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What’s the most annoying form of humor? April 11, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben believes that humor is the most individual form of taste, or enjoyment, if you will. What makes you burst out in a deep belly-laugh or uncontrollable snickering may make your colleague a few cubicles over writhe in discomfort, and the guy across the aisle may not even get the joke. This doesn’t make you right and them wrong; it simply adds to the rounding out of who you are, it paints a unique portrait of you.

I do think, however, that some forms of humor are generally considered more offensive or annoying than others. Here’s my list of top ten annoying forms of humor, and how I feel about them:

1. Clowns. I absolutely hate clowns. I think they’re creepy, and can’t see any humor in them. Alice Cooper’s song “Can’t Sleep, the Clowns Will Eat Me” says it all as far as I’m concerned. Clowns originated in mediaeval Europe to terrorize the populace into abandoning sin and falling in line with Church teachings; to me, they’re every bit as scary now as they were then.

2. Mimes. If anything, I hate mimes more than clowns. Besides not being funny, they seem to cloak themselves in an aura of self-righteousness. Watching mimes be self-righteously rude to people who are minding their own business in public squares, train stations and the like makes me sick. If I behaved that obnoxiously to my fellow travellers, I’d be detained. But mimes? Hey, this is performance art! Give me Groucho over Harpo any day.

3. Lame cartoons. It can’t be easy to be a cartoonist and come up with a funny strip every day. But some strips are never funny, and yet there they are, day after day after day. Why do papers insist on publishing “Peanuts,” “Mutts,” “Doonesbury,” and their ilk? Why is “Peanuts,” one of the most boring strips in cartoon history, revered? Even “Blondie” is occasionally funny, and “Mark Trail” sometimes has interesting nature facts. But, much as we might long for the days of “The Far Side” and “Calvin and Hobbes,” there are good contemporary cartoons like “Get Fuzzy,” “Pickles,” “Jump Start,” “Pearls Before Swine,” and “Brewster Rockit” we could be enjoying in the space taken up by those lame ducks. All I can say is, thank God for “Dilbert.”

4. Puns. A pun is a play on words that can range from clever to extremely clunky and painful, especially when used clumsily or overused, as punsters seem prone to do. (Example: A colleague mentions the episode in “Game of Thrones” where Brienne is forced to fight a bear. The punster immediately chimes in with “What a shocking scene! I could barely bear to watch it!”) Ouch. Our friend Ben once had a boss who insisted on reciting a pun-riddled version of “Cinderella” at each and every corporate Christmas party. Trust me, fighting a bear would have seemed like a party by comparison.

5. Slapstick. Our friend Ben knows many people who can’t stand slapstick. But generally speaking, I love slapstick; it makes me laugh out loud. If I want to be cheered up, I watch a clip of Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) from the Pink Panther series; his interplay with Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau is simply marvelous to me, combining verbal wit with physical faux pas. Groucho Marx was also a master of this art, the ability to combine razor wit and physical incompetence. Charlie Chaplin performed the most brilliant slapstick I’ve ever seen, his legs seemed like rubber. I’ve still never seen a Chaplin film, but I saw the clips of him at the end of the bioflick where he was played by the brilliant Robert Downey Jr. To this day, I wonder how he managed to pull this off.

6. Sadistic humor. I list this one here because in essence it’s a form of slapstick, one epitomized by the Three Stooges. It’s physical humor, like slapstick, but in this case, you have bullies like Mo poking innocents like Larry and Curly in the eye and slapping them around. What’s funny about that? Nothing that I can imagine. Apparently the damage Mo inflicted on his siblings and fellow actors was so great that the actor who played Curly Joe forced him to sign a contract promising not to actually hurt him. Ha, ha, ha! What a laugh riot.

7. Sarcasm. Sarcasm is another form of sadism, but this time, it’s verbal. Nonetheless, the point (pun intended) is to stab your target with the sharpened blades of your wit, scoring points at their expense. Our friend Ben’s mother always maintained that sarcasm was the lowest form of humor and should not be indulged in by any respectable person, since it targeted people who were weak and unable to defend themselves. Nastiness disguised as humor is still nastiness, and sarcasm is just mockery unter another name. Mockery is just another form of bullying, and like all forms of bullying, is unworthy.

8. Vulgarity. Comedians like the late George Carlin and Richard Pryor apparently felt that the shock factor of vulgarity equalled humor, and millions of fans apparently agreed with them. Fans of Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” and Russell Brand’s and Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy also agree. Vulgar or not, stand-up comedy is a dead bore to our friend Ben. The only time I’ve ever enjoyed it was in Gabriel Byrne’s send-up in the TV movie “Trigger Happy” (aka “Mad Dog Time”). Coupled with Paul Anka’s send-up of himself, it was a performance to remember.

9. Late-night shows. Why do people watch these shows? Who really wants to see Kim Kardashian being interviewed by David Letterman? We have friends who grew up watching Johnny Carson and the like with Grandma, but sheesh. What could possibly be funny about an interminable late-night talk show?! We wish Stephen Colbert all the best, but please. We could use our sleep.

10. Verbal swordplay. Like slapstick, our friend Ben loves the sharpened tongue, the ability of the underdog to humorously defeat his enemies when they don’t even know what hit them. Groucho Marx, W.C. Fields, Lord Tyrion Lannister of “Game of Thrones,” and Sherlock Holmes are all experts at this art. (A close read of the Holmes canon will reveal the humor that is so often hidden in the film versions.) A brain is as good as a sword when it comes to defeating brawny but moronic enemies.

So what are your most-hated forms of humor? Let us hear from you!

Send out the clowns. August 14, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always found clowns, puppets, and marionettes terrifying rather than funny, lovable, or endearing. I can much more easily relate to Alice Cooper’s epic “Can’t Sleep, the Clowns Will Eat Me” and Chucky as horror-movie icon than the idea that these monstrous pseudo-people are supposed to be harmless. I feel the same way about traditional nutcrackers, as in “The Nutcracker Suite,” too, with their huge, clacking jaws and teeth.

I realized as an adult that my fears were actually well-grounded. Clowns across history and throughout cultures—at least until the age of circuses—were originally created to humiliate, mock, and terrify, not to entertain. From the first appearance of clowns in mediaeval cycle-dramas to the Koshare clowns in Southwest pueblo ceremonies, the original role of clowns was to terrify and humiliate fair and festival attendees in order to draw attention to their shortcomings and bring them back to a sense of humility and obligation to their community and to their belief system. Nothing funny about that!

Ditto, in my view, the ghastly-looking puppet-marionettes, from Punch to Howdy Doody. The popularity of Punch, also of mediaeval origin, was twice punctured in modern times, first in the classic “The Wicker Man,” and again in the musical “Scrooge.”  Dressed as a clown with his nightmarish new-moon face, “Punch” is burned alive in the ghastly, shocking denouement of the original “Wicker Man.” (In “Scrooge,” the puppeteer is merely harassed by an oblivious Ebenezer Scrooge during the middle of a “Punch and Judy” performance.)

The topic of clowns and the like comes up every once in awhile, and I’m relieved to say that Alice Cooper and I aren’t the only people who find them frightening. But the puppet/marionette thing almost never comes up, so what brought it all to mind? I confess, it’s our friend Ben’s and my next-door neighbors, Bill, Fran, and Ollie (their beloved cockapoo). For some reason, this reminded me of Kukla, Fran and Ollie, a marionette show from the 20th century. I not only remembered the name, but remembered that one of the three was a dragon. So finally, I checked them out on Wikipedia, only to find to my surprise that their show had run and ended long before I was born and old enough to watch TV. Urk! Then how do I know their names?!

Ditto for Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop, a ventriloquist/puppet act of almost unrivalled annoyance. I’d be willing to swear I actually saw this act on TV, somewhere, sometime. And frankly, I can’t blame Shari Lewis for annoying the hell out of me with the sickening ooey-gooey voice she contrived for her sheep puppet. In an era when every cartoon character shrieked at top volume in a falsetto soprano that should have broken the glass of the TV screen, the Lamb Chop voice was probably pretty low-key. But I hated it, and I hated all animation for that reason, and I’ve never managed to overcome that ingrained loathing. To this day, I’d rather eat broken glass than watch any form of animation. And if I see a clown, puppet, or marionette, I’ll still run and hide.

“Send in the clowns,” Judy Collins sings, ironically. No, please, send them out. And let them take their puppets, marionettes, and animation with them. Life is scary enough, and annoying enough, without them.

        ‘Til next time,