April 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
A: To gain enough of an audience to get the attention of a literary agent who can sell his manuscript to a major publishing house with a big enough promotional budget to ensure his literary debut will be the first stoner comedy to ever win a Pulitzer.
This answer works as a punchline because it is both true (agents can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org) and absurd (Is the best way to get someone to look at the concentrated result of three years of studious craftsmanship, searching thought, and careful revision really blanketing the internet with every half-assed theory I get while watching Trailer Park Boys with a bong in my lap?).
The shorter, less pathetic (and therefore less funny) answer is that I keep on having half-decent insights into the nature of humor and don’t know what else to do with them. I’d love to write an academic essay or a book-length meditation on the funny but, thankfully, day after day I find enough inspiration to keep me busy on my fiction. After 8 hours working grocery at Whole Foods and 3 more working on a novel at the library, serious critical writing sounds impossible: I just want to relax on the couch and be entertained.
Interestingly, as I’ve grown into an adult, I’ve found my taste in entertainment growing more juvenile. As a teenager and mid-twenties man-child, I loved self-serious art films and cerebral dramas–but as I’ve become more intimate with physical falterings, the responsibilities of romance, and dead-ended dreams, I find I’d much rather watch someone fall off a chair and/or fart.
I am certain, though, this trend is not simply a desire for diversion from increasingly-unavoidable problems: two of the TV shows I’ve most enjoyed over the past year, Party Down and Bored to Death, have been about struggling artists coming to terms with fading chances at success, and I think I find them most satisfying because I feel like they are making fun of me. Or better: making light of my situation, forcing me to realize my burdens aren’t as heavy as they seem.
The first step in any twelve-step is admitting the problem; the diagnosis precedes the cure: humor makes us acknowledge our pains in a way that makes them instantly more bearable, healing our lives by bring us deeper into them.
This is one of the insights I want to share and explore with this blog because, without anywhere to record it, it will surely be accidentally exhaled tomorrow, making room for the next big bong-rip revelation.
The Oldest Jokes in the World, then, will be my attempt to collect my ideas on the nature of humor, it’s relation to seriousness and to the truth, and it’s ability to heal and enrich our lives. I plan to post at least once a week, on Mondays, with some sketchy thought such as this, hopefully adding a fun example of the theories in practice for a second post later in the week. While most of my examples will probably come from literary fiction—since this is my area of practice (and, in my opinion, an endeavor in need of more humor)—I also hope to look at humorous moments in TV shows, movies, comics, and rap music to build towards some sort of universal theory or ethic of humor.