Senses of humor: what are they? How many are there? Where do they come from? Why do some people seem not to have them? Why do Germans like toilet jokes so much? Why is George Bush so snarky? How did snarky get to be a word? Why did the expression "elephant that sticks to the roof of your mouth" make me squirt Pepsi out my nose, once?
Those are just some of the questions I have no answer for. I wanted to devote today's column to things I don't know. But that's such a big subject I've had to narrow it down to just the things I don't know that have recently come to my attention.
In particular, as I was telling my life story to a captive audience last week, it dawned on me that although I was talking about dreadful, horrible, catastrophes that had befallen me in my innocent childhood, I was breaking out into giggles. I was talking about disaster after disaster happening to a poor defenseless child, the sort of stories that can make grown men cry. But since it all happened to me over fifty years ago I was on the verge of giggling like any three teenage girls in the same room.
Another odd sense of humor is the Seinfeld sense. I'm not speaking of the Seinfeld stand-up sense of humor, but the Seinfeld sit-com sense of humor. I watch reruns of Seinfeld, the sit-com, all the time. While I watch, Anitra "Netmama" Freeman, Upon Whose Kitchen Floor I Have Sometimes Slept, is almost always trying to surf the internet while at the same time holding her hands over her ears and making "la-la" noises to block out the Seinfeld dialog. To sweet caring sensitive Anitra, the Seinfeld dialog is mean and Seinfeld characters are the dregs of human society and she finds nothing funny about them
Whereas, to me, the Seinfeld dialog is mean and Seinfeld characters are the dregs of human society, and I laugh and laugh no matter how often I see them.
Perhaps what got me thinking about this is the latest issue of Time Magazine, which has a set of short stories that all amuse me.
First, there's the PETA fur coat story. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has organized boycotts of stores selling fur coats, even stores selling only vintage fur coats. But they also give fur coats away to the homeless. Now they are giving fur coats to homeless people in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, speaking of things I do not know, "eccentric former basketball star" Dennis Rodman has something called the Dennis Rodman Foundation, which helps the homeless. I did not know that. But I guess I know it now, because Dennis heard about how PETA was helping the homeless stay warm by giving them clothes made from tortured animals, and thought "I'm down with that," or something to that effect, so he agreed to participate in PETA's "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" campaign.
Meanwhile, homeless men in Amsterdam are voluntarily wearing winter jackets that advertise Ben & Jerry's, in return for money from Ben and Jerry going to local nuns who in turn help the needy.
But that's not all! The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is now giving away confiscated meat from illegally killed moose and deer. Moose jerky, anyone? "Say, what are you going to do with that moose-hide, Mister Fish and Game man? That'd make a fine pair of pants for a homeless guy…" "Oh, rats, there's a bullet hole in mine."
Allow me to summarize.
I don't know everything. I know that I have a weird sense of humor, but I don't know why. I know that Dennis Rodman would rather be naked than wear fur, but homeless people would rather wear furs than freeze to death. I know that PETA and Dennis are OK with that. I know that Anitra would wear a jacket with a Ben & Jerry's ad on it, just to promote ice-cream. I know that I will never see a squirrel ice-skating on the Potomac in July.
But I might wear him for a hat some winter if I were homeless again. I'd get a pass from PETA.