Tuesday, October 25, 2011

You gotta laugh... 
There is a notion that humor is what separates us humans from the rest of the animal population.  Non-human animals react to something that seems "off" with either fear or aggression. Usually humans try to laugh about it first before running away or starting a fight.  There are predictable exceptions to this idea when jokes or seemingly funny remarks themselves are taken the wrong way causing the very fear and aggression it should have defused.
The trick for a comic or humorist is to know how far to push that line to get the laugh and avoid the riot.  I don't think anyone is 100%. A comic tends to go for the joke first and deal with the consequences later.  If you have to stop and consider all the ramifications of a joke before you tell it, then your timing is going to suffer to the extent you waited. There is nothing "less" funny than a joke that misses its timing.
That is one of the exhausting things about being in a room full of comics.  It becomes a feeding frenzy to be the first with the funniest remark on whatever happens. No one is giving a second thought to the advisability of making the joke, they just want to be the first.  Being second with the same witty comment is last in the comedy race.  The only exception is if one can top the first remark, taking that level and pushing it further.
It all sounds rather complicated when you think about it, but timing is comedy. It is a fast track and you have to be willing to go for it as fast as you think of it,  knowing that perhaps 85% of the time you will be right, but that 15% error can be disastrous. If the percentage is reversed and 85% of the time is disastrous then you are not a comic and should go into accounting or work for the DMV.
With that in mind, when I visited the jail last week, it was the first time I had ever experienced that process. I really didn't know what to expect when I entered the visiting area of the jail.  It was all fearful and somewhat intimidating just to be there. After we waited in line, filled out our paper work, went through a metal detector and had our ID checked against police records we sat in a "holding" area.  If there is any problem with your ID check you are taken away in handcuffs.  I saw that happen to a few of the visitors who had made it to the holding area. They detain people with outstanding traffic tickets to parol violations, you better be clean when you agree to a check because they don't even have to "take you downtown" to the jail... you are already there.  
It is a long time before you actually get to see the person you came to visit.  They call out three or four names every few minutes in no particular order.  I asked someone who was a regular visitor what was going on.  She said, "Once you have been cleared they have to locate the prisoner you are here to see, then they call you to the window."  Because of where I was I did not burst out laughing, but my fear and intimidation had turned to humor. Outside I just smiled, but inside I was having a laugh fest as I thought, "They have to 'locate' the prisoner?  Isn't this a frickin' Jail?  If they don't know where the prisoners are they're doing it wrong." 
As a tag to this story, I talked to gay couple who are mutual friends about my jailhouse visit. They said they couldn't get up the courage to go and see our buddy but they had tried to send a Halloween card. It had been returned to them that day.  The deputies opened it, censored it and sent it back to the sender with this note.  The card had been rejected because of "Excess glitter".
As you were,

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