Saturday, February 20, 2010

Learning When to Laugh

I love stand-up comedy. I can't tell you how many times Eddie Murphy has cracked me up... “You don't got no ice cream.” I grew up with no ice cream and I could still laugh at that skit. And Damon Wayans describing his cheese-eating math teacher... ROTF LMBO.

I could have been a comedian. And I might have if only I hadn’t been so slim. (Oh, come on, you know there is a weight requirement when it comes to being a successful girl stand-up comedian.)

I love to laugh. And I am my favorite target. I make jokes about things that were hilariously embarrassing, scary, or painful only a few years (weeks, hours) ago. I make jokes about my marriage, my sex life, my weaknesses, my crazy childhood, my colorful pre-Jesus years...

Because laughter is therapy... it feels good. Laughter heals.

But not when it’s ugly... like the time I was in the back seat of a car with a friend-of-a-friend driving... and it was raining and there was an obese girl walking down the sidewalk. The driver deliberately drove faster into a large puddle alongside her and splashed her with the muddy water. The guys up front laughed like hyenas. I was horrified. Ha ha ha, not funny.

I pink slip people who make fun of others in a cruel or demeaning kind of way. I consider it a fatal character flaw, and with all the people I can choose to spend time with why would I pick someone who gets a belly laugh out of humiliating someone else?

Yeah, I knew when to laugh and when not to. Then Kimani was born and the line shifted.

Damon Wayans doing “Handi-Man” isn’t quite so funny anymore. And yet, one night when my husband and I were talking about Kimani having Down syndrome I said to him with a grin, “Last one out’s a rotten egg.” And then I burst out laughing (and ended up crying. It was all a little raw still.)

If you made that joke I’d wipe the mud off me and hand you your walking papers. Is that fair? She’s my kid, she’s my egg... it was my guilt. So yeah, it’s ok that I could make that joke. (And it's ok if you laughed at it, or gasped and said, "That's horrible.")

I hope Kimani inherited my sense of humor. I hope she learns when to laugh. I hope when she hears a joke about squeezing her pet rabbit to death... that she gets it, and that she cracks up over it.

(And, I am already proud to know that she will never get her laughs by hurting someone else.)


DownTownDan said...

I had totally forgotten about Handi-Man. Thankfully I never thought Handi-Man was funny - it made me cringe. I'm glad I wasn't mean to people with disabilities and never took any pleasure in that sort of humor, because it's a guilt trip I don't have to take. But we have all laughed at something in our lives that we now know wasn't funny. I still remember my mom making a "short bus" reference when I was a kid, and then laughingly explaining to me what a "short bus" was. I don't know why I remember that, but I do. She would be mortified to know that I remember that.

But your "rotten egg" joke doesn't compare to these things, because it comes from an entirely different place. It comes from somewhere dark and terrifying and overwhelming. It stems from a suffocating, powerless feeling. It's the sort of little release that prevents your mind from breaking, and so it is easily forgiven.

It also helps that the joke is devilishly funny. Maybe you should have been a comedian.

one_plustwins said...

I can totally relate to the rotten egg. See my joke goes more like this. Someone asks, "Does twins run in your family"? To which I reply, "Um, NOPE. I'm just the crazy chick that laid two eggs. One of them was loaded".

I remember Handi-Man and for some reason, I never found him funny. Now, Homey the Clown? That dude was funny but Eddie and his "you don't have no ice cream cuz you on welfare and you can't afford it..." that is seriously funny. I grew up broker than broke and loved government cheese. You bet your bottom dollar I would laugh at that one! ;P

Grizzly Bear said...

I love to laugh. As I get older somethings I dont find so funny anymore. I forgot about that character but like the comment before me HOMEY the clown hilarious! Loved that character.

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