A Salute to Homegrown Humor | HumorOutcasts

A Salute to Homegrown Humor

February 19, 2016

Image_4I might have been ten years old when my father, an upstanding circuit court judge, handed me a gift wrapped copy of Damon Runyon’s Guys and Dolls. He had read these stories to me for years and now graced me with my own personal edition. While this might have seemed like an odd choice of reading material for a ten year-old girl, it suited me well. I had already fallen in love with the feckless, adorable gambler, Nathan Detroit. Frankly, Runyon’s outrageously silly characters made such an impression on me that Nicely Nicely Johnson and Harry the Horse appeared in my recent book Never Say Neigh (no surprise, co-written with my own horse).

In short, my father The Judge understood the meaning of funny and shared his gift with our extended family early and often. A quintessential storyteller, he paid attention to details that others missed. For example, when my grandparents’ elderly Norwegian housekeeper, Clara Christianson, explained how her husband died, nobody but The Judge heard her say the man died of “Applestrokesy.” This irregular version of the medical condition apoplexy soon found its way into the Farr humor lexicon.

Great humor spreads like poison ivy

The humor business spread like poison ivy through the family. Someone was always itching to regale the rest of us with a droll piece of trivia. Irreverent tales about deer hunting camp, prohibition, weasels diving into occupied sleeping bags, Lena Tarbox slugging the district attorney with her purse in the courtroom, Artie B. Sullivan piloting his new Cadillac into Elk Creek—these tales and more punctuated our dinner conversation. My mother just rolled her eyes.

Somehow I concluded at about age eleven that I must be Damon Runyon’s protégé. Hence, I started writing humor, or at least what seemed funny to me. My first book, I think My Brother Likes Me, failed to make it past the editor’s desk due to what she called inappropriate treatment of our Labrador retriever Sam. Actually we loved Sam, and took very good care of him. All we did was hide him in the car trunk for a hasty ride to school and a chance to appear at Show and Tell. It was awhile before I submitted another manuscript to a humorless editor.

How I learned to laugh at my own fussing and foibles

So, fifty years later little has changed. My brother wears the merriment mantle bequeathed by The Judge. I write, sometimes for a horse and often with a mirthful voice, even when the topic seems less than jolly. The best part is we all learned to laugh out loud at ourselves and at our experience of the world around us.

Maybe that was the real humor lesson The Judge was angling for.


Mary Farr is an award-sinning writer and  author of The Promise In Plan B: What We Bring to the Next Chapter in our Lives

Mary Farr

Mary Farr, a retired pediatric hospital chaplain and inspirational speaker has published five books including the critically acclaimed If I Could Mend Your Heart, and her newest release, The Promise in Plan B, HOPress-ShorehouseBooks.com. Mary’s capacity to infuse audiences with joy and laughter inspires kindness, concern for one another, and a deep understanding of happiness. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Mary completed her divinity studies in the Episcopal Diocese of Eau Claire where she was ordained to the permanent diaconate in 1983. She received a Master of Arts degree in Theology from St. Catherine University in her hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota.

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3 Responses to A Salute to Homegrown Humor

  1. February 19, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    I love home-spun humor. It sneaks up on you and makes you think and laugh! And you know me–I am a huge fan of your work!

  2. February 19, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Oh good Kathy, I’m so glad the solemn face is making an exit and humor has taken a front row seat.

  3. Kathy Minicozzi
    February 19, 2016 at 10:28 am

    There wasn’t that much laughter in our family, and my frequent snarky remarks were not appreciated. I was the family smart mouth, among other dysfunctional roles. My sense of humor was always there, though, buried behind a solemn face. It would come out of me at odd times.

    The solemn face is pretty much gone now, and the humor has been released, for better or worse. 😉

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