'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
TIME TO TURN OVER A RUDE LEAF
We’re having a bit of a disagreement in my house. When we watch television, my daughters and I enjoy making smart-aleck comments about the people on the screen. Often we blurt out lines of dialogue we’d rather hear, dialogue which, of course, mocks the intended meaning of the scene and makes the TV characters look foolish. (Although you really have to work hard nowadays to make TV characters look more foolish than they already are.)
My daughters and I get a kick out of doing this, but the problem is my wife doesn’t like it at all. She thinks we’re being mean-spirited and offensive.
I tried to explain to my wife that it’s not offensive to mock Homer Simpson because he’s not even real. It’s impossible to offend a cartoon character.
She replied, “But you were doing the same thing when the CBS Evening News showed a clip of Ted Kennedy’s speech.”
“Again, a cartoon character,” I said. “Actually, two cartoon characters, if you count Dan Rather.”
After a while I relented and finally admitted that Ted and Dan are in all likelihood real people. But I insisted it’s still OK to mock them for three reasons: (1) the way they behave in public practically begs for a good mocking, (2) they can’t hear me through the TV so I’m not offending them personally, and (3) it’s just too much darn fun.
My wife asked, “If Senator Kennedy were standing right here, would you mock him to his face?”
“Of course not,” I said. “That would be rude. And besides, Tubby Teddy has armed bodyguards. They’d probably shoot me.”
“But don’t you see?” she pleaded. “When you insult other people like that, you’re tearing them down just to make yourself feel superior. It is so childish.”
“Is not! Is not! IS NOT!!” I screamed while stomping my feet. Then I held my breath until I turned blue.
“I know it’s difficult, dear,” she said. “You’ve been a smart aleck all your life. But think of the children. They see the way you act and think it’s perfectly fine to be rude and sarcastic and condescending. And unlike you, they may not reserve their comments for TV characters or when people are out of earshot. I’m afraid one day soon they’re going to say something rude to someone’s face and get in big trouble.”
“If it happens to be Tubby Teddy, they might get shot!” I said.
“You have to change, honey,” my wife pleaded. “Why don’t you try—just for a month—to say only nice things about people?”
“Only nice things?” I exclaimed in horror. “For a whole month?!”
“Sure, dear. You can do it. And I know you’ll feel good about yourself if you do. It’s so much better to encourage people rather than tear them down. So what do you say, hon? For the next month, no more mocking, no more sarcasm, OK? Will you do it for me…and for the kids?”
“Well, all right,” I said. “I’ll try. From now on, no more mocking and no more being rude.”
“That’s great!” she said. “I know you can do it. I’m so proud of you.” She gave me a hug, then turned and walked away with a big smile on her face.
Unfortunately my wife’s smile quickly turned to a frown. I’m not sure she really believes I can do it. Her lack of faith might be because of my track record. After four-plus decades of being a sarcastic mocker (a “socker”?), she may think it’s too hard for an old dog to learn new tricks.
Or her lack of faith might be because when she turned back suddenly to add one more encouraging comment, she caught me with both of my thumbs in my ears, fingers wiggling furiously, and my tongue stuck out at her as far as possible.
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