you had surprised me with a fairly good example of a dad joke. And just the other day, after ordering a smoothie from Daniel’s favorite place, I asked the clerk to hold the strawberries from the mixture, to which the guy asked (without so much as a beat), “In my hand?” all while holding a hand, palm upward, to illustrate the punchline.

I promptly congratulated him on his girlfriend’s pregnancy, given his proficiency with his repartee. It took him a moment to get it.

Huh. I was going to go on about all sorts of other relationship stumbling blocks, but at ths point, I think I’m running out of both space and time again. Why, I haven’t even touched on “rooting for different teams,” and that can get into holy war territory, as you could recall from observation. I guess that will have to wait for further installments.

Until then, honey, keep an eye on us. Love ya!

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

3 thoughts on “If You Laugh at Different Comics…

  1. I sometimes think comedy is for more for an audience who are willing to allow the comedians a break and themselves a break from being sensitive and aware for half an hour.
    My Goldfinch took me to a comedy show once, and although some parts were very funny, I must admit I found it difficult that some of what he said came across as offensive. However, he was dishing out comedy insults liberally in lots of directions, his own neighbours, cats – all cats, the audience, before he started to mention particular ethnic groups. I felt trapped because I was sitting in the seat furthest away from the door, and the audience was tightly packed together. There was no discreet departure possible. I would have had to climb over two rows in front of me, walk across the stage and then walk across peoples heads/shoulders to get to the exit. I had to sit and cringe instead. Weird experience. I realized why I don’t go to stand up comedy shows!

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    1. Well, that’s quite true; comedy, especially stand-up, is designed to poke fun at the foibles of society. The best comedy, like the best sermons, ought ‘to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.’ Not all of them succeed, just like not all stand-up comics are objectively good. I’m sorry you had such a bad time at the show you went to, but that’s the sort of thing that proves my point; if your Goldfinch enjoyed it immensely while you were squirming in your seat the whole time, that might say something about your relationship – or at least, the differences between the two of you. Now, everyone is different in their tastes; that’s understood. You have to weigh for yourself whether this is truly an issue worth dying on – or at least, killing the relationship.

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      1. I knew from the start that he and I were on a different wavelength in some areas. But he was so wonderful. It was over two years after I was attacked that I met Goldfinch. At that point I was so scared of men, I did not think I could ever fall in love. But Goldfinch was wonderful. I loved my time with him, and he was so so good for me. But of course, he was going to go back to Australia when his visa expired. I knew that from the start. Not that it was easy, because I loved him.

        But a year later, when Jack came back into my life, I knew that Jack and I are on the same wavelength with so many things. They are two very different men. Goldfinch came along at the right time and helped me a very difficult time, but I think I knew from the start that we were different in some key ways. Jack – I did not have to think a long time, because I knew him so well already.

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