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What’s So Funny?

February 20, 2012

Dear Readers,

This post is not supposed to be funny.  It’s about funny.  That doesn’t mean it needs to be funny.  This note follows a spirited discussion I had with my husband (a.k.a. #1 Fan) when he gently told me this post is not funny.  Which made me launch into a belligerent, paraphrased Joe Pesci bit.  Funny, like I’m a clown?  Am I only here to amuse you?”  To which he responded, “Um, I love you.”

I take criticism well.

Angie

P.S.  I am not having my period.

I’m making my kids watch Looney Tunes.  I own the four-disc DVD set and they can call them out by name.  Mom, can we watch the frickin-frackin guy?  Yosemite Sam it is then.  Of course, I realize they now may be more apt to drop a 300-pound anvil on someone’s head.  And, sure, I worry about that.  But I’ll be damned if they ever tell me Clifford the Big Red Dog is funny.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had three everynight prayers:

1.)  Please God let her be healthy.  Extra digits are fine.  Just don’t let her have to spend life in a hospital room.  

2.)  Please God let her have compassion.  Please let her care about all of humanity.  That includes the 31% who are complete assholes and don’t deserve to share oxygen with us, let alone be allowed to cut in line at Target just because they have two items and are oblivious to the fact that I have a screaming toddler in my cart.  Where was I?  Oh, yes — compassion.

3.)  Please God let her have a great sense of humor.  She doesn’t have to be funny.  She doesn’t have to be the one at the party telling epic stories.  What I mean is, please don’t let her be the one in the greeting card aisle laughing at the dog licking its anus.

Then when I was pregnant with my son, I repeated items 1 through 3, except that just after . . . at the dog licking its anus”  I added “. . . at anything about a woman having her period.”

Mmmmmmmmm. That's terrific bass.

I’m always intrigued to hear about people’s earliest taste of funny.  How do we know what’s funny?  Is it learned, is it genetic?

Immediately upon being weaned from the breast, I was  bottle-fed a steady diet of The Muppet Show, Three’s Company, Looney Tunes, Saturday Night Live, The Carol Burnett Show, Caddyshack, The Jerk and Meatballs.  (I wish I could add to that Monty Python, but my parents were not that cultured.)  These shows are not necessarily funny.  In fact, I would not stand behind any of them as funny.  At the time, they were funny.  But at the time, I was a kid.  Now when I watch them, I still slap my knee and think, Now that right there is funny!  And I have no idea if they’re actually funny or if I’m just amused by the memory of them once being funny.

Funny means a lot to me.  In many of my relationships, I can remember the pivotal moment where I thought the person was funny.  I mean, really funny.  A month after dating my husband, we were sitting in a coffee shop and he presented a secret handshake he had invented for us.  It contained ridiculous hand gestures and miming.  It ended with jazz hands.  I knew precisely then that I would marry him.

And then there was the moment in 5th grade when I moved to a new school and sat next to Kelley.  She was caught talking in class.  As punishment, she was seated next to Benign New Girl.  But we had just received our textbooks, and in it was a picture I found funny.  (And I’ll stand behind that as funny.)  And I made sure to point it out to her.  And she thought it was funny too.  And that pretty much cemented our friendship.

We declared ourselves Supreme Spazzes.  We embraced all things funny.  Most of these things were not funny, but that’s what made them funny.  We held sleepovers and then fought sleep to watch ancient reruns of Saturday Night Live and the Canadian sketch comedy show SCTV.  Yet we still awoke early in time for Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

We decided, in order to carry on our lifelong commitment to funny, we must pair off with SCTV cast members.  I would marry Martin Short and she would marry Eugene Levy.  Our new surnames would ensure we could continue with our future plans to open S & L Pet Supplies (hamster towns incorporated, if you will).

I’ll be honest, we were freaks.  And I wouldn’t want to babysit me back then, let alone carry on a conversation with me.  Not that I would understand one bit of it.  When normal girls were off making up dance routines to Paula Abdul songs, we were off making up a secret language comprised wholly of things we found funny.  (I can assure you, none of these things were funny.)  Later, if there was time, we made up dance routines to Paula Abdul songs.

My formative years included revolving periods of being both ostracized and respected for my brand of funny.  I earned enough collateral to coin slang words and phrases that were adopted into school dialect.  One such word — schmenge [SHMAYN-gee] — continues on in the halls of my alma mater today.

Some people are engraved on team trophies or hall of fame plaques.  My living legacy is schmenge.  I’m quite proud of that.

But then, I took a gamble and blew it all.  It was coming up on our winter break, and we were to vote on the annual movie to watch on the last day of the semester.  I decided to go for something obscure and formed a massive lobbying campaign to vote in The Apple Dumpling Gang.  I seemed to remember it was funny.  I hadn’t seen it since I was 6.  When I was 6, I ate playdough.

So I put all my money down on red and hoped it’d pay off big.  Just wait until they see this funny.  And my classmates took my word for it — it must really be funny.  

The day before winter break, a day when kids are typically giddy and drunk on impending freedom, 150 eyes stared somberly at a screen, watching men dressed as saloon girls, riding horses backwards, and a whole lot more of this crap:

A good litmus test for funny — if even 8th graders don’t think it’s funny, it probably isn’t.

63 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2012 9:45 am

    For the record, I cannot stand Clifford the Big Read dog. Reading your post, I am thinking you and I may be twins separated at birth.

    • February 21, 2012 7:17 pm

      Yeah, I can tell you’re my people. You would’ve been in our mix for sure because I definitely can’t see you as the one off making up dances to Paula Abdul songs. (Or wait, were you?! To be continued on Thursday’s Becoming Cliche.)

  2. February 20, 2012 9:54 am

    Judging by that picture, I would assume the movie was comedy gold.

    P.S. I take criticism really well too. When my husband doesn’t laugh when I force him to listen to my blog post, I refer to him as “Jerkface.”

    • February 21, 2012 7:19 pm

      Don Knotts and Tim Conway — what’s more to love?

      P.S. Wasn’t it in their vows to be amused by our every breath, even at our “stale turds”?

  3. February 20, 2012 10:18 am

    That was a strange period in Disney History…so strange.

    • February 21, 2012 7:20 pm

      Disney was trying to top The Shaggy D.A. — and then they thought, that’ll never happen. So let’s throw Don Knotts and Tim Conway together to save the day.

      • February 21, 2012 7:26 pm

        Yes, throwing Don Knotted is usually a good idea…..

  4. February 20, 2012 11:29 am

    I am very sorry, but I think I have to tell becomingcliche that I am actually your twin. Or I guess we could be triplets if she insists.

    First, in all seriousness, your blog makes me laugh so hard and for so long that I start to hyperventilate and wheeze and well, it’s just too scary for my kids to witness (who are home on winter vacation right now driving this blogger up a wall–ilovemykidsilovemykidsilovemykids) So please, for the love of God, stop being so funny.

    Also, I know the apple dumpling gang. I wanted to be married to Martin Short. I recently saw an old SNL skit where a shark rings the doorbell and yells out TELEGRAM! I thought it was hysterical then and I do now. (or remember that when I was 8 I thought it was funny…) So to sum up: Youse funny!

    • February 20, 2012 4:59 pm

      Candygram.

      • February 20, 2012 9:07 pm

        The candygram was back with Jane Curtain and Gilda Radner. The land shark was hilarious!!!

      • February 21, 2012 7:28 pm

        It’s the period after “Candygram” (not an exclamation point) that helps me know you really feel the line.

      • February 22, 2012 9:22 am

        You got that, Angie. I should have probably left off the capital “C” to really convey how that was said. Funny, funny, funny. I LOVED early SNL.

      • February 22, 2012 9:26 am

        I thank God for Nick at Nite back in the late 80s. It reran all the 70s SNL episodes. I need to buy them on DVD to get my fix again.

    • February 21, 2012 7:27 pm

      Calm down, Darla — there’s plenty of my bastard DNA to spread around. I was already certain you’re related to me by way of Shaun Cassidy. The Apple Dumpling Gang only confirms this truth. Don Knotts is practically my uncle, and I believe he’s the man you call pop-pop.

      I love the land shark episode. Chevy Chase is brilliant with the completely nerdy-calm way he delivers his line.

  5. February 20, 2012 11:38 am

    Somehow, I managed to miss Paula Abdul’s entire singing career. It is just one bit of evidence that I am one lucky woman.

    As for genetics and funny, I am torn. My parents and all four of my siblings were/are really, really funny. But so is my adopted son. Maybe he needed to be to survive.

    • February 21, 2012 7:30 pm

      Paula Abdul was a singer? I know, it’s all so very confusing and wrong.

      I think your kind of funny is pretty damn contagious — your son had no choice but to fall in line.

      • February 21, 2012 7:36 pm

        Awwwwwww…. Actually, I think I adopted Robin Williams. My son is completely nuts.

      • February 21, 2012 8:31 pm

        You can’t get any nuttier than Robin Williams! You’ve gotta be proud. I would be.

      • February 21, 2012 8:33 pm

        That I am. When I’m not worrying about how he will eat.

  6. February 20, 2012 12:14 pm

    Once again, Angie, you leave me rolling. (I’m sorry. I know this isn’t supposed to be funny.) Carol Burnett is the BEST. But I think I missed something. Do you mean to say that Apple Dumpling Gang is NOT funny? Does that mean that Chris Farley and David Spade also aren’t a good fit for comedy? I don’t get it. I thought the Conway-Knotts pairing was dead on.

    Secret handshake? Bwahaha! Ok. I’ll stop now.

    • February 21, 2012 7:32 pm

      Oh, I don’t know, Shannon. I suppose The Apple Dumping Gang is funny in some sense. I’m fairly certain I’ll laugh hysterically at it in a few more years. I just need more time. Carol Burnett is my hero. I love that show. It’s so slapsticky, yet I can’t help myself.

      Your comments always liven up this joint.

      • February 22, 2012 8:10 am

        Girlfriend, I just wait every day for what Angie’s gonna put out. So very entertaining, uplifting, ab-rockin’ stuff, I tell you. I’m still waiting for that most awesome Pee-Wee piece. I’m over due for a reblog. Don’t make me pick the one about your husband picking the beans out. That’s my favorite.

  7. February 20, 2012 12:17 pm

    Very funny! “Schmengie” – I can see it on my TV guide now – Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. – everyone will have to dvr The Middle (this is me not commenting).

    • February 21, 2012 7:36 pm

      Actually, you spelled it correctly, or at least how I used to spell it — “schmengie”. I spelled it “schmenge” based on the polka band of brothers from an SCTV skit, where I drew my inspiration. I actually googled the word for this post as I was afraid someone would call me out that I spelled it wrong. What the hell kind of warped reality do I live in, I wonder.

      I always appreciate when you stop by and “don’t comment”.

      • February 21, 2012 8:59 pm

        It’s Tuesday night, is “Schmengie” a rerun or new tonight, and then my husband will say it’s “Schmenge!” (I usually call “The Middle,” “In The Middle”).

        So, since I am in “non comment” mode, at the emmys I’ll understand if you don’t include Worrywart in your thank you speech. :-)

  8. February 20, 2012 12:28 pm

    What’s funny is totally subjective and varies by age and amount of alcohol consumed. For example, Mel Brooks’ History of the World – Part 1 is funny, but after drinking, it’s downright hysterical.

    I love that your husband came up with a goofy, secret handshake.

    • February 21, 2012 7:40 pm

      I am so underexposed to Mel Brooks. I think I need to get up on those movies. I’ve seen High Anxiety. I think I need to see Blazing Saddles too, right? Drunk first?

      My husband put the goo in goofy.

      • February 21, 2012 8:04 pm

        History of the World – Part 1 is funny with or without alcohol. Blazing Saddles is best viewed with alcohol and maybe some popcorn, too. Enjoy!

      • February 21, 2012 8:29 pm

        I’m going to hold you to that recommendation — on both booze and movie.

  9. February 20, 2012 5:00 pm

    I thought this post was funny. In a thought-provoking way. Maybe you should have repeated prayer #3 when husband-shopping.

    p.s. Are you going through menopause?

    • February 21, 2012 7:45 pm

      My husband is my biggest fan — but if it were up to him, I’d only be writing about bratty things I did as a kid. For some reason, he can’t get enough of those stories. I think he finds it extremely validating for what he now puts up with being married to Grown-Up Brat.

      P.S. Probably. I have night sweats sometimes. Can you send me some pamphlets on this?

  10. February 20, 2012 8:09 pm

    Ahh, Carol Burnett. I would watch that show every day after school. I loved her.
    We watched The Apple Dumpling Gang in the 4th grade. I thought that it was boring then. I might have had a defect in my funny meter.
    Joanie Loves Chachi, Charles in Charge, Silver Spoons…. Now THOSE are funny.

    • February 21, 2012 7:49 pm

      Carol Burnett is the BOMB! You totally lost me on Joanie loves Chachi, Charles in Charge and Silver Spoons. Were those funny? I have no idea. I was too busy watching Ricky Schroder and Scott Baio to notice plot lines, laugh tracks, witty banter or amusing shenanigans. I must’ve missed something.

  11. February 20, 2012 8:26 pm

    So much for not being a “funny post.” I had a hard time getting past the part about you not being on your period. You made me laugh! I think I’d have fit in well with your Supreme Spazzes…clearly I must be one as well. :) Great post!

    • February 21, 2012 7:51 pm

      Thanks for reading, Chatty Cathie. If you’d laugh at this post, you’d probably laugh at anything. And that’s precisely the kind of people we’re looking for here at Supreme Spazzes R Us. Send me your resume.

      • February 21, 2012 9:18 pm

        Hahahaha! Looking forward to reading many more of your posts, Angie. And I meant to say yesterday, I just *love* that your husband came up with a secret handshake before you were married. That’s creepy in a really good kind of way! LOL!

  12. February 20, 2012 9:13 pm

    Thank you for the point of clarification regarding your period. I could have written this post, but I would have been on my period.

    I’m a little concerned…. are you hinting at the fact that when you watch Carol Burnett now – you don’t find it funny? I hope that is not the case. Carol Burnett is all kinds of funny.

    My friends were funny. During one sleepover, I was trying to – get this … sleep. My best friend said, “I know… let’s stick cheetos up her nose.” I busted out laughing. It still makes me laugh.

    Oh, and our first date… Rob and me. After dinner, we sat in his car and he pulled out a toy he had purchased at a trick shop earlier in the day. A little round thing with a red top that had a hole in it. You cup the thing in your hand and squeeze it just ‘so’ to make it…. fart. Yep. He and I sat in his car making farting sounds. *sigh* My mom is so proud.

    Oh, and doogie-whompers. I didn’t coin the word, my best friend did. But was still use it to this day. It’s a kid version of shit, but honestly, doogie-whompers is hilarious. Yes it is.

    • February 21, 2012 7:55 pm

      Oh, Lenore — you must’ve been a spaz! And I’m simply wild about fart makers. Just wild, I tell you. Fortunately, these days I have my son around me, who is thoroughly amused by his bodily noises.

      Doogie-whompers sounds like a candybar. I’m certain it would contain peanut butter. I want that.

  13. February 20, 2012 9:14 pm

    My life revolved around Looney Tunes and The Three Stooges. It still does if you want me to be honest. I don’t think there’s anyone funnier than Daffy Duck. Unless it’s you.

    • February 21, 2012 7:58 pm

      Looney Tunes is like a warm flannel blanket to me. I want it near me always and forever. Maybe it’s because my mom would be making a huge homemade dinner around 5:00 when my brother and I would watch it on TBS (circa 1985). Now when it’s on, I want to curl up in a fetal position and suck my thumb.

  14. February 20, 2012 10:08 pm

    Oh My Golly! What is Funny? You’ve got to be kidding, right? Okay, I’ll tell you what funny is and you can tell everybody else.
    Okay, I’m washing my car. The guy across the street yells “Hey, when you’re done with yours, come over and wash mine!”
    Now that’s funny!
    PS-Then I went over and shot his entire family. You may have seen this on the news.
    Just kiddin’.
    This post was kinda funny. I liked the subject matter.

    • February 21, 2012 8:03 pm

      I love that kind of funny, Les. Sort of like when 5’1″ me used to wear my enormous son around in a baby carrier. “He’s almost as big as you!” said the 388th person who thought no one else ever said that. Holy cow, that is the work of master funny right there.

  15. John-Paul permalink
    February 21, 2012 12:54 am

    Firstly, what does schmenge mean?

    Secondly, I once had a friend who said the word facade wrong. He said it “fa card”. We decided that the word fa card needed a new meaning which was “F off” and “yes” simultaneously. Handier than you think with annoying people.

    “Does it annoy you when I forget to flush the toilet?”
    “For the hundreth time: fa-card!”

    • Tony permalink
      February 21, 2012 9:12 am

      I’m in my forties and just realized the word is “fasad” and not “fa-cade”! I’ve missed on that word my whole life!

      • John-Paul permalink
        February 21, 2012 11:37 am

        Or when you suddenly have to say a word you’ve only read. I once humiliated myself by saying Thames as it reads in front of my University tutorial group. Ah, snobbery… so hilarious.

    • February 21, 2012 8:07 pm

      I know, I did sort of leave that vague didn’t I. I’ll tell you but you’ll be immensely disappointed. It was what we called the carpeted wooden lounging benches in our school lobby. Taken from an SCTV polka skit — the Schmenge Brothers. See — sorry you asked, huh. Actually, I think “schmenge” and “fa-card” should be able to be used interchangeably.

      • John-Paul permalink
        February 22, 2012 12:28 am

        Carpeted wooden lounging benches.

        I’m just letting that roll around on my tongue for a while.

        Great album title.

  16. February 21, 2012 3:49 am

    Reblogged this on Attendance Please and commented:
    keep up the good work…yup. eighth grade is about right ; )

  17. Tony permalink
    February 21, 2012 9:09 am

    I was surprised to find funny Sesame Street as an adult, when watching it with my kids. They watched it stone-faced while I was laughing at Cookie Monster and how clever and witty he was.

    At at 6 my youngest finally started recognizing Looney Tunes as funny and would laugh hysterically at things her 8 year old sister wouldn’t. I guess kids develop differently and ‘find the funny’ at different ages.

    • February 21, 2012 8:14 pm

      The old Sesame Street bits between Grover and Kermit (Grover as the salesman selling earmuffs to Kermit who has no ears, or glasses to Kermit who has no ears to hold them up)! I loved those.

  18. February 21, 2012 10:44 am

    I so understand the connection a shared sense of humor brings. I grew up on a steady dose of Johnny Carson and SNL, but meeting people who understand your humor is a rare find. The friends who “get it” are treasures.
    I am not by nature the funny person in the room, but if someone says something that makes me laugh, I nearly have to leave the room to compose myself. I can think of nothing the rest of the conversation. :)
    Thanks for the laugh this morning!

    • February 21, 2012 8:17 pm

      I think the yuk-yuk funny people are only funny in small doses. Easy laughers are more my kind of people. You’re probably the kind of person I couldn’t make eye contact with during a quiet church service or I’d be screwed.

  19. February 21, 2012 11:16 am

    I love your blog. It’s nice to read something funny and real amid all the bullshit there is out there today. Thanks for making me laugh!

  20. Emily permalink
    February 21, 2012 7:44 pm

    What does “schmenge” mean?

    • February 21, 2012 8:20 pm

      See above comment response to John-Paul. Get ready to be disappointed. I’ll give you a hint: it does not refer to male anatomy.

  21. February 21, 2012 8:09 pm

    Great post! You reminded me a lot of my childhood with this one. I moved to a new school in 5th grade, too. I met my best friend shortly after that and we did all the non-normal teenage girl things. We also made up a language, where you snort while talking. We called it “Snirt.”

    I also watched the Apple Dumpling Gang as a kid and thought it was the greatest thing ever, but not past age 10 or so. I can’t believe the kids at your school didn’t lynch you.

    • February 21, 2012 8:23 pm

      You’re right — I should’ve been given a few round of swirlies for that movie recommendation for sure. I don’t know how I survived. Snirting should be posted as a podcast on your blog.

      • February 21, 2012 8:28 pm

        Haha! There are very few things I would be embarrassed to post on my blog, but that’s one of them. It’s the least attractive language in existence.

  22. February 21, 2012 8:13 pm

    I always thought I would marry someone very funny, and we’d laugh all day and wet our pants sometimes. But I married someone very serious.
    But it’s good in its own way… because if I can make HIM laugh, I KNOW I’m funny.

    • February 21, 2012 8:27 pm

      You are right on that. Sometimes the serious types are the best ones to have around. The tremendous feeling of accomplishment when you make them shoot coffee out of their nostrils is fantastic. And I sort of feel the madness creeping in when I’m around a serious person, like I’m all the more ready to collapse into a fit of meaningless laughter. And I’m sure they dig that.

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