The ideas come to me in bunches.
Yesterday, I talked about how good news is rarely funny. Today it’s how, in the face of concrete information – otherwise known as facts – the possibility for comedy is nigh on impossible.
Factual information is the Kryptonite of comedy. It arrives on the scene, and the overpowered joke just surrenders and weakens, gasping helplessly on the ground until it sputteringly expires.
R.I.P. comedic notion that was only trying to amuse, blasted to oblivion by a humorless reality.
Comedy is delicate flower, thriving only in a nurturing environment, an environment that excludes both (yesterday’s message) good news and (today’s) factual information.
Example. Not a big one. But how big do examples have to be?
I was typing away the other day, when all of a sudden, the electricity goes out. I could have continued typing, but that would have sent the futility of this exercise into incomprehensible overdrive.
“He’s still at the keyboard and his typing is going nowhere.”
Am I wrong, or that heartbreakingly pathetic?
Anyway, I eventually stop typing, and I look around the room. The lights are out. The TV emits a pictureless silence. My hulking printer is just sitting there. Normally, it hums. I immediately miss that, and begin humming myself.
Since I could no longer work, I got up and I went to the bathroom. To floss. The thing is, ever since Thanksgiving Dinner, I’ve had gum irritation between my two back teeth on the right side, both on top and the bottom, and I’ve been dreading a dental intervention.
You know how terrified some people are about being stuck in an elevator. That’s how afraid I am about taking a troubling set of gums into a dentist’s office. I get the shivers just thinking about it. I also, by the way, am terrified about being stuck in an elevator.
That’s right. I am the entire package.
So I’m flossing away, for the fourth time that morning, hoping that the mere ritual of flossing will miraculously cause the irritation to disappear and I will not need to go to the dentist who will tell me I need immediate root canal but first both my wisdom teeth have to come out so as to allow the dentist more room to work.
It is then that a funny idea occurs to me.
Our upstairs Master Bathroom, where I am currently flossing, includes a Top-Of-The-Line Toto toilet, a luxurious product that along with certain warm-water cleansing applications also provides, courtesy of some “electric eye” operation, a toilet lid and seat that rise and lower down automatically. We have three bathrooms in our house, but only one Toto, hidden upstairs, so that visitors will be unaware we’re pretentious.
In the course of my flossing, I happen to wander by the Toto toilet and the lid doesn’t go up. And that’s when it hits me:
“What if there are these really rich people and all of their toilets are Totos and the electricity goes out?
You get it? The lids will not rise on any of them and they will not be able to “go” anywhere!
That’s funny, isn’t it? I thought it was hilarious. I immediately considered writing about it, including a scene where supplicating wealthy people ring a poor person’s doorbell:
“We’re sorry to bother you, but our toilets don’t work when the power’s out. Do you think we could we use yours?”
I had a catchy title for the piece:
“The Price You Pay For The Price You Pay.”
I was laughing my head off, suddenly oblivious the ticking time bomb between my back molars. Which may, in fact, be the primary purpose of comedy, if you replace “oblivious to the ticking time bomb between my back molars” with “oblivious to the reality that we are all going to die.”
Later that day, the other member of our household returns home from work, and I tell her about the power outage, eager to regale her with my manufactured hilarity concerning the affluent family that can’t “go” because their automatic toilets won’t work. To which she immediately replies:
“You know those toilets also work manually.”
(The sound of a comedic imagining falling, lifeless, to the firmament.)
There is, I suppose, another way of looking at this, wherein a college-educated person who has lived closing in on seven decades on this planet should have had brains enough to figure that “manual” thing out for himself.
But that’s not funny either.