The Importance Of Being Silly

Mar 19

They’re mad at Obama. “They,” of course, are always mad at Obama. This time, it’s because he made a joke while discussing the current financial mess when he appeared on Sixty Minutes.

Now, as any idiot could tell you, he wasn’t laughing AT the financial situation, but ABOUT it. Why? Because as bad as things are, a person with a sense of humor can find something funny in almost anything. As my friend’s 104 year old Danish grandmother used to say, “It’s no laughing matter, but no matter if you laugh.”


That Billion Dollar Smile

Of course, everything Obama says is noted, quoted, inspected, dissected, and often rejected. First, he was too professorial, now he’s too flippant. Humor, when analyzed by the humorless, is always Big Trouble.

Mr. President, I feel your pain.

When I was running a small publishing company, I got a lot of grief from certain cranky clients (who shall remain nameless) for attempting little humorous asides during meetings about important issues. Issues that were making us all uptight, nervous, and unable to think clearly. I thought it was important  to defuse the tension by injecting a little levity into the proceedings.
But some people just don’t get it. . .

They accuse you of not taking things seriously. Seriously! Do they really believe that this man doesn’t grasp the gravity of the situation? They think he got all that grey hair in 60 days or less because he cancelled his delivery of Just For Men? Geez. I mean, go ahead and disagree with his policies, get all Republican about it, vote against him in the next election, have any rational opinion you want, but please, don’t for a minute even play with the idea that he isn’t taking the problems of this country to heart.

Not taking things seriously!! Harumph. I took my business so seriously that I thought about it 24/7, even in my sleep. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, sometimes good, sometimes not so much, to solve the problem du jour (or du nuit). But then, in the light of day, I couldn’t help but see the funny side of things. That’s one reason the business thrived, and that’s the whole reason I’m here. On this blog. That’s why you’re here, too.

You know we’re going to hell in a hand-basket, but let’s get silly anyway.  Imagine how it would look if all of us were jammed into a gigantic hand-basket (Remember, a lot of us are not exactly svelte, and what exactly is a hand-basket, anyway?) and this hand-basket was being lowered (By whom? Godzilla? King Kong? The Fifty-Foot Woman?) into the fiery flames of eternal damnation. What’s wrong with this picture?

What right with it is that silliness makes the situation seem less dire, and more Wayne Dyer, and that’s good. Dyer is the one who tells us that “We’ll see it when we believe it,” and not the other way around. So maybe we have to lose the hell-in-a-hand-basket image altogether, and think, dare I say it: positively —of prosperity. Silly is not so silly as it sounds: it can make you think.

Back in the ‘90’s I founded the Institute for the Very, Very Silly. The inspiration for this momentous move was the Mel Brook’s movie High Anxiety (talk about silly!) in which the Brooks character, a psychiatrist,  joins the Institute for the Very, Very Nervous, along with Harvey Corman and Cloris Leachman. Rent this movie! As an honorary member of the Institute for the Very, Very Silly (because you read my blog), you will appreciate this film, which attains serious silliosity, and is a minor masterpiece.

But be aware: we’re talking deep silly here, not dopiness. Not pie-in-the-face-stuff, or falling on a banana peel stuff, although all that stuff has its place. Deep silly requires thought. And sometimes, real talent. Jonathan Winters, Woody Allen, and of course, Mel Brooks, get Lifetime Achievement Awards. Brooks for the 2000 Year Old Man, alone. Then there’s the overwrought production number, Springtime for Hitler, in The Producers. That reaches a whole other level, because it transforms unbelievably offensive material into something so silly that you literally are laughing at death. I can’t think of anything else quite like it.  Well, maybe Mad Magazine, the epitome of deep silly. And how about Abbot and Costello’s Who’s On First? Can it get sillier than that?

But back to Who’s Our President, and what his critics are saying. At the moment, they’re mainly in the media. The populace, on the other hand, is willing to give this man a little more time — like more than 2 months, say — to clean up the many messes of the last decades. But attacks by the talking (and writing) heads reached a fever pitch recently over a few off-the-cuff remarks, which no one with a sense of humor, underlined, would have had any trouble understanding. Was he actually demeaning the Special Olympics, or just trying to be self-deprecating about his lack of bowling skills.  I mean really. (Nice that he apologized anyway, though, because it gave that organization some free publicity, so there was a bit of a silver lining, I think.)

Let’s get this straight: Obama isn’t silly. Honestly, and I hate to say this, he’s not even funny. He’s merely intelligent, elegant, and able to communicate to millions of people all over the world. And the message he communicates is hope. This is not remotely palatable to certain ultra, ultra conservatives who stand, or prefer to sit, some on rather large behinds, ready to pounce on anything and everything our new President says.

The Post was livid with indignation after the remarks on Sunday. I have no idea what Rush Limbaugh had to say, as I am not, and never have been, a Ditto Head, but I’ve heard enough of him (literally!) to know that it  was probably hours of derision, delivered with outrage, his stock in trade. Fortunately, the traders of the stock market reacted to Obama’s remarks differently (They have a sense of humor? Who knew?) and on Monday, the day after Obama’s little joke about the economy, the Dow went up nearly 500 points.

And his remark, folks, was just a little joke, not that funny, a bit of tension-relieving humor, and god knows, we all need it. Obama, as we’ve noted, is no comedian, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could say that La Comedia E’ Finita and go back to life as we knew it before this economy made grouches of us all? Anyway, he won’t be giving up his day job anytime soon: Jay Leno has nothing to worry about.

But please, Mr. President, don’t let any of this get you down. Keep joking, keep cracking wise (we haven’t had a lot of wisdom in the White House for a long time now), maybe get a little silly with the kids in the privacy of your own home, even if it is the White House (Aw come on, we know you can do it), and above all, keep smiling. It’s a million dollar smile you’ve got there. Actually, it’s got to be worth at least a billion today, adjusting for inflation, and considering the kind of money we’ve been throwing around. Anyway, we need all the good humor we can get at a time like this.

Good Humor? Wasn’t that ice cream?  I hear that sales of all kinds of sweets are soaring in these bitter times, as people turn to (cheap) things to make them feel better.

Do you find that you’re eating more Mallomars now than ever before? Devil Dogs? Rocky Road? (It sure is.) Get back to me on that.


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