I was recently walking through the public square, and I was suddenly struck by a profound absence of laughter. I turned to my friend and asked, “Is it just me? Or have we lost our humor lately?”
He looked at me with a blank stare and replied, “I think it’s just you, dummy!” And that made me smile. Thank goodness for good friends! But I wasn’t sure that he was right, so I decided to dig a little deeper; because from what I could see, nobody out here is laughing very much.
So I went to visit a renowned Humorologist, who asked to remain anonymous, and he pulled out numerous charts and graphs to help explain this phenomena. For decades, apparently, there has been a steady decline in the volume of jokes, jests, wisecracks and witticisms in the public arena; and comedy has been largely replaced by accusations, attacks and offense.
This erudite Comeditician went on to explain to me that in recent years there has been a dramatic reduction in the range of our natural comedic habitat. This has occurred throughout much of the world, but particularly within our own country’s borders. Sadly, the rapid expansion of invasive species, such as intolerance, narrow-mindedness, fear and pride, have been choking comedy out of our natural landscape. And it is this sudden and extreme loss of habitat which has led to a precipitous decline in the numbers of comedians in our land. Of those who remain, most are in hiding, and some even fear for their lives. Imagine that!
Shocked by this revelation of his, I replied I couldn’t quite believe that it has come to this. Surely, people wouldn’t resort to violence over a simple joke! To which, he replied with the following anecdote to illustrate his point:
“For instance,” he said. “Not long ago it was recorded in The Sadtown Gazette, that one resident, a young woman by the name of Samantha Badcandy of Joyless MN, that one day while taking a walk, she sighted a White-Breasted Jester, (among the last ever to be seen in that part of the country). Apparently, it made several quips about the weather, which made her chuckle, but then when it accidentally made a spicy observation about her figure, she quickly took offence, pulled out a rifle, and shot it dead. It was believed to have been the last of its kind in Minnesota. When asked why she killed the creature, she replied, ‘Some things just aren’t funny!'”
“Comedians have it very tough nowadays, as their habitat dwindles, and their food supplies become scarcer,” the Historian of histrionics continued. “Comedy needs good-naturedness, openness, and humility in order to flourish. But these are in short supply nowadays. Today, true comedy is to be found only in private homes (where it is safe to practice it), Zoos (where the animals have maintained their good humor and simplicity), and in special Comedy-Reserves, lands set aside for the protection and preservation of comedians.”
He pulled out several more charts and graphs, and then pointed to a map showing the shrinking range where comedians can still safely roam without fear. “It used to be, in times past, that cities and college campuses were where you would most likely see a comedian, or even find flocks of them gathered together. But now, these locations are among the most dangerous for them; and few jokesters are actually seen any longer in the wild.”
I left the Scholar of silliness, feeling a bit dejected, but still hopeful that all is not yet lost. I decided to visit one of the Comedy-Reserves that he had described, in hopes of learning more about how comedians are being rescued and protected from the ill-humored, and to find out what the future of laughter might be.
The Society for the Preservation of Really Funny People administers one such human-nature reserve on an undisclosed island off the coast of…I’d better not say; which I have been asked to keep secret (for the protection of their residents). At this preserve, they are cautiously optimistic. “We have a lot of work still ahead of us, obviously, but we are seeing our comedians thrive once again here, now that they are free from the environment of fear, and the climate of shame that they had been suffering within. Here, they can tell a good joke without looking over their shoulder. We are very hopeful that eventually we can reintroduce most of our comedians back into their native habitats once again.”
As I was preparing to leave the Island of Endangered Comics, one of the caretakers had a final parting comment, which filled me with hope and which I’ve never forgotten. She said to me, “One of our comedians shared with me something important about comedy that people often overlook. He said that, humor ultimately is about love. It’s love that allows us to laugh at ourselves, and to laugh at each other. And that’s a very good thing!”
I hadn’t thought about that before, but decided it is true. Today, I’m hopeful and anticipating with amusement, for the time when our world is safe again to release the comedians into the wild; and for the time when we will see them roaming freely once again, and cracking jokes with impunity.