So Funny I Forgot to Laugh


The Dude and I stayed up late and watched television. I’m not normally a T.V. person, but the Dude leaves for college in two weeks and I don’t want to miss anything good. He keeps telling me he wants to get as many “lasts” in as possible. Last meals at home, last parties with friends, and of course, last philosophical arguments with Mom.

We both love The Daily Show. I thank Jon Stewart for making current events and politics relevant to the younger demographic that traditional news outlets have left for dead. I am dismayed, however, by reports that his show allegedly had a working culture that was unfriendly to women and minorities. I voiced my disappointment to the Dude.

“But he’s so progressive,” said the Dude, and I agreed.

“But what one does is as important as what one says.” And when one has a platform the size of Jon Stewart’s, what one says is pretty damn important. I don’t mean to single him out. His is not the first man to be accused of running a comedy boy’s club. The same has been said of SNL, and even *sniff* The Colbert Report.

“I hate to say this but…”

This is the Dude’s way of saying “I’m about to say something I know you’ll go batshit over, but I’m right, so I’m going to say it anyway.” I start relaxation breathing immediately.

“Women aren’t that funny.”

He didn’t even say “present company excluded.”

Humor is subjective. I tell myself this whenever people don’t find my writing funny. That doesn’t make it untrue. Humor is largely contextual. The scope of humor can go from one person (Sometimes I am the only person who finds me funny) to universal (Even my parents liked The Incredibles). Would my 18 year-old son appreciate Any Schumer’s “Last Fkable Day?” Probably not as much as I do. But to deem an entire gender not funny?

Based on his expression, I must have had that feral alien cat look I get when he’s said something that hacks me off, like I think feminists are shrill.

“You might not find them funny, but that doesn’t mean they’re not funny. Your opinion isn’t fact. I don’t find Daniel Tosh funny. You find him hilarious. Lots of people agree with you. Just not me.”  Daniel Tosh has his own show. I do not. Maybe not a great example.

“So Jon Stewart hires people he thinks are funny, and people like his show. Why should he hire people that other people think are funny.”

That is the important question underneath it all. Why does diversity matter? I didn’t point this out, since nothing shuts down conversation faster than talking about real stuff.

“I suppose it depends upon his objectives. As a political satirist, shouldn’t he care about half of his viewership?” Actually 46%, according to the Pew Center. “He’s been a pretty good standard bearer for progressive values, but he’s missed an opportunity to speak meaningfully to a segment of his target population by utilizing writers who speak the same language.Diversity ensures you aren’t breathing your own exhaust.”

I’m well aware my audience isn’t teenage boys, so I don’t worry about whether he thinks my writing is funny. I know he wouldn’t. That’s why I don’t show it to him.

“You’re studying marketing, so this is an important lesson. If you drive with blinders on, at best, you miss a large portion of the view. At worst, you get t-boned.” Like the company that made a tablet for women preloaded with apps for shopping, dieting and exercise. I bet they just loved the press they got.

The Dude seemed willing to acquiesce on the larger argument, but had some issues that hit closer to home. The young women in his peer group.

“They make these jokes and laugh their heads off, I don’t get it. Neither do my friends.”

“They are referencing something that is personal to them. That’s what context means.” We repeated this exchange several times. Clearly, he thought my answer should have been that their attempts at humor were just that, attempts at humor.

It was time for him to consider another source for his problem.

“Maybe you should be asking yourself what they know that you don’t.”

“You always said that if I don’t know what they joke is about it’s probably about sex.”

“That was true when you were younger. Now, if you don’t get what the joke is about, it might very well be about you.”

I was wrong. Talking about real issues isn’t the quickest way to clear a room. Guess I’m not so funny after all.

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One comment on “So Funny I Forgot to Laugh

  1. Julia Tomiak says:

    My son has the same delusion – if he states it with enough confidence, it must be true, and more importantly, he must be right. Right? Kudos to you for doing the challenging work of trying to expand his mind. Don’t give up.
    And, btw, I think you’re hilarious.

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