Volume 20 Issue 3 | June 1 -7, 2007
The Penny Post
Funny you asked
By Andrei Codrescu
For something to be funny in my book it has to be innocent and optimistic, not powerful and stupid. When I immigrated to the U.S. in 1966 I had all the ingredients of funny: I was young, if not exactly innocent in the catholic mode I survived mostly by donating sperm to a New York sperm bank you didnt know that, did you? I have thousands of children. Some of them might be reading this, with six credit cards in their wallet. Anyway, I felt pretty innocent, I was certainly optimistic, and I was poor. I was funny other people thought that I was funny. To myself I wasnt all that funny nobodys a character to themselves as Ted Berrigan said, -- but if I liked people I thought that they were funny. My English was pretty rudimentary so I could only absorb one meaning at a time. Later, I added to that sense of I like you, youre funny, the sense of strange -- shes funny. Hmmm. That meant weird. So in addition to being young, innocent, optimistic and poor, I found my contemporaries touching and funny because they were like me, young, optimistic, and poor. There were many people in the world who were not funny the majority, in fact. The grownups. They waged war, they enslaved the children, they worked humorless jobs, and they were racist, xenophobic, and, well, old. Not funny I mean, in retrospect, what kind of judgmental little bastard was I to make such a large abstract indictment of people I didnt know? I was naïve, and maybe that wasnt so funny. But I wasnt wrong. FUNNY to me means endearing. The word comes from fun, which means having a good time, and its synonymous with amusement, a word that has the muse in it, and it means that when you are having fun you are inspired, that the muse is with you.
So funny to me is the opposite of mean, cruel, and insensitive; it means that I can recognize the absurdities and contradictions of someones life and gestures because I like them. Its a kind of enhancement. You have to also be smart to be funny, in addition to being innocent, poor, and optimistic, because if youre not smart youre not telling people anything they dont know. And if youre not telling people something they dont know, youre not funny.
Power and stupidity are not funny because they are neither innocent nor optimistic no matter how often they use the rhetoric of innocence and optimism. So innocence, whatever else you might think it is, is a big ingredient of funny.