M & J-
Last night your mother and I went to see one of our favorite comedians, Russell Peters, in downtown Phoenix. Typically I try not to engage in too many activities that carry the “do as I say, not as I do” double standard. Stand up comedy is my exception… that, and Canadian whiskey on the rocks. Stay away from my Crown Royale. I don’t need my toddlers intoxicated and heckling people at the comedy club.
I remember my grandparents and I listening to Ray Stevens tapes on long drives. From what I remember, he sang silly songs that we all could giggle at without anyone having to turn the volume down to mask portions a young mind shouldn’t be attempting to process. My first comedy album that I had to hide from my parents, and even some of my more conservative neighborhood friends, was Adam Sandler’s “They’re All Gonna Laugh at You.” I was 10, and without access to the internet, I actually had to resort to the unabridged Webster’s dictionary to look up some of the “adult” terminology.
Comedy albums were great, but there’s something almost magical about a comedian doing stand-up. The first person I ever saw do stand up on television was George Carlin. I was used to watching him on a children’s show call Shining Time Station… his stand up was not for children, to say the least. At first I was shocked my some of the things he was saying, and then I found myself thinking about the validity of some of the things he deemed absurd about our culture and the way we live. Eventually I was laughing until my sides hurt. After that, I couldn’t get enough. Richard Pryor, Dennis Miller, Bill Cosby, Jeff Foxworthy… I didn’t really care about the style, substance or subject matter, as long as it was funny.
I don’t remember my first live comedy show… it might have been The Amazing Jonathan in Las Vegas… or maybe Jake Johannsen at The Improv- either way, for both of those, your mother was there with me. I think, despite all of our infinite differences, the ability to appreciate comedy as both a source of art and entertainment is a big part of our common ground… especially when it comes at our own expense. I hold a special place for the litany of comedians that make a living dissecting and dismissing the values and traits I inherited, and those that I’ve chosen. That may sound ridiculous, but as a mostly white, part Native American guy who is a husband, father and Christian, I have to say that all of those traits are worthy of ridicule. All of us are funny, and not always on purpose. If you’re secure enough in who you are to allow others to publicly recognize that who you are is relatively strange in the grand scheme of things, then it’s my opinion that you’ll be better adjusted for it.
Now, do I want you eventually sneaking and watching Chris Rock’s HBO specials when you’re in grade school and repeating that stuff on the playground? No. I don’t. Can I stop you? Probably not. I’d just ask that you remember that it doesn’t take much to laugh when someone else is taking a ribbing- I’d say it’s always better to laugh with than laugh at. Micah- with your huge head, and Jett, with your… well, everything, you’re going to need to have thick skin and a good sense of humor.