“I guess there’s gonna be a 12-way tie for Best Supporting Actor this year…” -anon comedian
Anyone who has read me for any length of time knows that I don’t pull punches, I say what is on my mind, and I’m always one of the first to attempt to wring humor from the darkest, bleakest tragedies. When a celebrity dies, I interview him or her, sometimes within hours of the news breaking.
“Ah, it’s the old “shoot a hole in the bottom of the popcorn bucket” trick.” -me
On October 28, 2009, a 15-year old girl was the victim of a gang rape that was witnessed by a large audience who didn’t do anything to help her, not even call the police. On October 29, 2009, I published this post that belittled those unwilling to lift a finger to help. The comments are mixed, with many people acknowledging that what I wrote was just a different way to bring dialogue to a terrible situation, and others being unwilling to look past their own anger and grief to consider that humor has its place in every aspect of life.
“That’s why I only watch gay movies. This shit would have never happened at Magic Mike…” -anon comedian
In a private Facebook group to which I belong that is comprised solely of comedians in the Central Florida area, I posted a challenge for those who were interested: comment with any comedic commentary that they might have on the recent shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at the screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” that left 12 dead and 58 injured. Some of the comedians participated, myself included, and you’ll see a few of their lines (edited for content and/or grammar), along with mine, throughout this post. But others declared it TOO SOON and NOT FUNNY and SOME THINGS ARE NEVER FUNNY.
Bullshit. There is no such thing as “too soon”, in the proper context. Would I go up to a relative or friend of the victim or even anywhere in the vicinity of Aurora and try to make them laugh? No, unless they were a very close friend – someone who I knew so well that I knew what they needed to get through this. But otherwise? Humor is how I react to terrible situations. It’s how I deal with life, and it’s what many people need, whether or not they’re emotionally affected by a tragedy that may or may not have a personal connection to them.
“This was like 9/11 for nerds.” -me
I’m going to tell you a story that only a few people know. I had a friend named Chris, and he and his wife would come over to our house for game night when I was married. Chris would drink a lot of wine, and just get more inebriated and more hilarious as the night progressed. During one game night, as my phone continued to get texts loudly, Chris would follow each loud DING! with “Ding! Fries are done!” and he continued to do that with every text until it was stuck in all of our heads. Every time we would hear that DING!, each of us would think “Ding! Fries are done!” and then silently damn Chris for that.
“Gunshots – the only thing louder than black people in a movie theater.” -anon comedian
A few months after this happened, Chris died, the victim of a car accident while he was riding his bike. I sat with his family at the hospital. I held his mother’s hand while she looked at his body. And when I rode to the wake with two of the friends who had always been there at game night, we sat in awkward uncomfortable silence, completely in shock of how quickly his life was taken. And then I got a text.
We looked at each other, and I said, “Ding. Chris is dead.” And the laughter that followed was cathartic, it was emotional, and it was necessary. Even today, when I get a text message, it reminds us to laugh a little, to live a little, and to remember Chris. And while I’d like to think that Chris is somewhere that he can witness this and he approves, it doesn’t matter if he does. This was for us.
“The real tragedy? 25.99 for a small popcorn and a drink.” -anon comedian
One of the participants in the Batman thread posted a link to an article in Psychology Today that I found interesting. One quote in particular seemed appropriate:
“. . . some psychologists classify humor as one of the “mature” defense mechanisms we invoke to guard ourselves against overwhelming anxiety . . . being able to laugh at traumatic events in our own lives doesn’t cause us to ignore them, but instead seems to prepare us to endure them.”
Humor helps us realize that everything is going to be okay. That no matter how bad and bleak things may be, there will be recovery and survival. That even death and loss are surmountable by those who remain. That we’re strong enough to get back up and continue moving.
“Don’t you hate how sticky the floors of movie theaters get?” -me
For thirty years, my mother has worked elbow deep in people’s chests, helping to artificially stitch together hearts and the organs we need to survive. Some people come out alive, some die for no reason. And a morbidly dark sense of humor is how she has always coped. When I was nine years old, the Challenger exploded, and the next day, as we were all reeling from the shock, she told me the jokes – the ones you all know.
Those of us who take solace in morbid humor do so instinctively. It’s in our makeup – it’s who we are. We do this not to laugh at the victims or to mock the emotions of those close to them, but to proclaim to the universe, “Bring it on! I can take whatever you’ve got!”
“Couldn’t he have waited until next week when “Step Up Revolution” premieres?” -anon comedian
I’ve been accused of being callous, of being incapable of feeling empathy, of being heartless and a terrible person. I’ve had comedians who do impressions of cancer patients and mentally challenged people tell me that I’m in the wrong. That some things aren’t funny. I’ve been told that the fact that I posted that in a private forum shows that I don’t agree that there is humor in everything.
I’ve had other comedians tell me that they hope members of my own family get raped because of the words I said. I’m okay with that (not raping, obviously – but if you want to have consensual sex with the members of my family, go ahead) – people deal with emotions in different ways. Some people shut down, others lash out. Some people get irrationally angry, and some just want to blame every contributing factor. You’ll find people who won’t talk about it and those who cry just thinking about it. Everyone has some way of dealing with life and the ups and downs that it brings.
“It’s amazing how realistic 3D effects have gotten recently.” -me
Me? I make jokes.