If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a couple of days, you’ve probably noticed a common theme – humor. Not in the sense that I make you laugh till you shoot milk out your nose, though I do think I’ve nailed a few good lines along the way. But I’m a firm believer that one of the most important ingredients in physical and mental well-being is a healthy sense of humor.
It’s okay to laugh – those are words you’ll hear from me a lot. All too often, we hold laughter inside, denying ourselves and others the instant pleasure it brings. Are there things we shouldn’t laugh about? Sure. Laughing at somebody else’s pain, or in a way that causes them distress, isn’t good for anyone. And there are times when something is just too funny to ignore, but we need to hold it in for a more appropriate time.
But for every one of those times, we pass up dozens of potential laughs because we put on the blinders and fail to see the humor that is all around us. Take signs, for instance. Unless you live in a desert, they’re everywhere. And some are just plain silly. One I’ll never forget was on I-295 at the north end of Jacksonville, Florida. It was a state highway sign that read, “Caution – Pavement Wet When Raining”. Really? Wet pavement? I’ve often wondered how much money they spent coming up with that little bit of insight. Worse yet, how many times did they edit before they came up with the final draft?
A few years ago I was driving down I-65 through southern Kentucky and saw another gem. This one read, “Used Cows For Sale”. Okay, maybe it’s just me. After all, I get paid to find the humor in everyday situations, so maybe I have an unfair advantage. That or a juvenile mind. But used cows? Exactly what does that infer? And, considering the stereotypes associated with that part of the country, I’m not sure I really want to know.
Granted, these are not what most of us would consider comedy gold. They’re good for a chuckle, maybe a short laugh. But those little laughs add up. In fact, three or four chuckles are about equal to one good belly laugh, and we all know how hard those are to come by. Or are they?
My mother-in-law lives with us, and she’s suffering from advanced dementia. A few nights ago my grandson was visiting, and she wasn’t really happy about it. She made a few comments that he took to heart, and he asked my wife why Nana doesn’t like him. My wife tried to play it down by telling him that she came from a family where kids weren’t necessarily welcome in a room full of adults. She also pointed out how my mother-in-law reacts when he brings his dog in the house – she can’t stand animals.
I’m not sure how that last one fit the situation, but somehow he understood. Finally he looked at my wife and said, “Well did they have pets then?” My wife asked what he meant, and he repeated the question with a little more detail. “Back when she was growing up, did people have pets?” I about fell over. It’s like, “Yeah, but they were dinosaurs!”
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. To find the humor in life, we have to look at the world through the eyes of a child. To me, my mother-in-law is old, but at 53 I know I’m not all that far behind her. But to my 10 year-old grandson, she’s ancient. And in that innocent little question, I could picture the thoughts that must have been going through his mind.
And it raises the question of when did wild animals first become pets? Who decided that a dog would make a good house pet, but an alligator wouldn’t? Odds are, a few fingers were lost in that process. But if you listen to kids, they ask a lot of questions that can cause you to scratch your head. And anything that causes you to scratch your head opens possibilities, and some of them are downright funny. All you have to do is ask yourself, “What if?”
In my old humor column, I explored the history of milk and its many by-products. Okay, not the official history. It’s probably pretty boring, so I created my own version. I assume somebody watched calves getting their daily nutrition, and decided if it makes a calf grow, maybe it’ll make us grow as well. Hopefully they didn’t imitate a dog’s behavior, because dogs can do some pretty disgusting things. But let’s not go there.
I imagine the first recipients of milk got it the hard way. But after a little neck strain, they decided it might be better to use a bucket. Not long after that, they found out that milk doesn’t keep too well in direct sunlight. Hence the discovery of cottage cheese. And here’s the really bad part – somebody ate it!
Think about it. At some point in history, a farmer walked into the barn to retrieve a bucket of milk from the day before, and discovered a churning blob of bacteria with a smell that would make a catfish vomit. Halfway to the outhouse, holding the bucket at arm’s length, he had a thought – no, a revelation … “Hmmm, strain that through a sock, and I bet it would taste GREAT on a hamburger!”
Okay, have I taken you so far from reality that you’re ready to open a bottle of bourbon and have me committed to an asylum? That’s okay. Maybe I am a little off. I think Jimmy Buffett said it best when he sang, “If we weren’t crazy we’d all go insane.” There’s a lot of truth in those words.
The thing is, when we learn to look at the world as a child, we throw aside our preconceived ideas about life and allow ourselves to ask “What if?” And in those moments, two things happen. First and foremost, we challenge those long-held beliefs that keep our brain in a box and stifle the imagination. Every modern convenience we enjoy in life, every medical miracle, every bit of technology, they all came from those two words. “What if?”
The other thing that happens is we free our mind to explore the absurd and find the humor along the way. People always ask where I come up with material for my shows. And the truth is, comedy is all around you. All you have to do is look at the world with a different set of eyes. So take off the blinders and have some fun. And if you come across anything you just can’t keep to yourself, then share it with me!
Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon