Grasping for Funny

Posted: April 18, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

When I was in third grade, I made a new friend in class named Ryan. Given that I was in the same school system K-12, many of the faces stayed the same throughout the years, and Ryan was no different. However, like many kids, just because we knew of each other didn’t mean we were friends. When we did become friends, Ryan invited me to come hang out with him and his already established group of friends on the playground during recess.

The group was standing in a circle waiting for us. Ryan brought me over to them and promptly introduced me by saying, “Everybody, this is Paul. He’s funny!”

Everyone turned and stared at me.

The introduction was flattering, but what was I supposed to do now? Talk about creating immediate expectations. So, I pulled a microphone out of my back pocket, turned it on, and started with, “So, what’s the deal with the cafeteria food….”

Okay, I actually just said, “Hey,” and received a mumbled chorus of “Hey” in return.

How spectacularly anticlimactic. The group had to be disappointed, like buying tickets to see Louis C.K. and instead getting Carrot Top. I didn’t know I was going to be introduced like that, though! I didn’t know I was supposed to have material ready! I wish I had the perfect thing to say that would have made everyone in the circle laugh.

And this story comes to mind because of what happened in Boston on Monday.

A couple weeks ago, I told my esteemed colleague and “Father of the Flaneur’s Turtle” Michael Stelzer Jocks that when it comes to the Turtle, he is the intellectual counterbalance to my idiocy. In his posts, he explores history, delves into psychology, compares and contrasts cultures; I make jokes about Easter candy.

However, the eclectic nature of The Flaneur’s Turtle  is one of its strong suits. The authors are not many faces with one voice; we are all individuals with our own interests, personalities, and writing styles. Consequently, each author has a different role. My students have told me I fill the role of “hopeless romantic” or “comedian” depending on the post.

Today, I’m sort of a hopeless comedian. Like everyone else, I find what happened in Boston to be horribly sad and deeply tragic, and I feel an additional touch of kinship with all of the victims and families because of my obsession with running.

But, I am terrible at comforting people during grief, loss, and hardships. I don’t know what to say, and even if I do, I say it wrong. And I could try to be intellectual about a tragic event like this, just as Michael was in his last post, but he’s smarter than me and I can’t pull that off.

However, I can occasionally make people laugh. So, I set out to write a diversionary post. During bad times, I don’t want to laugh in order to hide from reality or diminish the significance of what has happened; I merely want to provide some momentary escapist entertainment. During races, there are water stations along the way for the runners. The stations aren’t meant to be places where runners stop and quit, but rather where they get a boost as they carry on with their struggle. At times like this, I like laughter to be the water station. We can all acknowledge there is a long road ahead and more hard times to deal with, but we can use a little boost to help us along.

Unfortunately, sometimes I find myself grasping for funny, having nothing witty to say, no water to offer, and no clever one-liners to impress the gathered circle.

 

 

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