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Comic relief (09/24/2006)
By Janet Lewis Burns

"To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone." - Reba McEntire

Isn't it funny what makes people laugh? Nobody knows the exact era when comedy was born, but everybody would agree that it's old enough to know better. As far as some are concerned, many of television's so-called sitcom comedies just aren't what they're cracked up to be! (Now that's a wisecrack.)

As I watch these cleverly animated movies with our grandkids, I feel uncomfortable about the aggressive bullies and hotshot, mean-mouthed fist-throwing heroes who seem to make a mockery of respect and kindness. Even the "candy man" of this era is sinister and cunning, no cotton candy fluff and sweet talk.

There are actually "humor researchers" on the job figuring out how the brain's humor muscles assist us in getting the joke. There's even a "reward system" in there somewhere that proceeds to make a person feel good and laugh when their funny bone is tickled. If you're always thinking, even if merely contriving your next prank, by flexing your humor muscles often you are likely to be a more ingenious individual all around.

As the public tolerates news broadcasts, more and more grim with every tragedy, it hardly seems possible that a joke could be made about anything so sad or sick. Yet, standup comics and variety show hosts seem to have the inside edge on every scandal and political ploy and disgrace, and receptive audiences are ravenously eating it up.

There are those, however, who have been appalled, offended, and just plain angry at newspapers' political cartoons and backstabbing, often mean-spirited opinion letters. "Freedom of speech" has swallowed its share of rotten eggs and crow. Newspapers and broadcasts would do well to exercise the public's laugh muscles more often.

Columns could be spiced up a bit by aiming to split a few guts and tweak some cheeks in hilarity. "The Loony Rooney Report" is catchy. "Confessions of a Closet Comic," not bad, or "The Rest of the Wacko Story" by Paul Harvey Wallbanger. Let's shelve the wine for "The Best of Booze" by Tanga Raye.

Winona's own Doc Bures does a rollicking, yet informative "Funny Bone Doctor's Report"- just being frank. For the spring chickens, "Mother Goose Has Flown the Coop and Lets Loose" promises to ruffle a few feathers.

I'm sure there are those out there who get downright sick and tired of reading all that down-home, chin up, keep truckin', and out in the woods stuff this column features. I struggle with humor muscle weakness when I attempt to be rip-roaring. I tried again with this "Disaster Forecaster."

You know you're in serious trouble:

if you meet another vehicle in a parking ramp.

when you get a sympathy card with your wedding gift.

if the towels in your boyfriend's bathroom are monogrammed "HIS" and "HIS."

when you come home late and there's a "no vacancy" sign flashing on the front lawn.

when you went to visit your parents and they had moved without telling you.

if the waitress who brings out your food is wearing a gas mask.

"Oh brother! Pul-eeese pass the laughing gas!"

"Okay, okay, it's back in the closet for me! There will be no ‘From the Shtick of the Country'. Indulge me once more - Letterman, Conan O'Brien, Leno, and Dennis Miller together won't ever outwit the Great Karnack, Johnny Carson. Amen."

It isn't that easy - humor I mean. It's less nerve-wracking to be outdoorsy, sappy sentimental, and melodramatic. The public needs both, news of current disasters and political foibles as well as mind-numbing guffaws.

The punch line is: Americans have the freedom to act and to speak as outrageously as brain muscles will allow. Keep it clean!

Janet Burns is a lifelong squatter in this neck of the woods. She can be reached at patandjanburns@earthlink.net 


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