Monthly Archives: November, 2013

Black Friday: Step Right Up

Tom-Waits-performing-in-B-007Black Friday. The day, or so goes the popular internet meme, when Americans fight and trample each other in an effort to buy things we don’t really need the day after giving thanks for what we already have. Black Friday is so called because retailers sell enough merchandise to put their finances “in the black.” That is all well and good, but the ambiguously ominous moniker conjures up thoughts of similarly sounding, more unpleasant notions such as Black Sheep, Black Ops, or the more fitting Black Death – and not injudiciously so. Black Friday is the antithesis of the holiday season; the comfort of a warm home, warm food, warm friends and family. Why anyone would wake up in the pre-dawn dark to fight the cold and crowds, the parking lots and personal assaults, all in an effort to save a nominal amount of money on goods that will be discounted for the next month anyway (or available online), baffles the mind when a fireplace, a cup of tea or a hot toddy and a Dean Martin Christmas record could suffice so much more pleasantly as a way to while away a free Friday in November.

Business and trade are good for society, of course, and there is an undeniable commercial aspect to the Holidays, whether we like it or not. But as with putting up Christmas decorations before Halloween has even passed, the rush to shop while the turkey has yet to digest shortchanges Thanksgiving and disrupts the natural progression of the season. If you decide to sit Black Friday out and spend the day after Thanksgiving in the lazy and magnificent warmth of your home and loved ones, consider instead participating in Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday began in 2010 as a more soul-satisfying and fulfilling alternative to Black Friday’s empty temptation. Obviously, if you need to purchase a television or laptop and you have a limited budget with which to procure one, then the big box retailers are your best bet, and I wish you the best out there today, sincerely. But there is nothing quite like embracing the sense of community and spirit of the season by patronizing the local, small, privately owned businesses in your very own neighborhood.

I suppose for many Black Friday is itself a tradition, perhaps even an opportunity for family bonding, and I don’t mean to disparage those who relish in the ritual. But the ever increasing dominance of this “holiday” – which is merely a side effect of an actual holiday – is troublesome, as is the slippery push by retailers to extend Black Friday into Thanksgiving Day itself, virtually swallowing whole the essence of America’s finest holiday with America’s most vacuous.

Of course commercialism taken to the absurd is nothing new in America, as Tom Waits demonstrates on the second track to his 1976 album “Small Change,” a collection of booze-soaked piano ballads and up-tempo beatnik raps, recorded with West Coast jazz musicians, most notably drummer Shelly Manne. The album’s opening lyric, “wasted and wounded / it ain’t what the moon did / I got what I paid for now” sets the tone of the film noir-meets-Charles Bukowski atmosphere of the album. But the second song takes a fun and comical detour as Waits takes on the persona of an advertising pitchman giving his all to convince you to buy “the only product you will ever need.”

The liner notes to the original album came with a lyric sheet, so that the beauty and majesty of Waits’ brilliant wordplay would not be lost in his drunken gravel growl, with one noticeably amusing omission. Instead of providing the lyrics to “Step Right Up,” there is the following disclaimer:

For the lyrics to “Step Right Up” send by prepaid mail a photo of yourself, two dead creeping charlies, and a self addressed stamped envelope to: the Tropicana Motor Hotel, Hollywood, California c/o Young Tom Waits

Please allow 30 days for delivery

If you are looking for an inexpensive gift for someone special, why not pick up or download a copy of “Small Change.” It’s a perfect introduction to the work of one of America’s great musical artists.

Now you’ve heard it advertised, don’t hesitate. Step right up…

(get away from me kid, you’re bothering me…)

Step right up, step right up, step right up,
Everyone’s a winner, bargains galore
That’s right, you too can be the proud owner
Of the quality goes in before the name goes on
One-tenth of a dollar, one-tenth of a dollar, we got service after sales
How ‘bout perfume, we got perfume, how ’bout an engagement ring?
Something for the little lady, something for the little lady,
Something for the little lady
Three for a dollar
We got a year-end clearance, we got a white sale
And a smoke-damaged furniture, you can drive it away today
Act now, act now, and receive as our gift, our gift to you
They come in all colors, one size fits all
No muss, no fuss, no spills, you’re tired of kitchen drudgery
Everything must go, going out of business, going out of business
Going out of business sale
Fifty percent off original retail price, skip the middle man
Don’t settle for less
How do we do it? how do we do it? volume, volume, turn up the volume
Now you’ve heard it advertised, don’t hesitate
Don’t be caught with your drawers down
Don’t be caught with your drawers down
You can step right up, step right up

That’s right, it filets, it chops, it dices, slices
Never stops, lasts a lifetime, mows your lawn
And it mows your lawn and it picks up the kids from school
It gets rid of unwanted facial hair, it gets rid of embarrassing age spots
It delivers a pizza, and it lengthens, and it strengthens
And it finds that slipper that’s been at large
under the chaise lounge for several weeks
And it plays a mean Rhythm Master
It makes excuses for unwanted lipstick on your collar
And it’s only a dollar, step right up, it’s only a dollar, step right up

‘Cause it forges your signature
If not completely satisfied, mail back unused portion of product
For complete refund of price of purchase
Step right up
Please allow thirty days for delivery, don’t be fooled by cheap imitations
You can live in it, live in it, laugh in it, love in it
Swim in it, sleep in it,
Live in it, swim in it, laugh in it, love in it
Removes embarrassing stains from contour sheets, that’s right
And it entertains visiting relatives, it turns a sandwich into a banquet
Tired of being the life of the party?
Change your shorts, change your life, change your life
Change into a nine-year-old Hindu boy, get rid of your wife
And it walks your dog, and it doubles on sax
Doubles on sax, you can jump back Jack, see you later alligator
See you later alligator
And it steals your car
It gets rid of your gambling debts, it quits smoking
It’s a friend, it’s a companion,
It’s the only product you will ever need
Follow these easy assembly instructions it never needs ironing
Well it takes weights off hips, bust, thighs, chin, midriff,
Gives you dandruff, and it finds you a job, it is a job
And it strips the phone company free take ten for five exchange
And it gives you denture breath
And you know it’s a friend, and it’s a companion
And it gets rid of your traveler’s checks
It’s new, it’s improved, it’s old-fashioned
Well it takes care of business, never needs winding
Never needs winding, never needs winding
Gets rid of blackheads, the heartbreak of psoriasis
Christ, you don’t know the meaning of heartbreak, buddy
C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon
‘Cause it’s effective, it’s defective, it creates household odors
It disinfects, it sanitizes for your protection
It gives you an erection, it wins the election
Why put up with painful corns any longer?
It’s a redeemable coupon, no obligation, no salesman will visit your home
We got a jackpot, jackpot, jackpot, prizes, prizes, prizes, all work guaranteed
How do we do it, how do we do it, how do we do it, how do we do it
We need your business, we’re going out of business
We’ll give you the business
Get on the business end of our going-out-of-business sale
Receive our free brochure, free brochure
Read the easy-to-follow assembly instructions, batteries not included
Send before midnight tomorrow, terms available
Step right up, step right up
You got it buddy: the large print giveth, and the small print taketh away
Step right up, you can step right up, you can step right up
C’mon step right up
(Get away from me kid, you’re bothering me…)
Step right up, step right up, step right up, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon
Step right up, you can step right up, c’mon and step right up
C’mon and step right up

The Changing Nature of Political Satire

By Larry Bush

On the NPR radio show, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” they discussed the origin of the folk rhyme, “Georgie Porgie.”  Since WWDTM is a humorous news wrap-up, they gave the origin of the rhyme the most licentious interpretation they could find.  Their conclusion about the rhyme is that it is about the sexual relationship between George Villiers and King Charles I.  Although this interpretation is reinforced by some researchers and disputed by others, there is a strong likelihood that the subject of the rhyme is George Villiers and that it originated in the late 16th or early 17th centuries In England.  The verse has appeal to children because the subject is named with a forced rhyme in the same manner as the term “heebie jeebies” has an appeal because of the forced rhyme.  But, if there were a 21st century U. S. president who was a closeted gay man, would that person be subject to ridicule or are we beyond that?  I think any ridicule in the 21st century would be directed at those who criticize a gay person’s sexual orientation.

A similar occurrence is in U. S. history.  In 1802, James T. Callender revealed to the world that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Sally Hemings’s children.  Callender made jokes about the little slaves at Monticello that looked like miniature versions of the President.  That joke and similar stories went viral, or as viral as could be in the early 19th century.  While Jefferson denied the relationship and Hemings was mute on the issue, DNA testing has shown that Jefferson was the father of at least one of Hemings’s children.  Again, jokes about inter-racial relationships have gone on the wane over the last few decades, but jokes about unequal relationships have not.  Should Jefferson have taken the heat because Hemings was younger and black or because he, literally, owned her?  Jefferson was a widower when he was alleged to have had the relationship with Hemings, but it was illegal for a white person to marry a black person in Virginia in the early 1800s.  If they had wanted to pursue their relationship on more equal grounds, they could not have legally done that.

This month, another sensitive situation has turned into fodder for humorists.  Liz Cheney is running for the Senate in Wyoming, and one of the planks in her platform is her steadfast opposition to same-sex marriage.  Well, it would be steadfast if she had not attended the same-sex wedding of her sister Mary and wished them well.  Since Liz has dissed same-sex marriage, Mary Cheney has gone on a campaign of her own—to point out the hypocrisy of her sister’s campaign.  It has caused some very public tension.  The fact of Mary Cheney’s sexual orientation also haunted her father, Dick Cheney, while he was Vice President, but the Veep was able to change the subject merely by shooting his hunting partner in the face.  Actually, like Jefferson, Dick Cheney refuses to talk about family, and to this point, he has refused to say much about the controversy in his daughter’s electoral campaign, but that has not stopped the humorists.  Apparently this is fair game.  I have seen no editorials chastising humorists about their treatment of the Cheney feud.  Perhaps, if it were happening in a less prominent family, it would seem more tragic, but the former second family is going to take it from the outside as they slam one another on the inside.

Following are two of my favorite Cheney sisters political cartoons:

Cheney sisters 2

Cheney Sisters

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Humorous Poetry in Motion

business card pose backThe approach of the holidays always leaves me feeling conflicted. My light side looks forward to frivolity and fun, while my heavy side laments the state of the world.

On a similar note, I live (by choice) in Memphis––a city challenged by crime, crushing poverty and troubled schools––yet filled with heart, soul and innovation.

Dee “Ms. Dee-Lite” Dotson and Tim “T-Remedi” Dotson, founders of Inner City South (ICS) are heart, soul and innovation personified, using humor and poetry for change.

In 2002, ICS emerged from Memphis’ underground spoken word movement, delivering thought-provoking messages in humor-filled, hip-hop-infused, “southern swagger” style. It’s not just clever rhyme set to modern rhythm. It’s poetry that matters.

Scientists tell us that our brains release endorphins when we laugh, and that humor helps us to see the world from different perspectives.

Dee Dotson explains their poetic performances like this: “We like to say we’re going to edu-tain you, meaning that we’re going to sneak a little thought process in with the entertainment. If we can make you laugh, we’re disarming you. You’ll want to listen, and we’re taking you off your guard. That’s how we draw the audience in without sounding self-righteous. We want to use the art to elevate and bring unity.”

Tim Dotson adds, “There’s no better healing than laughter. The healing from laughter can take you so many places. Even if you laugh in your pain, it’s still a way we attach to each other. We may have some serious subject matter, but we want you to feel encouraged when you leave the performance.”

But the Dotsons’ mission goes beyond writing and performing. In 2004, they founded “Dinner and Divas” – a dinner theatre experience that represents their support toward finding a cure, and providing social services to those suffering with sickle cell anemia. In 2010, they established C.R.E.A.T.E. (Changing Realities Exposing Art To Everyone) to give urban and lower income communities access to the arts.

They make regular appearances in a variety of venues ranging from elementary schools to college campuses to arts centers. Their material is accessible, universal and relevant to all ages, but their core audience is teens, since, as Tim puts it, “They’re at the cusp of what they’re about to do.”

In a world filled with anger and divisiveness, it’s refreshing to see unifying poetry with well-crafted humor . . .  and an edge!

An Interview with Judith Yaross Lee. With an excerpt from “Twain’s Brand.”

Tracy Wuster

We are very excited to present this interview with Judith Yaross Lee.  Judith is Professor & Director of Honors Tutorial Studies in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University.  She is the author of, among many works,Defining New Yorker Humor and Garrison Keillor: A Voice of America.

Judith is the new editor of Studies in American Humor.  Through the American Humor Studies Association, and on her own, Judith has mentored many humor studies scholars, including myself.  It is a pleasure to print this interview and an excerpt of her excellent and important new book: Twain’s Brand: Humor in Contemporary American Culture. (Find an Excerpt here).

Tracy Wuster: Tell me about your start in humor studies.  How and when did you begin pursuing it as a subject? who has influenced you as a scholar of humor?   

Judith Yaross Lee: I had the great good fortune to take a course on Mark Twain with Hamlin Hill in my first quarter of my M.A. program in English at the University of Chicago, where I was first introduced to the study of humor as an interdisciplinary historical and cultural study, largely through my ancillary reading in Henry Nash Smith, later augmented by the works of early American Studies luminaries such as Perry Miller and Leo Marx.

Then in my second year of doctoral study I had another course with Ham, a seminar in contemporary American humor in which I was one of just two students (I guess we were the only ones who trundled over to the department office to find out what the special topic was, because all our friends were jealous when they learned about it).  We were so intimidated by Ham’s expertise and so worried about holding up our end of the discussion–my classmate had taken the regular course in American humor from Judith Yaross Lee Twain's Brand Mark Twain Samuel ClemensWalter Blair, who was retired but had filled in during Ham’s sabbatical, but I had not–that we spent huge amounts of time preparing each class.  The result was that both of us had found dissertation topics by the end of the term.  My dissertation covered humor in six novels by Melville, Twain, Faulkner, Nathanael West, and Philip Roth under the pompous title “To Amuse and Appall: Black Humor in American Fiction.” I never published it or any piece of it, though I revisited two of the novels in Twain’s Brand, which now that I think of it has a similarly large scope, though this time around I felt more able to manage it.

So obviously the Chicago school of neo-Aristotelian formalism and the Blair-Hill school of humor and Mark Twain studies influenced me from the start, as did the humor theory of Constance Rourke, whose work I felt did not have the stature it deserved. But I was mortified when, soon after defending my dissertation in 1986, I read Emily Toth’s “A Laughter of Their Own:  Women’s Humor in the United States” (1984) and realized how little I knew about women humorists, so I began devouring the pioneering articles and books by Nancy Walker, whose scholarly rigor I appreciated as much as her insights, and by Regina Barreca, whose first book had such an exciting titleThey used to call me Snow White– but I drifted: Women’s strategic use of humor (1991)–that I ordered it something like a year before it came out.  About the same time I was also inspired and greatly helped by David Sloane, especially his bibliographic work; his American Humor Magazines and Comic Periodicals (1987) is a trove yet to be fully mined.

In the 1990s (like everyone else) I also began reading Bakhtin, whose focus on the “lower stratum” I found immediately satisfying and much more congenial than Freud’s joke theory.  However, I have also been strongly influenced by communication theory–most strongly by the medium theory of Walter Ong and the performance theories of Erving Goffman–and cultural theorizing by Edward Said and W. E. B. DuBois, among others. I like Johan Huizinga on play, which I think has strong overlaps with humor as a non-instrumental form of human expression.  I confess to love reading humor theory!

TW: Was there resistance from others in your field or department to the study of humor as a “non-serious” subject?

JYL: I felt a lot of encouragement from my professors at the University of Chicago.  Because Ham left before I was ready to write my dissertation, however, I worked with three other Americanists, William Veeder, as director, John Cawelti, as second reader, later replaced after he left by James E. Miller, Jr.  John was a pioneer of popular culture historiography and theory, so he had no qualms about my work on humor, but Bill, who worked mainly on 19th-century fiction, insisted that I prepare for a field exam in an unequivocally serious or heavy topic in order to demonstrate to a search committee that I was not an academic lightweight and that I could contribute to the core teaching mission of an English or American Studies department. (I was inclined toward the latter, but those jobs were very scarce.)  That was wise advice, as my decision to do a special field in theories of literary effect as particularly relevant to humor that landed me my current position in the Rhetoric and Public Culture program in the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University.

Humor has not been an issue at either of the two schools where I’ve been on a tenure line.  My colleagues in the School of Communication Studies have promoted me through the ranks since I arrived as an advanced assistant professor in 1990.  Far from exhibiting prejudice against my topic, they think of my work as hard-core traditional humanities scholarship because of my archival and historical research methods. I am grateful for their collegiality and open-mindedness.

Before Ohio I had an assistant professorship teaching composition at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY, which was a wonderful place to learn the ropes of being a teacher and faculty member. And before that, while writing my dissertation, for many years I taught composition and occasionally media theory as an adjunct. I often marvel at my good fortune at escaping the adjunct ranks.

I should note for graduate students in English and American Studies that I have not held a position in one of those departments since 1990. But other American humor studies colleagues have, so perhaps they can speak more directly to issues of the job search. Most of them, like me, have their fingers in some more conventional or highly valued pies for their teaching and research portfolios–often particular authors or themes, or in my case, media history (including periodicals) and theory. Humor colleagues probably don’t know that I published a theory of email in 1996.

TW: What have been the most interesting developments in humor studies in your time in the field?

Continue reading →

Teaching with Humor

Around this time of year, I can always feel the tension whenever I walk into the building.  Everyone I greet has puffy eyes, the bags under them extending all the way to their knees, from too many late nights, too many hours hunched over computer screens, books, and essays, frantically trying to get it all done before the deadline.

And those are just the instructors.

The students, though they have the resilience of youth on their side, tend to be in even worse shape, all of their tension exacerbated by too many dining hall meals, homesickness, lingering self-doubt, and being rousted out of bed or the shower in the wee small hours of the morning by fire alarms pulled in the dorms.

And yet, the serious business of learning must continue, and it must continue to be effective.

Humor can be a useful tool to deflect the tension and keep us focused on what matters.  It can also be an extremely effective mnemonic device if it hammers home a concept.   But I have discovered over the years, for myself anyway, that it isn’t a good idea to wait until this time of the year to try to inject that sanity-saving humor.  It works best if by this time of the semester, it is already a habit.

Numerous studies have explored the links between laughter and learning, demonstrating that when humor complements and reinforces the concepts — not distracting from them — students retain more, their anxiety levels drop, and their motivation increases (Garner 2006).  Self-deprecating humor on the part of professors relaxes students and makes them seem more approachable or understandable (Shatz and LoSchiavo 2005).  The focus must always remain on learning, and a teacher must be careful not to undercut his or her purpose or credibility by becoming more of an entertainer in students’ eyes (Bryant and Zillman 2005).

A teacher must never forget the power dynamic in the room, either, and use humor to target a student or group of students (Gorham and Christophel 1990), or “put them in their place.”  Such humor is far too aggressive and has no place in the classroom.  As I’ve written elsewhere on Humor in America (Is a Joke Really Like a Frog?), humor depends upon some level of shared ground, and because of this reveals the boundaries of a particular community.  Making a student or group of students the butt of a joke sets them outside the community rather than bringing them in, and further, raises anxiety levels in all of the students, causing them to wonder what would make them become a target.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t kid around with students or gently tease them, but the focus must always be on enhancing their learning or reassuring them that you don’t doubt their abilities.  You can never forget who holds the real power in the classroom, or the damage you can casually do.

Humor shouldn’t be forced or feel obligatory either.  It isn’t for everyone, but it sure gets me through the day, and my students seem to enjoy it.  More important, they learn, doing themselves and me proud.

I teach writing and literature, with a focus on research.  Much of the humor I use in the classroom is geared toward revealing the absurdity behind bad habits of writing or sloppy thinking, or toward removing some of the mystery about what makes good scholars, writers, and researchers — and students’ anxiety about whether they have what it takes.

Because many of them come to the classroom well-trained in timed exam writing, they tend to want to have a thesis before they start writing, to need to know what they want to say before they begin, before they really look into the evidence.  I’ve kidded around with them about this for years — if a thesis is an interpretation of evidence, how can you interpret what you haven’t got yet?  But this video is the best thing I’ve found for helping students see that when you narrow your focus too soon, you cherry-pick the evidence, seeing only what you want to see or have decided that you will see — and often miss the best part in the process:

After watching this video, I have a ready-made shorthand for marginal comments or conferences.  As the video says, “It’s easy to miss something you’re not looking for,” so it is dangerous to have a thesis too early, and in the evidence-gathering part of the process, you must remain open to what is there.  When a student is having problems with this, I can just point out briefly that there seem to be some moonwalking bears around.  And instead of getting defensive, they laugh ruefully, and settle in to talk about what else might be there.

Another problem students often have is missing key facts in a text, reading hurriedly or sloppily, and ending up with arguments that cannot be supported because the facts are against them.  While there is never one correct interpretation of a text, there are wrong ones, interpretations that violate or ignore facts.  But when you point out that a student is doing this, s/he often feels defensive, stupid.  Humor can help.  So I tell students, “You can’t make a stunningly brilliant argument about the symbolic significance of a yellow shirt if . . . Continue reading →

American Military Humor: A Celebration for Veteran’s Day

military humor

If the United States is the funniest nation in the world (it is), and if it boasts the strongest military in the world (it does), then it would follow that humor built around the military would be pretty darn funny. It is.

Veteran’s Day seems like an ideal time to celebrate that rich tradition as we salute those who have served the country. If so many Americans have been willing to take on the formidable sacrifices associated with military service, it seems only fitting that there should be plenty of opportunity to laugh about it.

what marines do meme

Type in “military humor” in Google and you will the find over 40 million options to choose from. Much of this material is from YouTube videos and websites dedicated to gathering and sharing “military humor” in a wide array of context. Much of it is topic and audience specific, and is often divided into teasing between the services and even antagonism between the services. A good clearing house for such jokes is on usmilitary.about.com (http://usmilitary.about.com/od/militaryhumor/). Here is an example;

****

The U.S. Navy answers the question: “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Naval Education and Training Command (NAVEDTRA): The purpose is to familiarize the chicken with road-crossing procedures. Road-crossing should be performed only between the hours of sunset and sunrise. Solo chickens must have at least three miles of visibility and a safety observer.

Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS): Due to the needs of the Navy, chicken was involuntarily reassigned to the other side of the road. This will be 3-year unaccompanied tour and we promise to give the chicken a good-deal assignment afterwards. Every chicken will be required to do one road-crossing during its career, and this will not affect its opportunities for future promotion.

Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC): This event will need confirmation; we need to repeat it using varied chicken breeds, road types, and weather conditions to confirm whether it can actually happen within the parameters specified for chickens and the remote possibility that they might cross thruways designated by some as “roads.”

Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR): The purpose is not important. What is important is that the chicken remained under the OPCON of COMSIXTHFLEET and did not CHOP to the theater on the other side of the road. Without Chopping, the chicken was able to achieve a seamless road-crossing with near perfect, real-time in-transit visibility.

Naval Intelligence: What chicken?

****

Practical Joke in Bomb Squad

That joke clearly comes from someone who has to suffer through the frustrations of jargon and acronyms gone wild. The next joke has no source identified, but my hunch is that the source is a Marine. See if you agree:

****

U.S. Marine Corps Rules:

1. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.

2. Decide to be aggressive enough, quickly enough.

3. Have a plan.

4. Have a back-up plan, because the first one probably won’t work.

5. Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.

6. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun whose caliber does not start with a “4.”

7. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.

8. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral & diagonal preferred.)

9. Use cover or concealment as much as possible.

10. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.

11. Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.

12. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.

13. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating your intention to shoot.

Navy SEALS Rules:

1. Look very cool in sunglasses.

2. Kill every living thing within view.

3. Adjust speedo.

4. Check hair in mirror.

U.S. Army Rangers Rules:

1. Walk in 50 miles wearing 75-pound rucksack while starving.

2. Locate individuals requiring killing.

3. Request permission via radio from “Higher” to perform killing.

4. Curse bitterly when mission is aborted.

5. Walk out 50 miles wearing a 75-pound rucksack while starving.

U.S. Army Rules:

1. Select a new beret to wear.

2. Sew patches on right shoulder.

3. Change the color of beret you decide to wear.

US Air Force Rules:

1. Have a cocktail.

2. Adjust temperature on air-conditioner.

3. See what’s on HBO.

4. Ask “what is a gunfight?”

5. Request more funding from Congress with a “killer” PowerPoint presentation.

6. Wine & dine ‘key’ Congressmen, invite DOD & defense industry executives.

7. Receive funding, set up new command and assemble assets.

8. Declare the assets “strategic” and never deploy them operationally.

9. Hurry to make 13:45 tee-time.

US Navy Rules:

1. Go to Sea.

2. Drink Coffee.

3. Watch porn.

4. Deploy the Marines.

 ****

All humor seeks to offer escape from the drudgery or pain of everyday life. This is especially important when the potential for everyday death is real. The persistence of humor created among active service members and veterans demonstrates not only the ever-present stress of living in harm’s way but also the capacity for those most directly affected by the vagaries of politics and the American public to find solace and affirmation in humor. That is as good a reason as anything for celebrating both humor and veterans every day of the year.

In closing, here is a classic speech by a character played by Bill Murray. It is one of the four film speeches given by Bill Murray in his career that should have received notice from the Academy, but I digress. From Stripes, that wonderfully absurd bit of pure-Hollywood military humor from the summer of 1981.

Thank you, veterans: “We’re 10 and 1.”

The Mount Rushmore of Mount Rushmores

Our wonderful contributing editors for this site have come and gone over the years–often leaving when the demands of the real world make it necessary to step back. Such is the case with ABE, who is stepping down as a regular contributor for the time being. I believe that two past editors will soon be rejoining us… but in the meantime, enjoy this post from ABE.

Humor in America

It is a threadbare premise, for a medium still in its pull-ups. When we think of greatness, whose face goes on the largest of sculptures—formed by God but finished by men—vandalizing the Dakotan landscape?

For the field of American humor I’ve had one year to think it over. Last September my friend Steve (whose real name is Mark, but in these kinds of online articles an alias is typical) said to me:

“Twain is sort of the great white whale of American literature. Dickens assumes the same type of stature for 19th century England. And Tolstoy (sorry Mr. Dostoyevsky and my beloved Mr. Chekhov) occupies the place for Russian literature. Who for France? Hugo? What a Mount Rushmore for 19th century literature.”

I agreed with Steve, but turned the direction of our conversation to something even more trivial: American humor. Putting very little thought into it…

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