'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
PRIME TIME SHOW IS A REAL ‘HIT’
This fall “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (AFV) begins its 18th season on ABC television. The show is now the longest running prime time program in ABC history. If nothing else, the success of AFV proves that Americans never get tired of watching guys get hit in the crotch.
The crotch-shot, of course, is what all viewers eagerly anticipate during every show. Oh sure, there are always some cute videos of kittens stuck in a vase, or infants with goofy facial expressions, or teenagers skateboarding down concrete steps to their deaths. You know, typical “warm & fuzzy” stuff. But the highlight of every show is the home video of some hapless schlep, usually a clueless dad, getting whacked square in the groin.
Often the crotch-er is a precocious five-year-old, wielding an oversized baseball bat, piñata stick, or garden rake. The crotch-ee is the young lad’s father, who is attempting to instruct the boy in the proper use of the particular tool. And mom is running the video camera. She is known as the laugh-ee, since her job, the moment dad accidentally gets hit, is to laugh hysterically while making sure the camera remains steady as it captures dad rolling on the ground in agony. Possibly the reason the laugh-ee is laughing so heartily is because she remembers how much pain she endured while giving birth to the crotch-er, and she figures sweet justice has finally arrived.
Completing the scene is the bewildered youth, who has no idea why daddy has suddenly decided to play a roll-on-the-ground-and-moan game, nor why mommy thinks it’s so funny. Whatever he did with the bat, stick, or rake must have been good, he concludes, so he smiles triumphantly for the camera as dad continues to writhe in the background.
The crotch-shot is a surefire formula for compelling television. No wonder AFV is now in it’s 18th year and going strong. The show most likely will continue to be a success for many more years, at least until we reach the point where every male in America has appeared on the show clutching his groin in pain.
When AFV made its debut, almost two decades ago, I watched the show quite often. Portable video cameras were still relatively new, and it was interesting to see real people in real-life situations engaging in real-life blunders. While watching a grainy image of, say, a guy at a wedding reception—who obviously had been taking full advantage of the open bar—stand on a chair to make an announcement, and then tumble to the floor as the chair collapsed, I instinctively laughed out loud and thought to myself, “Wow, if that happened to me I’d be so embarrassed.”
However, many years later I find that I can’t watch the show anymore. When I see a real person engaging in a real-life blunder, I no longer laugh. Instead, I cringe and think to myself, “Wow, if that happened to me I’d be in traction for six months.” Maybe it’s because I’m now middle-aged and achy rather than 30-something and spry, but it’s just not funny anymore.
Some people claim AFV is no different than the Three Stooges. That’s not true. The Stooges’ slapstick antics were carefully choreographed, employing rubber hammers and sound effects. On AFV, it’s a real hammer falling on the guy’s head. It’s a real piñata pole smashing the family jewels.
If you happen to be a dad with a young son, when you teach him how to use a baseball bat or a garden tool, do everyone a favor: wear a cup. I really don’t want to see you writhing in pain on TV anymore.
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