“It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” Mark Twain
I love to make stuff up. I’m a natural born exaggerator. This was instilled in me at a young age, possibly before I could burp. My father was a natural born exaggerator, too. If he said he picked a hundred apples, it was fifty. If he said he was dying, we figured he had another twenty years.
As much as I love to exaggerate, it can’t compete with the truth. Nothing matches the sheer unpredictability of fact. Hurricanes don’t look for punch lines; psychopaths aren’t crowd pleasers. We may be able to embellish truth, but it’s like putting a bright-coloured coat over a clown costume.
Whether it’s a politician or a common carjacker, it’s all slapstick.
All around us are bizarre events held together by even more bizarre commentary. One reporter explained the latest hurricanes and storm systems in the Gulf as “really weird occurrences brought on by the weather.”
News itself is a great source of humor. Whether it’s a politician or a common carjacker, it’s all slapstick. Nobody wants to think it’s slapstick, since life is supposed to be serious. But you take any newscast, turn down the volume, put on George Carlin, and you’ve got yourself an evening’s entertainment.
I used to do that with “Dallas.”
Someone the other week asked on Facebook: “Does anyone else feel like they’re being watched?” The first responder said: “Yeah, I’m a newscaster.” Five minutes later, another person wrote: “Aren’t you going to be watched more by posting this?” The newscaster came back with: “I’m on at 8 and 10.”
In Michigan a woman, accused of shooting her husband five times, claimed it was a bungled dual suicide. Only she didn’t count on their parrot repeating the husband’s final words: “Don’t f — -ing shoot.”
There’s the fact that it took investigators almost an hour to realize the accused, Glenna Duram, was still alive after shooting herself in the head.
The husband’s parents want the parrot to give testimony. “That bird picks up anything and everything,” the victim’s mother, Lillian Duram said. “He couldn’t lie if he tried.”
A parrot’s testimony isn’t ideal, but this case is full of oddities— some more disturbing than a parrot giving a witness account in the vernacular of the deceased.
There’s the fact that it took investigators almost an hour to realize the accused, Glenna Duram, was still alive after shooting herself in the head. She was taken to hospital where she recovered, denying she wrote three suicide notes.
It’s a little known fact that, in American law, parrots can’t perjure themselves.
Those notes have since been authenticated by a handwriting expert, and Bud, the parrot, keeps repeating the husband’s second final words: “Whatcha writing there, Glenna?”
According to American law, parrots can’t perjure themselves.
In other news, a university retreat was cancelled after a student found a banana peel in a tree. She claimed her “heart dropped instantly” over what she considered to be “a racist act.”
Supporters have unified around the world, recounting similar incidences where banana peels have been found in trees.
The perpetrator, otherwise known as the “banana peel thrower,” claimed he only threw the banana peel in the tree because he couldn’t find a garbage can. This has since been discredited by the offended woman who bumped into a garbage can while looking up at the banana peel.
In a letter hoping to clarify her response, Makala McNeil said that “Even today, bananas remain an intimidation tactic, intended to instill fear in black communities.”
Supporters have unified around the world, recounting similar incidences where banana peels have been found in trees. Some were actually banana trees. The culprits were monkeys.
I don’t wish to make light of what happened. Racism is very real and McNeil expressed her concerns well. At the same time, it’s hard not to find humor in how it was reported by Campus Reform and BizPac Review.
“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around and don’t let anybody tell you different.”
Both publications included the step-by-step narrative, with McNeil saying, “Look! Look! It’s a banana, dangling from a limb!” This, of course, introduces all kinds of questions. Should all school retreats be cancelled where banana peels are found in trees? And does removing the banana peel constitute censorship? It’s a slippery slope where bananas are concerned.
Not that truth can’t work against a humorist at times. We’re always going to get someone saying, “That’s not funny.” Since our goal is to be funny, maybe Kurt Vonnegut was right when he said: “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around and don’t let anybody tell you different.”
“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion,” he went on to say “I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”
We’re surrounded by news that’s anything but encouraging. If we want to have tears and angst, we’ll end up with ulcers. Perhaps it’s healthier to laugh.
That doesn’t mean we can ignore reality, but we’re survivors, afterall. Part of survival has always been humor. In medieval times, court jesters lasted a lot longer than knights. Knights went out and slaughtered everything that moved. Eventually, they were slaughtered, too.
Jesters, on the other hand, lived pretty long lives. People needed a break from all the carnage and courtly subterfuge — even kings and emperors. Having a jester around took everyone’s minds off the blood outside.
Life is funny in context, especially when every morning’s newspaper is filled with lousy negotiating skills and itchy trigger fingers.
The jesters of old were no different than humorists today. They spoke about the events of the period, sometimes even making fun of the king himself. Obviously, a jester took his life in his hands choosing to do that. But it’s hard to condemn someone to death when they just brought down the house.
In the same way, it’s hard to fault humorists for wanting to be funny. Life is funny in context, especially when every morning’s newspaper is filled with examples of lousy negotiating skills and itchy trigger fingers.
If you’d rather laugh than get ulcers, then it’s not hard to be funny — or a humorist. You’ll still get people who say, “That’s not funny,” but sometimes that’s funny in itself. Better to stay healthy and laugh.
Besides, as Kurt Vonnegut said, there’s less to clean up afterward.
Robert Cormack is a humorist, novelist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback). Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Pressfor more details.