Sunday, March 30, 2014

The nature of funny

I used to work with two guys who had a joke between them and if they liked you they assumed you would also think it hilarious.  What was the cause of their hilarity?  There was a woman in the office who wore voluminous dresses that they termed caftans and they liked to rewrite songs to include the word caftan.  Dozens of songs, including obscure arias from operas that were no longer performed.  They are two sweet men who really shouldn't work together ever again because they wound each other up and kept winding each other up until the spring wound down and then they would wind it up again.  They were very proud of themselves about this whole thing except that it was funny to just them.  They found it so hilarious that they didn't understand why other people stopped laughing.  It amused them and it didn't hurt anyone but, really, only they got it.  I think I said Ha Ha Ha many times because they were quite clever but, again, it was their joke.

A few years before this I worked with a man who faked an English accent (faked it very well, too) and would tell people to pack their things as they were fired.  Every single day for months and months and months and months.  And every single time we laughed because it was charming and always said at just the right time.  If someone wasn't amused we didn't know about it because he was a very nice guy and quite popular with his coworkers and, seriously, it was a very good accent.

And so we touch on the nature of funny.  Not everything is funny to everyone.  Audiences went crazy for "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," and I was sorry I spent money to see it but not as sorry as I was to see "Throw Mama from a Train."  (My friend called it "a toilet fish."  I didn't disagree.)  A friend suggested I might try "This Is the End."  That movie was every kind of wrong and hilarious.  When it first came out, a friend convinced me I wanted to see "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" at an evening show -- not my beloved bargain matinee -- and I had no expectations at all.  I was charmed and delighted and laughed and laughed. 

There is no telling what someone might find funny but there are paid comedy writers who do seem to get it right on a nightly basis.  Great gig!  Good for you all!  I am envious of your confidence and skill.  There are many very good comedy shows and sitcoms with stellar, smart writing that sometimes carries on for years.  But one man's love of Jon Stewart is another man's bitter pill.  I don't suppose a tea-party conservative would care for Mr. Stewart and his liberal views and for him, "He's not funny."

I am the only person I know who doesn't like the movie "Office Space."  Coworkers and dear friends quote from it and laugh about it and one of them is the proud owner of a red Swingline stapler in the original packaging.  They joke about wearing enough flare.  And I just don't get it.  No, maybe it's better to say that I get it but I don't think it's funny.  (Same with the hyper-longlasting "Two and a Half Men," which, for me, has never been funny for even 30 seconds.)

I took a class in college that one day brought out the point that "If it's real to you, it's real, to you."  Same thing with comedy -- I am happy you find something funny; be happy that I find something funny.  Funny is personal and we can't take it away from each other.  And the two guys with the caftan joke?  They still think the whole thing was insanely funny.  The end.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014

So check it out

"Post Secret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard."

That's the idea behind Post Secret.  Make an art postcard with your secret and send it to Frank Warren, the founder of Post Secret.  Frank gets hundreds and hundreds of secrets and he goes through and chooses which ones to share.  Secrets cover the gamut -- a woman who is annoyed that her mother-in-law buys her Costco muffins all the time and, two weeks later, that she was sorry she sent that secret because her mother-in-law is a wonderful, generous, caring woman; how someone didn't commit suicide and a year later was better; how someone wasn't sorry for turning in a criminal who  was doing hard time (it was a Polaroid showing the man celebrating at a Mexican restaurant, drinking a Margarita, and wearing a huge sombrero with a black strip over his face to protect his identity) -- and they're published by Frank every week.

It's the way to make some art, share your secret, get it off your chest, and go on with life and no one knows it's you.  It may or may not be published but the secret is gone and, in theory, out of your life (but is it?).  Frank now travels the world and has Post Secret evenings at colleges and universities.  From what I've seen on the blog,  after Frank talks about Post Secret and the work it does -- suicide prevention is a major cause for Frank -- people get up and share secrets.  For me, that's against the spirit of anonymity provided by the blog but I guess the audience loves it and people are relieved by finally sharing the secret.  There are stories of people picking up one of the published Post Secret books and finding a secret tucked into the pages by another store patron.  There is now a Post Secret play.  Post Secret is huge.

Every Sunday, Frank puts out a new selection of secrets and, recently, added classic secrets from Post Secret's early days.  I've been reading Post Secret for over seven years.  (I'm not a fan of the books because it's like being a contestant on your favorite TV game show:  You've just had too much of it at once and you need to walk away from it for a while and get back to normal before you can watch it again.  The blog is just the right amount.)  I have even considered being on Facebook so I can read look at Post Secrets on Facebook (but then, I just don't wanna).

As of right now, the visitor count is 659,387,941.  People love them some Post Secret.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Return of Flamingo

I find winter to be one long damn bummer day after another, the days bleeding into weeks leaching into months of little sunlight, too much snow, and impossible cold.  It is, however, what it is and I, like most others, try to make the most of it.  One icy cold, difficult to negotiate day at time, right?

This wintry mix lets us see things we always think of one way as something else altogether.  Behold!  Calder's Flamingo wearing a snow hat in the twilight-into-night of Federal Plaza.

Flamingo, wearing the winter well

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Oscars!

I love the Oscars.  I love the anticipation, the excitement, and the thrill of a host who has it together.

Oscar fashion is often subjective but I will say this to anyone who is choosing a gown for the event:  If the dress is wearing you, then it's not the right dress.

Who do I think will win?  Me!  I win!  Because I get to watch the Oscars!