Saturday, October 9, 2010


This is a follow-up to the post I wrote on June 22, So You Think That's Funny,
Do You?
In that piece, I wrote that the title came from what someone in authority might say to you when you are being funny at inappropriate times or in inappropriate places. More recently, I found a similar perspective on humor from one of my favorite mystery novelists, Anne Perry. I have long asserted that reading fiction is a vital as reading nonfiction in gaining an understanding of who we are and what our higher purpose might be. This is because many novelists have a unique perspective on the human condition and are often as well qualified as psychologists or philosophers in those respective fields of intellectual awareness.

When I was in prison, I kept a school composition notebook that I filled with quotes that moved or inspired or informed me from the hundreds of books, mostly novels, that I read during my incarceration--a total of about 1000 in nearly 12 years. And the quotes from novels are just as insightful as any from self-help and spiritual books, if not more so. I wrote about this in a recent post on my prosperity blog:

Anyway, here is Anne Perry's comment on humor:

"I have come to believe that a sense of humor is almost the same thing as a sense of proportion. It is the absurdity of disproportion which makes us laugh. There is something innately funny in punctured self-importance, in the positioning side by side of that which is incongruous. If everything in the world were suitable, appropriate, it would be unbearably tedious. Without laughter, something in life is lost. Sanity, perhaps."

Upon reading this, I was immediately reminded of how little humor is present in today's political discourse. Especially the self-deprecating humor famously demonstrated by such consummate politicians as Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan.

From Lincoln: "If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?"

From JFK: "Mr. Nixon in the last seven days has called me an economic ignoramus, a Pied Piper, and all the rest. I've just confined myself to calling him a Republican, but he says that is getting low."

From Reagan: "Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."

There does seem to be something unbearably tedious going on in politics today, and maybe some sanity has been lost as a result of it all being so very serious.

I sometimes wonder how some politicians can say what they do with a straight face. Like California's Republican candidate for governor, Meg Whitman, talking about how she is going to bring fiscal responsibility if elected, while spending $110 million of her own money in the campaign. Doesn't she see the humor in that?

And I do think about such quirky ideas as whether she would have made more of an impact if she took that money and helped a few thousand homeowners in foreclosure keep their homes.

On the other hand, politicians taking themselves so seriously provide a treasure trove of material for comedy writers and comedians. As you probably know, one of the things I do to keep my sense of humor fired up and creative energy stimulated is write gags for several major cartoonists. One I recently turned out:

Scene: Aide to politician.

Caption: "Good news, Senator. The judge has agreed to combine your swearing-in ceremony with your plea bargain hearing."

Have funny,


(by the way, I also recently wrote a piece on humor for my prosperity blog, which you can check out at: MoneyFun. Stop Taking Prosperity So Seriously!)

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