Bad Is Funny



Okay, which of these is funny? The first:

While picking up a pharmacy prescription I noticed soda on sale, and caffeine is my favorite over the counter drug. An employee pointed out that if I used the store’s card at a scanning station, it would give me a coupon to make the pop even cheaper. It was a little thing, but she didn’t have to trouble herself with saving me some money; I’d have never known.

Or the second:

New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner was involved in a minor car crash in Manhattan.  Police say he managed to drive straight while texting, but lost control of his vehicle during pants removal.

The answer to which is funny seems clear, unless you’re a fan of Weiner, who at the time had a 9.7% approval rating. If almost ten percent of the people in New York still thought he had the good judgment to be their mayor, maybe they deserved him.

On the other hand, could he be worse than Bloomberg, who recently unleashed an initiative to ban sweet tea from the city? “Sugar is very bad for you,” he said. “No, no. Bad. Also, tea can discolor your teeth, so the NYPD will do inspections to make sure everyone brushes at bedtime.”

From time to time I talk about how we mine humor from real life. It’s all subjective, and I’m sure some people don’t think anything I write is humorous. (I’d just as soon not hear from you people. Besides, why the heck are you reading this, anyway?)

If there’s one thing my father’s illness taught me, it’s that there are some things you can’t make funny. But there is a pattern that I think is universal: Bad things are easier to make fun of than good things.

I should point out the very close relationship between “bad” and “stupid”.

That pharmacy employee did me a solid for no reason other than to be nice. You don’t hear about stuff like that, because good stuff’s not news and not funny.

Michael Bloomberg, who said on a radio show that the key to success is taking fewer bathroom breaks? He’s hilarious. I can go on about him for hours.

You know who’s even more hilarious? Anthony Weiner, who for a time was the most visible politician around thanks to the fact that he never met a cell phone camera he didn’t like. I could write twenty columns about him, but unfortunately every comic in the free world has already mined his – ahem – shortcomings for jokes that are cheap and easy, just like him.

I wonder why Bloomberg never tried to ban Weiner? Eye pollution!

You know what’s not funny? Earlier this year my wife and I found a table on clearance for 1/3 the normal price. We’d been looking for something to replace our dilapidated old table, which was built during the Nixon administration using pulp from shredded Presidential documents.

This one was perfect: Looked good, right size, and almost within our price range if I sold more plasma. (Assembly required, though … that’s another column.) So we borrowed my step-father’s SUV (on a related note, he could have said no), and set out for Fort Wayne, a 45 minute trip.

Unfortunately, when the salesperson (Cathy) contacted the storeroom, she discovered they were sold out. Cathy gave us a rain check, but we’d borrowed a bigger vehicle just to carry the thing, and it was going to be an incredible pain to borrow it again and get over there after the new stock arrived, but before the sale ended.

We hadn’t even made it back to the car when the phone rang. Cathy, for no reason other than to be thorough, checked the stockroom herself, and found the misplaced tables. She could have put it out of her mind until we came back the next week, but instead she grabbed a phone and called us before we could leave.

What kind of world would it be if that kind of story led on the evening news, instead of a starlet’s latest trip to rehab or a politician’s attempt to gain power and screw with people? Maybe we’d all walk around a lot happier. (By the way, my wife called the store to let them know exactly how we felt – something else that usually only happens when it’s bad.)

You won’t hear me tell that story, because it’s not funny. Well, you just did hear me tell that story, but only to make the point that it’s not funny. That argument’s so circular, it should be the subject of a government funded scientific study.

What you will hear me make fun of is Congress. Now, the US Congress really is not funny, in that they’ve joined many others in Washington, D.C., to do the maximum possible damage to America and its people. But you see, that’s exactly my point: Bad things are easier to make fun of.

How bad? At this point, Congressional approval ratings are at minus 7%. That’s right, it’s actually reached the minus category, because Congress is doing such a dismal job that disgruntled voters are coming back from the dead to answer the polls.

Luckily for our Senators and Representatives, most voters still think their Congressmen are doing just fine – it’s all the rest who are awful. You can bet those voters who came back from the dead in Chicago will vote for the incumbent.

And that’s just bad. But I’ll make it funny.

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4 thoughts on “Bad Is Funny”

  1. Great post. Yes, bad things are easier to poke fun of. I think that’s a natural defense mechanism for the human race. If we can laugh at something bad, it puts it in an easier perspective.

  2. Great piece, Mark. I think the key to remember these days is that everything is entertainment and the news (for the most part) is no exception. Bad news or any story that perpetuates fear or divisiveness “sells”. There is always humor in positive stories but it takes a bit of perspective and even patience when there isn’t someone or something to demonize.

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