The secret of survival is comedy, no kidding
The Column: 03.18.22
Someone named “Someone” has forwarded me a link to an ad, “How To Lift Sagging Jowls” and of course I’m grateful for their interest in my face, which is a grim face thanks to my evangelical upbringing and which led me to have a long happy career in radio rather than as a Sears Roebuck catalog model, but none of this matters whatsoever in the world we live in, with a mad religious zealot armed with nuclear weapons as glaciers melting and the Amazon forests vanishing and my generation bearing heavy responsibility and here we sit staring helplessly at the news of Ukraine and we have no reassurance to offer our grandchildren, which is an old man’s job, to comfort distressed children, and having none, I believe in comedy even more.
My daughter calls and says, “Make me laugh,” and I do. It’s the best I have to offer. Politics has no leverage at all. Two parties, divided fifty-fifty, one is naïve and inward-looking and the other is demented and owned by a man who’s in politics only so he can monetize it, so the best thing we can do is tell jokes.
So I hang out with funny people, such as my wife. After all these years of marriage, we are still quite fond of each other, especially since neither of us has a contagious disease, which permits occasional physical contact. Humor is a fine reason to marry: sex can be found in books, housekeepers can be hired or you can live in motels, but the ability to make the loved one laugh is what, back when there was Latin, we called a “sine qua non.” Many men are hitched to women with the comic sensibility of a post office clerk in December. Mine is a master of feigned disgust, the raised eyebrow, the double take (“What did you say?”), and her timing — timing is at the heart of comedy — is exquisite. When I hear her say, “Have you put in your eyedrops today?” her timing makes me laugh so hard I weep and so the dry eye syndrome affects me not. If any of my previous wives had said it, it would’ve scorched, but she does it as comedy. And what makes it comedy? The audience. Me. I am now old enough to distinguish comedy from aggression and it’s all comedy.
The truth is that life gets funnier as you get old. This is nothing that gerontologists told us to expect. They warned about distress and decay, but decadence can be highly amusing — look at the Romans, not Paul’s epistle but the actual Romans with togas back when they gave up the virtue of farming for the vice of gluttony and got so rotund that the armor they carried weighed more than they did and they sank to the ground, but it was fun right up to when they were punctured by the Vikings who let the gas out of them, pffffffffffffffft, and it was goodbye Ovid and hello Ole. This is history, you should look it up sometime.
Sometimes, when she rises in the morning, my wife looks forlorn and I am tempted to say something of a humorous nature such as the one about the two penguins on the ice floe, one of whom says, “You look like you’re wearing a tuxedo,” and the other says, “What makes you think I’m not?” which is a favorite of mine but she doesn’t understand although I’ve gone to great lengths to explain it, but something tells me to avoid humor in the early morning. I also restrain myself when my beloved prepares healthy and nutritious meals made from carrots and chickpeas and other things that grow on plants, without anything that trots around on little legs. I take a bite and swallow and keep it down and say, “Wow. This is different.” “Different from what?” she says. “Roasted pig butts?” And then I hear a delicate sound, like a mouse clearing its throat, and I smell natural gas, very natural, and we each think, “Was that you or was that me?” and we collapse in chortles. I know it sounds silly, and it is, and at my age and with the world falling apart, immaturity is a great asset. I recommend it to you but don’t take my wife, she is my sanity. She has the answers to questions I haven’t thought of yet.