Thursday, October 6, 2011

Life is Funny

When I was in college a very dear friend of mine used to say to me almost every day, "Gump, make me laugh."  (My nickname in college was Gump, long boring story, don't ask; but let me add that this was eons before Forrest of the Same Surname appeared.) Anyroad, I would always try.  And if I couldn't make Lee Ann laugh, I felt bad. 

The point of this quasi-maudlin and boring bit of ancient history is that making people laugh is really, really important to me.  Like chefs crave you savoring their food, musicians sing their heart for you,   and politicians do everything in their power to get you to despise them, I feel driven to make people laugh and if they don't think I'm funny, I feel like I've let the Universe down.   But the thing about being funny is that is has to be organic.  Don't ask me to tell a joke.  I can't remember jokes any more than I can remember any of the ten years of French I took.  Plus there is a cheesy kind of theatricality with joke telling that embarrasses me.  I feel like I should be on a small, poorly lit stage, entertaining the local Hadassah Chapter and ending every set with, "Thank you, I'll be here all week-try the veal."  (or "try the pork chops", which would actually be funny.)  No, I like the type of humor where a situation spontaneously spawns a punchline.  That sentence seems wrong somehow, but I hope you get my drift.  These "jokes" are rarely funny out of context and often seem sad or pathetic if I try to repeat them.  Which I do anyway, wherein people smile politely and nod and slowly back away from me. 

I would like to point out that "Being Funny" (copyright pending) has nothing to do with acting in a comedy or doing improv.  In the former the lines are already written for me and in the latter I have the incredible luck/fortune/blessing of working with the most amazingly funny people I have ever known, who support me and make me look funny even when I'm not.  In both plays and improv, all I have to do is pick out the gems from the treasure chest of comedy I'm offered.  Fun and (usually) rewarding but not compulsive.

Like Being Funny is.  It has gotten me in trouble more times than I can remember.  At one point in my life (a low one), I was in Sales.  A bad idea.  I had to do a lot of cold calls (an even worse idea) and I was shaking the hand of a prospective client when he apologized for his hands being cold.  Without thinking (obviously) I said, "Oh, well, cold hands, warm heart!" which was inappropriate and glib and killed the sale.  Yay.  I'm sure there are other examples, but thankfully my conscious has blocked them out.  If there is a joke out there, I will make it and suffer the consequences.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Lee Ann, if you're still out there, thanks for the vote of confidence that I could always make you laugh.  I tried.  And the veal is delicious.

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