“Where do you get your jokes?” This question came from a well-intentioned woman who had asked me to sign one of my books for her. The fact that someone just asked me to sign a book, screwed me up a little, so I had to think about it a few seconds.
“A joke is when a priest, a rabbi and a kangaroo go into a bar, and the bartender says… something which I can never remember,” I explained. “I don’t write jokes.”
“What do you write, then?”
“Humor.” Surprisingly, this was not a satisfactory answer. I could tell this by the metamorphosis of her facial expression. Her bright, eager smile drooped like a candle in a microwave oven, which is exactly the wrong place to keep a candle.
“Is there a difference?” She said this in a tone that told me any answer I gave her would be the wrong one. I spent the rest of the day, and long past my 8 PM bedtime, pondering the question. ‘What, really, is humor?’ I asked myself. “Don’t ask me,” said myself. “Ask the ladies.”
So I brought my question to Cortana, Siri and Alexa. They know everything, after all. Hang on, this will only take a minute.
(Talk amongst yourselves)
Okay, I’m back. Waste of time. Not to mention how much they sound suspiciously alike. Don’t ever ask the ladies anything unless you’re prepared for a lecture featuring lots of big words like cognitive and perspective and experiential. I had to figure it out myself. That’s okay. I’m a writer. I make stuff up all the time.
Here’s what I think: Humor is whatever is funny. And funny is everywhere and everything. Okay. Almost everywhere and everything. You only have think of a subject…then think just a bit harder, push just a little, and the mundane becomes funny. Or funnyISH, which is close to funny. And funnyish is way better than not funny. Mel Brooks, a very funny man, puts it like this: You only have to exaggerate a little bit.
For example…let’s say you’ve decided that your next automobile will be a self-driving one (and while we’re imagining stuff, let’s for a moment pretend that someone has offered you, say, forty grand for the 2003 Saturn you’re currently driving, so you can afford to buy it.) There are plenty of concerns and considerations you might have about self-driving cars. Big important life changing stuff that everyone is worried about. But there is also a lot of stuff no one is thinking about.
You can pick the color of your new car, of course, but how about the sex? Would you want your car to be a man or a woman? What if you were sitting at a stoplight in your very macho Jeep Cherokee, and a cute hot pink Corvette pulled up alongside…would your car even notice when the light had changed? Or would it be flirting as hard as it could with the pink Corvette? Would the car behind you start honking it’s horn, embarrassing the owner?
And what about gasohol? How much gasohol can a self-driving car consume before you shouldn’t ride in it? Would you let a self-driving car fill up on gasohol and drive your daughter to the prom? Would the owner get in trouble for buying gasohol for an under-aged car?
Are you even worried about this kind of stuff? You should be. When you worry about this stuff all the time, and find yourself writing it down, then you can stop worrying about “what is humor?” Or are you still wondering what the bartender said to the priest, the rabbi and the kangaroo?
Gino B. Bardi was born in New York City in 1950, and lived on the South Shore of Long Island until he attended Cornell University in 1968, during the tumultuous era of Vietnam War protests. Armed with a degree in English/Creative Writing, he diligently sought work in his field and soon wound up doing everything but. For the next forty-four years he cranked out advertising copy, magazine articles, loan pitches and short stories while running a commercial printing company in Upstate New York. Along the way, he married his college girlfriend, became father to three lovely daughters and decided that winter was an unnecessary evil. In 2008 he sold the printing business, retired, and now writes humorous fiction in his home on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Two signs hang above his desk: “Bad decisions make good stories,” and Mel Brooks’ advice that “You only need to exaggerate a LITTLE BIT.”
The Cow in the Doorway is his first full-length novel and won the statewide Royal Palm Literary Award for best unpublished New Adult novel for 2015, followed by the Best Humor Novel of 2016, also from the Royal Palm Literary Awards.
LinkedIn: Gino Bardi