lördag, april 16, 2005

Humor Hypothesis #1

1. The Smarter the Kid, the Bigger the Funnybone

My children have in chronologically descending order: good looks
My children have in chronologically ascending order: smarts
In the areas of physical fitness and social graces, they seem more as paint ball victims.

The eldest was born "Ready to take a memo, sir" serious, although certainly pleasant enough.
The middler made people laugh with oddball comments. I was "my son's a doctor" proud and bought Burns and Allen tapes for her, but she was not interested.
The youngest is downright doomed to a life of stand up.

How do I know that? Last night, we happened across Abbott and Costello's Meet the Mummy, which segueued into Buck Private. She laughed until she lost control of all bodily functions, the clean ones I mean, like breathing and standing up. And it wasn't the rifle upside the back of the head-type routine that did her in, but Lou's face. When he shot a glance to let you know that he knew that you knew that he knew he was in trouble, she fell over. When his head shook - sometimes barely noticeably - to feign fear, the giggles came up from her toes.

Today I will introduce her to Gracie.

We spend a lot of time wondering what it is that makes kids sad. We should spend more time learning what makes kids laugh. It doesn't always have to be an expensive feature film showing Steve Martin with scrambled eggs all over his head, although that certainly works. Sometimes it is just a look, in anticipation of something a child is familiar with, that does the trick. The next time your child does something wrong by accident, try this: look at whatever it is, the milk on the floor, the door shut on a coat, the sneeze remnets suddenly blasted all over your eyeglasses, the side of the car into the side of the house, and with an exaggerated smirk, pretend to get mad - mad enough to be speechless - as if you are so confounded you cannot imagine what to say. Again and again and again, you start to point your finger as if to yell - at the kids, at the milk on the floor, at the boogers on your shades, the shattered support beam, but you are speechless. With a light in your eye, and overarched eyebrows, and hands on hips gesturing ridiculously. That is the anticipation that I am talking about. It difusses a moment that in the big scheme of things is never a catastrophe anyway, and, I have found, is bizarrely bonding and reinforces that you really are in control of the house because the darn kids never really know what to expect of you. (Be careful. If you are good enough at it, your performances may result in more spilled milk, so the first rule is, it has to be an accident. The second rule is Silence, although muttering and sputtering are allowed.)

Why can't we have more Lou Costello unwittingly charming a snake out of a basket as entertainment instead of Power Rangers, Fairly Odd Parents, and Bratz. It could not possibly be less expensive to produce than today's pablum. I think Spongebob comes close to working with the facial imagery that kids can connect with, but the animation is too far removed from reality and perhaps in too complicated - or bizarre - scenario to connect. The Seseme Street character Elmo has his moments in some of his solo videos, that produce belly laughs in my little chuckleheads. Surely the talent is out there to create true escapist humor that tickles kids through all their stages.

Next time your kid, or your significant other for that matter, seems out of sorts, walk or ride your bikes to the local video store and rent Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Walk out of the store without a single atom of sugar or salt. Try this shot of fresh air followed by a dose of pure humor and take note of how the rest of the day goes. Now that's therapy.