The Joy of Pure Laughter

Partly from I Will Not Go the F to Sleep:
Consider these two limericks:

There was a young man of Calcutta
Who had a terrible sttttt-tutter
He is reported to have said
Please pass me some bbbbbb-bread
And also some bbbbbb-butter!

There was a young man of Ghent
Who had a penis so long it bent.
It was so much trouble.
That he kept it double.
And instead of coming, he went.

Almost no one these days will narrate these limericks in mixed company (and by mixed company, I don’t necessarily mean the two major sexes). Because both of these unfortunate young men are Persons with Disabilities—one has a speech impediment, and the second has a medical condition (Peyronies’ Disease? Acute Pathological Perverse Clintonitis?) that might result in—please pass the tissues—his not having babies or being able to lead a normal love life, the poor thing. He needs advanced and expensive plastic surgery, baby, so let’s not laugh at his expense, but pass the hat and take up a collection for the unfortunate soul.
And it’s also true that for the man with a bent pingpong or dingdong, or for the low-sexed bloke whose parents gave him the name Randy, the limerick about bent penises or Randy-themed jokes are not going to sound funny, especially after the fiftieth time that he has heard them.

The rest of us must admit that what makes us laugh makes us laugh, and laughter is not really an impulse that is under our control. Let’s admit also that these two limericks would appeal overwhelmingly to men—those that are being honest with themselves and not clenching their sphincters to stop themselves from laughing. And if so, what are the men laughing at? They are laughing at the absurdity of language, especially of the English language (which is why humor is often untranslatable, and also perhaps the language most susceptible to humor). They are not laughing at disabled people, but at the spectacular inventiveness of the limerick in the first instance—in which the word stutter is itself uttered in a stuttering manner by a teller who does not really have a stutter, and the way stutter rhymes with, and is therefore associated with, Calcutta and butter.
As for the second limerick, we are laughing at the ridiculousness of the English language—of how coming is a word with double meanings, one of them sexual, whereas no one thinks of “went” in the same sexual sense. This is why a child can find anything funny, especially a joke that relies on wordplay; its laughter is pure, uncensored by social rules and fashions or fear of offence.

Thanks to the concealed sexual element in humor, and men and women often finding different things funny, to insist on the universal acceptability of humor is to greatly shrink its sum, and to censor the pleasure of others simply because we’re incapable of it—it’s the kind of thing that the Puritans did in the old days.

The basic rule about humor ought to be this: this is an arena, a sanctuary, in which there are no rules. Yes, no rules, no political correctness, nationalistic sensitivities, patriotism, or any kind of ism, are permitted in a place or book of humor, so please check in your sensitivities at the door. The king’s jester had no sacred cows, and was the only one who could laugh at the king and not pay for it with his life—why?  Because, to prevent a society from going insane, it needs a band of men and women who have carte blanche, carte blanche to point out that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes, or even that black dots on his polka dot pants are not dots but holes. Had Nazi Germany preserved the freedom to laugh, Hitler would not have lasted as long as he did; he would have probably been laughed out of Berlin within the first two or three years or pretty much for certain after Charlie Chaplin released his satire, The Great Dictator.

It is an act of humility to break your own rules once in a while, and in this book, I have broken all of mine. All of my other books with comic elements also contain a few moments of seriousness, but in here, I am simply being a silly child—which is why, it would be completely missing the spirit of this book to use anything I have said anywhere else against it.

That one man's pain is another man's humor is a truth that was brought home to me with 2 different reviews of two of my most painful books: (Life is pain/sorrow, said the Buddha): THE KILLING OF AN AUTHOR, and THE CONFESSIONS OF A MODERN SLAVE (which is up with a different title at Smashwords). The former, I agree; but the latter? Do you find it funny? I would love to hear your opinion.


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