“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.”
“Comedians don’t have answers. We do have jokes… There’s only so much news you can consume. Your nervous system craves some kind of release from what we’re living through”
Mike Birbiglia, filmmaker
Where are all the “yucks”?
I need scintillating inspiration to fill up my blank page each morning. I turn to the Arts, Lifestyle and Editorial pages of three papers, and look at TV and Google news. I am scavenging for irony, humor, or a touching humanity stories but lately I come up dry. What’s going? Don’t news outlets deal with funny anymore? Is there no demand for sunny upbeat journalism during a pandemic? Are grim disaster stories the only ones in demand? Has our identity politics, the plague and perspective based outlook made all comedy inappropriate?
A 2020 clear-eyed 2020 vision into the future should see more than apocalyptic scenarios. If our vision is the end of civilization it will be very bad for the humor business. How will anyone write smiley-face when the market cries out for grim? If the zeitgeist is so hard-faced in our country, it will promote self-doubt among the chirpy optimist fraternity. With that much angst, what is in store for us? We will start to question ourselves and ask if the Apostles of Grim are right. In that case you are either panicked or apoplectic or you just don’t know what’s going on! Do we humor guys get it? What if this time it is different: Darkness is going to descend upon the land and we’ve come to The End of Times?
This time it’s different?
But that’s unlikely. Seems to me humor is a choice and we can selectively perceive things as funny even in the worst of times. We can wait out the gloom and look beyond. During the endless Vietnam era, body bag counts, anti-war protests, and May Lie Massacre filled the evening news. It went on more than a decade. It was a poor time for humor but that historical perspective gives me cause for optimism. There were still Bob Hope, the Smothers Brothers and others creating yucks. Eventually, the fighting ended and with peace came a yearning for silly humor roared back. Bobby Riggs and Billy Jean King played a gender-charged tennis match which was nothing but humor and kitsch. Comedy had returned. That tennis game could not have been played during the Vietnam war or even today but the time to chuckle will return.
Does insurance cover this?
None too soon: According to studies of gerontology, laughter has contributed to people’s physical and mental health and will continue to do so. Assuming we are not all going over the cliff, then I may ask Blue Cross Blue Shield to reimburse me for the therapeutic humor I offer.