A dialogue with the editor:
Me: Why have I written THIS, you ask, the meh one, and not THAT, the funny one?
Editor: Yes, exactly!
Editor: Couldn’t you just try writing THAT, the funny one?
Me: I don’t know. Let me think about it.
So I thought about it, and tried, and realized there are many reasons I write THIS:
1. THIS was funny when I first became a writer.
2. THIS is the kind of humor I know how to write. I don’t think like THAT. I don’t joke like THAT. I don’t think I can write THAT.
3. My friends think I’m funny — at least, they SAY they think I’m funny — based on reading stuff like THIS. (But most of them began reading humor when I began writing it, and THIS is also what they’re used to.)
4. Many aspects of life and culture change, such as curses (“fuck” is no longer that bad), pronouns (call me “they”), labels (for people of color, the disabled, women), ice cream flavors (Moose Tracks?), and where au courant travelers vacation (we missed Iceland, but were early to Portugal) (can Vietnam or Croatia be far behind?). Styles of humor are no different. For a while, the hippest comics were graphic and scatological (lots of F bombs) (though, as noted, F is no longer such a bomb); suddenly, family-friendly is BIG (some contemporary comics could have written for the Dick Van Dyke Show). The point being: THIS could be funny again.
5. The ones who write or perform THAT tend to be younger and appeal to a younger crowd. We THIS humorists attract a more “mature” audience (many of my friends and readers are just shy of senility).
6. To be honest, I often don’t get THAT and usually don’t find THAT all that funny… though I can admire that THAT’s clever and hip in ways I could never be. (Was she just referring to a social media Influencer, a Hip-Hop artist, or a new Ben & Jerry’s flavor? I don’t know; but I’m not laughing, and I’m certainly not peeing my pants) (despite an assist from my prostate surgery) (example of THAT humor).
7. This may be the same point: THIS writers are more intelligible. (But — I admit — perhaps we’re just easier to understand for people born and raised on THIS, and people born and raised on THAT easily get THAT.)
8. I think writers of THIS earn more than writers of THAT. (But I have no evidence to back that up.) Dave Barry and Funny Times are THIS. Shouts & Murmurs and McSweeney’s lean THAT. The Onion and humortimes.com… down the middle? (I may need to rethink this Earn More aspect.)
9. Woody Allen is definitely THIS. (Are we still allowed to mention Woody Allen?) (Come to think of it, Bill Cosby was also quite THIS. I don’t like where this is headed and hereby withdraw this point.)
10. But here’s a personal (or perhaps tribal) note: THIS feels slightly Jewish. Not Orthodox; more Reformed; and not technically Jewish itself: THIS wasn’t circumcised or Bar Mitzvahed, nothing like that. Maybe it’s knowing that THIS’s forebears included Jack Benny, Henny Youngman, Groucho Marx, etc. – THOSE comedians (the THIS generation). Also, in the old days we expected THIS comics to drop funny Yiddish words like schmuck, shlemiel and oy vay. (Don’t judge: these are no worse as laugh-getters than fuck me, yo bitch or Don Jr.)
11. In a nutshell, THIS is ME. (Actually, I’m probably more ME outside a nutshell) (more THIS humor).
So, Dear Editor, take my THIS, or reject my THIS, but THIS is who I am and what I write.
- Things We Used to Say, and Still Do, But They Don’t Mean the Same - August 12, 2020
- Dialogue with the Editor: Why THIS and not THAT? - June 25, 2020
- What I Will Do Differently Now That 23andMe Says I’m Only 5% Jewish but 45% Italian - May 3, 2020