I’ve never considered myself funny. That’s not an ‘oh-poor-me’ statement, just a boring reference card in a long, skinny library drawer of yore, or maybe yesteryear (personally I prefer yore–don’t really know what it means exactly, but I always picture myself with a horned Viking hat on when I say it). I think I’m observant, definitely weird, in love with minutiae, both interested and terrified in the place where “boundaries” blur, but not funny. Other people seem to think so; my students when I pull out a word like “fugly” to describe progress report grades, my friends when commenting on my Facebook posts, but I figure they’re usually humoring me because they love me.
But I picked up a book this week called Furiously Happy by the Bloggess, Jenny Lawson. She talks about naming a cat The President, her thoughts on granny panties, and her therapist’s plot to unseat her with “invisible” squirrels (which I totally believe by the way Ms. Lawson, if you ever happen to be seeing my teensy star in the blogosphere). She also talks with balls-to-the-wall honesty and grace about what it is like to live followed by mental illness. And while I don’t know that my style would make snot bubbles come out of someone’s nose, I re-read some of my old Facebook stuff last night and thought, “Huh, maybe I am funny.” This of course lead me to wonder about my definition of funny.
I know there a multiple types of humor and I could take a class or read a book to study up, but the thought of that makes me want to stick my tongue out at my own brain. As much as I love to geek out and read my way into a subject, this is not the subject for that. So then I just let my mind wander. Funny: the watermelon smashy guy–Gulliver, or was that Gallagher? maybe Gilligan, who knows, Lucille Ball, Chris Rock, my students when they talk about things like how you might kick one’s eye out, the board game Moods sitting on the floor with my college roommates while drinking Zima or Peppermint Patties, animals with clothes on, people who give animals voices, all things tiny (corn, carrots, silverware, salt and pepper shakers), my teacher friend Molly, and Chelsea Handler (but part of that is because we have the same name and I appreciate someone who is better at putting outfits together than I am).
I didn’t see a common thread in my list so I went back to reading. When I got to the chapter “Pretend You’re Good at it”–sterling advice from her friend Neil Gaiman–it clicked. Maybe my kind of humor is the mixture of relief and surprise when someone is honest, regardless of the subject they’re expressing honesty on. Christmas Eve I was at a collage party, and we sat around snacking after creating when our hostess brought out warm pound cake from the oven. No, you’re not listening, WARM POUND CAKE FROM THE OVEN!! I started walking my fingers across the top of my third slice when I realized everyone was looking at me. I looked around sheepishly,”I was just wishing I could be really tiny and walk around this pound cake.” Everyone blarted out laughing. “Yeah,” I continued, “that’s the kind of shit I used to not say out loud.” But even in saying it, it felt good to say.
This of course leads me to the next rung of my monkey bars, and don’t laugh, because my mind is really blown by this thought: maybe we like “weird”, like it more than we’re willing to admit to ourselves or others. We spend time and money on whatever will connect us to the largest group of accessible people, people that will benefit our emotional and physical health and survival. That forms our definition of what is normal, and if we’re lucky, that group is full of the most awesome kind of weirdos so that weird is our normal. But if we’re not that lucky from the get-go, maybe our eyes wander beyond our safety, looking for a way to make the insides and the outsides more closely match each other. The longer I live, and the more preteens I see right before we squeeze them in the box forever, the more convinced I am that we’re all quite the collage internally. If we didn’t have a certain secret fascination with weirdness, Ms. Lawson would’ve flopped on her face I’m afraid. But she hasn’t…I know because I’ve been internet stalking her today. She has 150,000 followers on Facebook alone. I’ve been on for five years and have 132. This is a rate of 26 a year, approximately. That means, if I’m doing the math correctly, it would take me 5,769 years for me to have as many follower. I’m pretty sure, although not positive, I’ll be dead before then.
What if we liked things that are weird, despite all efforts to the contrary? If so, I am definitely, definitely funny. Maybe I should buy a watermelon smashy hammer or a Viking hat. Not sure yet. Will have to let this new thought sink in a little, stir the Kool-Aid. Stay tuned readers, all three of you, things keep getting interesting.