A Sense of Humo(u)r
November 29, 2012
I know: I can’t spell anything ‘right’ anymore. With or without U, I can’t live… er, spell. And since I’ve been working on Old Norse again, everything looks quite possibly as if it might be right as long as it’s phonetically sound. I’m always stopping as I write something on the board in my classes, asking them, ‘Does that look right?’ Most of my publishers are all in the UK (or Ireland or Italy) so I get in the habit of one spelling and then have to switch back.
But it’s also due to my nearly lifelong immersion in British stuff especially humour; how did that happen in the wilds of the Midwest? Serendipity. Mary Poppins books when young (they’re nothing like that Disney travesty) and then an avalanche of British comedy at the start of my teen years, which forever changed me in ways that I’m still discovering.
It’s why I felt at home the first time I went to London. And why most of my work does better on that side of the pond. Why I adore Peter Cook. And the Pythons and the Goodies and The Royle Family and AbFab and on and on.
Most people like to think they have a good sense of humor. They are wrong. I can guarantee you that almost every time you say, ‘This guy is so funny, you are going to laugh so hard!’ you will inevitably be wrong. I may chuckle if you’re lucky. I’m not saying my sense of humour is better; just that it’s very specific. I love to laugh: it’s just there’s not that much that’s funny to me, but the things that are funny to me continue to be, no matter how many times I see or hear them.
A lot of American comedy is crass. While I am averse to crassness in general (something I realised lately upon instantly disliking someone I had just met; a friend who had also just met the person said, ‘well, X is rather crass’ and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s it’), if something is really funny but crass, I will still laugh. But a lot of supposedly funny stuff is crass and you’re supposed to laugh because it’s crass.
You want crass but funny? The Miller’s Tale. I used to think, why has no one filmed this? (Of course, they have now.) The truth is despite its bawdy humour of sex, farts (This Nicholas anon leet fle a fart / As greet as it had been a thonder-dent) and the ‘misdirected kiss‘ it’s actually a very literary joke. Not literary in the sense of learned and snooty, but because it’s an incredibly complicated set up for the over-the-top payoff. It’s an amazingly detailed marshaling of people and positions. And what would the joke be without Chaucer’s delicious line: ‘Teehee’ quod she and clapte the windowe to.
Ah, got a bit off track there. Nearly forgot the reason for this was to let you know about People of Few Words 4 (oh, the irony!), which includes both my silly poem “The Flying Seal” and a lovely poem by my pal Chloë, as well as lots of gentle humour from The Short Humour Site.
Connecticut bound tomorrow! Good to see the QoE and Marko. Oh, and the caption on the donkey picture is a reference to a Scott Walker song. Don’t believe the gossip, especially if it comes from Adele. Heh.