Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
BRIDE BATTLES BOORISH BLATHER
My wife is the official censor of my humor columns. Before I send an essay to a newspaper or a website or the New York Institute for the Study of Abnormal Behavior (they use my writings to analyze deviant thought processes), my wife reads it first. She points out all the offensive items in the column (“Wouldn’t it be quicker if you just underlined the acceptable sections?” I often ask), and then she offers less obnoxious ways of phrasing things.
Many times she has prevented me from putting my foot in my mouth. For example, I must have never received the memo explaining that women no longer enjoy being called broads. Thankfully, my wife explained that my column titled, “What men look for in a broad,” might have been somewhat humorous in, say, 1948, but was not nearly as hysterical as I seemed to think it was here in the 21st century.
Luckily my computer has a “find and replace” function. I simply changed every occurrence of “broad” into “babe,” and quickly brought the essay up to date. (Sample: “You can always travel ababe if you want to babeen your horizons, or visit New York City’s famous Babeway.”)
I appreciate my wife’s efforts. She truly wants to help me do my best. She wants my columns to be as thought-provoking and inspirational as possible. Mostly, she wants to keep me from bringing so much shame upon the family that we’re forced to move out of state. Well, at least she wants to postpone that day for as long as she can.
Every once in a while, though, I write something that really cracks me up, but I know it will never pass muster with my wife. So, just like Bill Clinton forgetting to let the Justice Department review some controversial pardon requests, I conveniently “forget” to let my wife review some controversial columns. (Of course, in my case, I’m still waiting for someone to donate a million bucks to my library fund.)
I never get away with it—the irate phone calls always tip her off. “So what did you write this time?” she asked recently when I came home in the evening.
“What do you mean, darling?” I said as sincerely as possible.
“Well, after the third ‘You have some nerve,’ the fourth ‘I’ve never been so offended,’ and the tenth ‘I’m writing an angry letter to the editor,’ I had to disconnect the phone.”
“Gee,” I said, rubbing my chin and looking puzzled, “Maybe they were wrong numbers.”
The main problem is that humor is very subjective. What some people find uproariously funny, my wife, er, I mean, other people find juvenile and offensive. The other main problem is that my wife has class, taste, and elegance, while I firmly believe that mankind’s greatest art form is the booger joke.
Actually, my wife gave up worrying about my lowbrow humor a long time ago. She knows it’s a losing battle, especially since most editors want a full 800 words when they ask for 800 words, not the 250 words they’d receive if my wife censored out all my references to butt cracks, toe cheese, and flatulence.
On the other hand, my wife vehemently objects to what she calls “mean” humor. “Why do you have to be so insulting?” she asked the other day. “You haven’t gone one week in the last ten years without writing something mean and nasty about Bill Clinton.” (I wanted to beat the mad rush so I started in 1990.)
“That’s not mean and nasty,” I explained. “It’s clever satire. How could I not write about the fact that Bill Clinton spent his entire presidency chasing broads, er, I mean, babes? And now that we’ve moved into a new era, how can I not write about the fact that President Bush sounds like he just landed at Ellis Island after the long voyage from his homeland, Malaproppia? What do you want me to do, write about budget proposals and tax policies instead?”
“No, of course not,” she said. “You don’t comprehend any of that stuff. But can’t you still be funny without being so crude and rude?”
“Well…I guess,” I answered, “but that takes a lot of work. Look at the prime time sitcoms. Nobody writes genuine comedy anymore. It’s much easier to go with sexual innuendo and bodily function jokes.”
“Can you please let me see your columns before you send them in?” she begged. “I at least want to know why people are making those irate phone calls.”
I quickly agreed. It’s the least I can do. After all, I want to keep the old br–, er, I mean, my darling babe happy.
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