There was a time when I could be angry and funny, but I’m older now.
Some of our best comedians turned anger into humor. People like Lenny Bruce, Don Rickles, even the seemingly tame Bill Cosby, and any number of other comedians could turn all the hurts and bigotry they encountered into hilarity; Rodney Dangerfield probably had a rotten childhood, and as a result became famous being angry at himself:
“When I was a kid, my parents took me to a dog show. I won.”
Sometimes comedians get mad at the world, and so make the world absurd. One of my favorite stories is from Steven Wright, who reported buying an irregular phone: It had no fives. One day a friend asked why they never talked on the phone, and the comedian said, “I can’t talk to whoever I want anymore; my phone has no fives.”
“That’s strange – how long have you had it?”
“I don’t know. My calendar has no sevens.”
Like that. The world attacked him, so he attacked back.
Of course, sometimes all that anger gets out the wrong way, and you end up with moments of stupidity like when Michael Richards screamed racial obscenities into the audience -- apparently he had a bad day. And that’s the problem for me lately – I’ve been having so many bad days that I just can’t make them funny anymore.
The other day I got cut off in traffic for the dozenth time (hey, I made a word) and screamed, “I hope you spontaneously combust and your airbag explodes and blows your charred body under a semi!”
Not funny. I leaped over that fine line, and the only consolation is that I was alone in the car.
I was unopposed this spring for my position on the Albion Town Council – in fact, we didn’t have a primary, because everyone up for reelection was unopposed. Maybe I should be happy about that – no embarrassing results indicating my original election was a fluke, after all. Still, I was wandering around the house, mumbling, “Why don’t we just bring Hitler in? He never made anyone waste their time voting.” (Which may not be true – lots of dictators hold elections, they just make sure they’re the only ones on the ballot.)
In truth, lots of people do more work for their communities than I do – they’re just the ones who are too smart to run for election. How would a small town function without volunteers?
Still, the low voter turnout made me even more angry: “I hope the five percent of people who still vote elect a Benito Mussolini clone who makes all the trains run on time right into your house, you uninvolved bunch of malaise ridden sleepwalkers.”
Which is totally unfair, because … wait, no it’s not. There’s no excuse for not voting – it just convinces the idiots we already have in office that everyone thinks they’re doing a fine job. So okay, sometimes I’m right, but that doesn’t make it – well – right.
(Having taken a second look at the above paragraph, I’d like to point out that I’m not talking about us when I mention idiots already in office. Boy, is my face red…)
For a month I’ve been trying to write a column about my sewer line problems, which this time around have involved such things as borrowing showers, a volcano of yuck in my basement, and the digging up of my entire back yard. Hey, I can make that funny. Only I couldn’t. I just keep thinking, “Property tax or sewer repair bill? Which will it be?” How ironic, to have my house put up for tax sale so I can flush my toilet.
That’s not a hint to send me money, by the way. Nobody has money. I have no money, yet I’d be one of the richest people in Iran. Modern life has left me the middle class equivalent of Bill Gates, only without his … um, anything. I have a house that’s falling apart and worth less than I owe on it, a car that’s paid for right down to the spreading rust, and a cat. And I can’t make jokes about the cat, because people complain.
Did you know there’s an American Society to Prevent Comedians from Poking Fun at Animals? That’s right, the SPCPFA. That’s the ASPCA’s lesser known, more militant right wing arm. Someone thought one of the members cracked a smile once, but it turned out to be gas.
See what I mean? Not funny. Now they’re going to cover me in fake fur and burn me alive.
I can’t even steal jokes anymore, thanks to the internet and cable TV. All the really old jokes that my kids haven’t heard are now showing up on TVLand and MySpace. Every time my kids walk into the room with a sour expression, I know I’ve been caught stealing my material again. I can’t start a line without them finishing it for me.
There may be no hope for me. It’s a small step from beloved curmudgeon to irritating grouch, and I’m right up there in Grinchland.
The other day I saw a couple of teenagers walking down the middle of a street, with perfectly good sidewalks to either side. I leaned my head out and yelled, “If I run over you and break your legs, don’t come running to me while I’m putting it into reverse to run over you again! You should be drawn and quartered, and all the parts shot!”
That last seemed like a pretty good line, until I realized I stole it from “M.A.S.H.”
On the brighter side, I might die of stress, but at this rate my relatives won’t have to feed too many people at my funeral.