Humor not meant to be taken too seriously

Kaitlyn Cosby and Kate Banks enjoy the merry go round as part of their idyllic fourth grade field trip to the Detroit Zoo on which nothing went wrong and no real characters were injured.

I had a really good time on my daughter’s fourth grade field trip to the Detroit Zoo. All the children who attended were well-behaved and our group experienced no problems.

That’s the real story of what happened, or rather that NOTHING happened on my daughter’s field trip a couple of weeks ago. But that’s not what I wrote. Why? Because in addition to that version of the story being only 30 words in length (My Different Drum humor column runs 700 words), a brief, straight forward telling of a happy tale is not very interesting. If you want happy, sappy stories, go online to Don’t look for them here.

The above account of my daughter’s field trip is not at all funny. When I last checked, I was writing a humor column here, so I go with what’s funny. Funny often consists of putting ordinary, well-intentioned people into a non-ordinary situation and watching less well-intentioned people ride roughshod over them. When there aren’t enough interesting types of characters or situations in the real story, I sometimes have to make them up. It’s called literary license. I renew mine annually.

For my zoo field trip column, I described three fictitious people who were much more colorful than the real ones I encountered: 1. A child who was so unruly she required three handlers and so dangerous she used to wear a harness and “Silence of the Lambs” style bite guard; 2. A child who under my supervision broke all the rules within our first 15 minutes at the zoo; and 3. A 105-year-old, 500-pound grandmother from another school group who had been assigned to watch a boy I thought seemed most likely to appear on a milk carton.

Admit it, this fictional zoo field trip trio is far more interesting than the average bear or field trip-goer and the all too real heel blisters she developed that day. As I don’t normally write fiction, I had to work hard to come up with those way-out descriptions of fictional characters I encountered on the zoo field trip. However, some readers have even more way-out imaginations, believing I was talking about them or someone they knew. As Carly Simon might say, “You’re so vain, you probably think this column’s about you.”

Diagnostically, we as readers tend to fall into categories somewhere between narcissistic and paranoid, depending on whether (or not) we like what we read into stories. However, in this case, there’s no need to ponder too hard if Paul Bunyan really was 63 axe handles tall. No reason to write the estate of the late country crooner John Denver to dispute the “nine-feet high and six-feet wide” dimensions musically reported in “Grandma’s Feather Bed.” And when someone talks of laughing so hard he wet his pants, be advised he’s talking hyperbole, versus incontinence.

The only non-exaggerated things I wrote about the zoo field trip was that I like bus travel and the kids began eating their lunches before we even pulled out of the elementary school parking lot. Oh, and that my feet were sore at the end of the day. The rest of the story was pretty much fabricated. Because it was funnier that way.

While I’m confessing, I feel should also cop to the crime of underreporting. While I initially said each student on the zoo field trip used the bus bathroom three to four times before we even reached Jackson, in truth, it was closer five or six times. Just kidding.

All this is to say a big problem with the world today is we take ourselves and others far too seriously. Many people seem Hell bent on reading into everything and becoming offended. That’s time-consuming, ulcer-producing and no real way to live. Turn the other cheek and fast!

Being accused of offense when none was intended is difficult for me, as I consciously guard against mean-spiritedness and try to follow the example of my hero, cowboy humorist Will Rogers. He strove to keep his humor good-natured and used it to hold people accountable for their actions.

What would Will do? Read this humor column without offense and laugh himself into positive change. You should, too.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michael Summerfield
    Jun 20, 2012 @ 06:34:16

    What gut-wrenching honesty! What drama! If only our politicians would be so accountable! I forgive you – please go say 2 Hail Mary’s and consider doing some community work helping the humor-impaired.


    • diffdrum
      Jun 20, 2012 @ 13:37:40

      Thank you for tolerating my deconstruction of humor, which I tried to make constructive. Hail Mary? I think a bloody Mary would be a far better idea.


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