As a reader service, grubstreet.ca is reproducing some recent items from the "President's Page" section of the American Humour Association's website (www.aha/hahaha.org). AHA president Morty Gross has a BA in Comedical Studies from the University of Las Vegas and is the author of the forthcoming book "Humour in the 1960's: it seemed funny at the time".
Whither the insult?
We've all been there. The Gerald Ford joke has fallen flat (and on top of it, you've got a new bruise on your head). Nobody cares what happened when the Englishman, the Frenchman and the Irishman each brought a mackerel to confession. And speaking of Britney Spears, which you weren't, and aren't going to, because you can't bring yourself to stoop that low, the question arises: is it time to start insulting the audience?
The traditional Ricklesian theory of humour - still taught at most humour colleges in North America - says jump in and hold your nose with both feet. Scan the front row: "Good evening madam. Is that your husband sitting next to you or did the zoo let you take an orang utang out?". "Is that real jewelry you're wearing or did you put the stuff from Wal-Mart in your safety deposit box." I know, I know, we all think it's hilarious, and it is, but something has changed.
I can't put my finger on it, but I think it's digital. Cutting right to the chase, I think it's the cell phone. Any schmuck with a $20 bill can stick a camera in his pocket and the next thing you know, you're being pilloried on U Tube and Nancy Grace is on line 2. Live humour just doesn't replay well. You toss out a good throwaway line - "And remind your teenage daughter to put her nose back in the pickle jar when she goes home" - and all of a sudden you're deluged with calls from Save the American Cucumber Society. Who needs the aggravation: I'd sooner suck on a giant kosher dill!
And then there is the racial taunting issue? It wasn't that long ago that you could throw out a solid hit to the body (*And where are your ancestors from sir - oh, I see, Newfoundland, where the fog is so thick the men mate with the cod") and get a hearty laugh. Now, you can 't go near wops, polacks, blacks. And religions - you'd need a genius to put that one back in the bottle.
No, I say the insult is going the way of the compact disk - with its head on a silver platter. But on the upside, there is an endless source of shtick preserving material - and the beauty of it is, it's free. It comes from a renewable source called - wait for it - Real Life.
Have you seen these?
* Economic reporters are worried about the rise of the international cranberry cartel: prices are up to $50 a barrel thanks to perceived health benefits, new cranberry products, and slow talking guys standing in a bog.
* Yogawear maker Lululemon suffers a setback when an independent test find that its t shirts do not contain seaweed.
* A former Canadian Prime Minister admits accepting cash in envelopes in hotel rooms, long after his spokesperson has said that nobody would be stupid enough to do that.
* In 1992, fictional right wing movie character Bob Roberts plays his guitar in a bid to get a Senate seat. In 2008, real life right wing character Mike Huckabee plays his guitar on a bid to become Republican presidential nominee.
So there's my proposal. Don't set up a confrontation with the audience when you don't have to. If the routine's going south, forget about speculating where the false teeth of the gentleman in the aisle seat in row C have been. Just reach into your daily newspaper clippings file
I'm done. Hey, you there, reading this article: is that a wart on your nose or have they started making external brains? Just kidding! No really, I'm sorry, I was just having a little fun. Old habits die hard. Seen the movie? Julie Andrews looks after Bruce Willis' 7 kids and they form a musical group, fall in love and run away across the mountains to Canada.
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Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.
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