Sunday, March 30, 2008

I See… Living the Funny Life


A man walks into a therapist’s office with a duck on his head. The therapist compassionately asks, “so, what’s your problem?”

OK. Before I reveal the incredibly funny punchline, stop for a moment and think. Appraise the situation. You have a man, with a duck sitting on his head, walking into a therapist’s office. The therapist is no dummy; no doubt he/she sees the duck on his head, and assumes that the man is in discomfort and needs help. Put yourself in his shoes. How irritated and uncomfortable would you be if you had duck sitting on your head?

The therapist asks the obvious question, however, because that’s what therapists do- they ask questions, and help us solve our own problems by shaping the answers we give into solutions. Obviously, both the therapist and everyone who has read this story so far is concerned about this man’s plight, and they are expecting the man to share with the rest of the class how the duck got up there in the first place.

Now back to the joke.

The duck responds. “Doctor, I’ve had this man underneath me following me around for over a day now, and I don’t know how to get rid of him! Can you help me?”

By now you are clutching your gut because your whole body is convulsing in uncontrollable laughter. If you were unfortunate enough to be eating while reading the punchline, you made a terrible mess with the mixture of ingested half-processed liquid and semi-solid projectiles that were forcibly, involuntarily ejected from your body.

Being the naturally funny person that I am, I’ve thought as deep as I dare and analyzed in as much detail as my brain can hold the clinical reason for jokes like this. Like all other mysteries of life, the answer is deceptively easy: the unexpected.

It is the unexpected that makes us laugh and bring us joy. Anybody who has not heard that joke before, reads the first part of the joke, and then is prompted to respond internally that “It’s obvious that the duck is upset about having a man underneath him and is seeking help from a qualified professional,” has had their sense of humor unsuspectingly demagnetized from their brain by a midnight alien joke-sucking ray in their sleep. If you reflect over the past week and critically analyze moments in the daily churn of your life that have evoked laughter, I’m certain you’ll find it was in response to something unexpected that someone on TV or in real life said or did that was unexpected. Young children in particular are the champions of the humorously unexpected; young parents lead incredibly funny lives.

This proven theory also explains why I am so naturally funny- my life has been steady stream of unexpected events:
- When I opened the only letter I’ve ever received from the prophet, it said I was called to serve in the Korea Pusan mission; “where in the heck is Korea?” I responded.
- I expected to grow up to be a world-famous author and expert volleyball star residing somewhere on the gold coast of California; now I’m a Federal desk jockey doing twenty years-to-life in the People’s Republic of Maryland who gets completely winded watching a good volleyball match on TV.
- I expected to be single until my late 60s, then marry an equally socially ill-defined woman looking to punch her ticket for the Celestial Kingdom; now I’m married to my va-va-va-voom Deon and the father of two amazing children.
- I expected to be in spirit prison by now, a victim of my own thoughtless irresponsibility; instead I continue to periodically defy death and look forward to old age, where I can say anything I want and get away with it.

It is true that some unexpected events in our lives can be depressing and heartbreaking. In the face of an unexpected event in our house, we have a popular mantra – “I can choose to laugh or cry.” The blessing of being a naturally funny person like myself is that the option to laugh comes naturally.

I choose to laugh. Come laugh with me.