Alas, along with that luncheon special, Tripe-4-Two Tuesdays, Funny Friday in the Monitor will no longer be available after this week as the paper transitions to an online daily and a weekly print edition. While Funny Friday has only been part of the paper for four years, as one of its writers, I hope it has provided a respite from the downward tendencies of GM stock.
I have tried to generate chuckles, with results ranging from a couple of guffaws to an equal number of “huhs?” Along the way, I’ve also discovered that aiming for laughs can be dangerous.
The response to an article I wrote about creating a holiday for men – a Guy Day – was so vitriolic that I actually considered, to use a Godfather term, “going to the mattresses.” (If you want to catch up on the nastiness, just head over to Jezebel.com and type in my name. Keep the kids far away from the computer.)
The other piece that had me cowering in a bunker was about crying babies on airplanes. The notion that children were entitled to scream as they flew around the globe was one I was not familiar with. But after all those threatening notes, I was more than willing to agree that I was not only wrong to kvetch on the subject, but should, as penance, be forced to attend their children’s pageants for the next five years.
The real difficulty for humor writers is finding subjects that are as funny as what’s in the news. It’s hard to beat, for example, the University of Texas paying millions for Norman Mailer’s car repair bills and other material in the name of collecting his letters. Or New York nursery schools interviewing 2-year-olds to see if they are worthy applicants. And what can you say about Mickey Rourke that Mickey Rourke hasn’t said funnier?
And yet we continue to try and amuse, though I’m not sure why. A print writer, after all, doesn’t hear the laughter. I suppose I could have begged for a subscription list to the Monitor and knocked on doors twice a month to ask how many laughs I gave readers along with their oatmeal. But then I’d just end up like Sally Field when she won her second Oscar in 1985: You like me, you really like me.
When I worked in advertising in New York City, I would occasionally come across a subway poster I wrote. Whenever I saw a straphanger looking at it, I was tempted to let him or her know I was the author of it. Except, this was the New York in the what’s-it-to-you-fella era and any nudge would probably have been answered with a rabbit punch.
And so as the sun – and moon – set on Funny Friday, I have learned that as desperate humorists we will do just about anything to provoke a wry smile.
The great Chuckles the Clown from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” said it best about what we do to make people laugh: “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”
Which is why I leave you, with a smile on my face and a closet full of wet trousers.