Regulars and Shorts, Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center

By Dennis Hinkamp

Viper pit of humor.
by Dennis Hinkamp

Although humor is said to be healing and a photo finish second to money as the most desired component of a lasting relationship, it’s hard to pin down exactly what humor is. Most recently, cautious people have begun to rethink humor; especially satire.

“Two guys walk into a bar…oh, wait, what if those two guys now want to kill me?” you now think. “Knock, knock, who’s there?…maybe someone who wants to kill me. Your momma so fat, she wants to kill me.”

We can’t live this way.

There are satirical cartoons and many, many web images I wish I could un-see. The comment sections in all publications are a viper pit of anonymity gone wild. Still, this is a minuscule price to pay for the freedom of expression.

Of course humor is subjective, but so is reality. Ask 20 people to stand in front of a mirror and rate themselves on a scale of attractiveness and you will get 20 different answers even though an outside comedian observer would tell you they are all ugly and narcissistic. Mice are cute, but rats are scary; endangered pandas raise money while endangered spiders get stepped on. Women in bikinis are hot; men in bikinis not. Life doesn’t make sense, but humor makes us care about that a little less. Humor is a moving target based on assumptions and stereotypes.

Nobody likes to be stereotyped. (Oops, that’s another stereotype. There probably are people somewhere in a yet undiscovered Amazon village—the river, not the website—who actually do like to be stereotyped.) But that does not negate the utility of stereotyping.

Mormons like Jell-O, Catholics have a lot of kids, the Pope wears a funny hat and empirical evidence suggests that bears do defecate in the woods. Sure, I have known Mormons who hate Jell-O and I am inexplicably the only child of a Catholic couple. The Pope just told the world that “Catholics don’t have to bread like rabbits” and he rides a Vespa when he’s not in the Pope Mobile. Stereo­types have exceptions, but they are the basis of humor and allow us to flow through life without second-guessing everything.

We watch shows such as Duck Dynasty and Moon­shiners because we want to make fun of them. They do the shows because they are secretly making fun of the viewers. Everybody wins.

Garrison Keillor has made a nice living off of satirizing small town life, Lutherans and bachelor Norwegian farmers. Religion has always been ripe for humor because, unlike mathematics, there isn’t one answer. Everyone thinks they are right much like everyone considers himself or herself an above-average driver.

“Sure, driving while texting and nursing my baby could be a dangerous behavior for some people, but I’m a really good driver. We need to keep the government out of our business,” they say.

I just lament that there’s not more humor in the non-religious factions. Atheists are just boring rationalists and agnostics are too wishy-washy for everyone.

Dennis Hinkamp would like to thank everyone for not killing him.

This article was originally published on January 31, 2015.