the early life of a comedic genius*

I don’t exactly think I’m a funny person, but people often laugh at things I say. I can never tell if people are laughing because it’s funny, though, or if they pity me. Such is the life of a person with a strange sense of self-esteem. There’s no consistency in it. Some days, I feel pretty full of myself; other days, I’m utterly paranoid, convinced that nobody likes me everybody hates me something something worms. Anyway, this post isn’t about me, it’s about me.

I suppose somewhere along the way, I decided that the best way to get people to like me was to try to make them laugh. I don’t think it’s ever even been a conscious effort. It just happened at some point and now it’s too late to take it back. But if you set yourself up like that, then there’s a lot of pressure. BE FUNNY ALL THE TIME BECAUSE YOU’RE THE FUNNY ONE. My god, it’s a wonder Ringo Starr hasn’t just snapped in half from the weight. I’m talking as if I find myself funny, which sounds incredibly egotistical. It’s rare that I crack myself up. I don’t find myself amusing. I am not pleased with myself. Most of the time, I’m rather ashamed. I’ll go put myself in the corner.

This weekend though, I found out that very early on, I had a pretty stellar sense of comedic timing. So this has been a thing for a while, apparently. Two examples:

1. When I was a very little shaver, we were in church, and the pastor was giving a particularly effective sermon. I do not remember this, because I was maybe around two years of age at the time. Apparently, right after the pastor made her closing thought, which was powerful enough to render the congregation completely silent, I blew a huge raspberry.

A couple years later, there exists a picture of me – approximately age 4 – in the church pulpit, appearing to give a sermon of my own. There is no prophecy in this. My general unease at most church-type things was cemented at 24 months. I was probably preaching about Rainbow Brite or Popples, who knows.

2. When I was a slightly older shaver, perhaps around five or so, my parents were in a bowling league. Occasionally, my brother and I were allowed to come along to the bowling alley and goof around with other kids while my parents rolled. One night, there was a bowler who came very, very close to rolling a perfect game – her final score was 298. The place was nearly silent as the owner made this announcement over the intercom, and then everyone burst into wild applause for this woman’s achievement. As soon as it got quiet again, I shouted out “WHO CARES?” from across the alley.

Such a little wiseacre.

So it seems that early on, I had some kind of knack for making people laugh, intentionally or not, with a well-timed sound effect or comment. I think there’s a kind of innate reflex for it. Some folks just say funny things, or do funny things, and it comes as naturally to them as anything. Not so much a bone, but an organ. A squishy organ, full of laffs. And blood, probably.

I have attempted physical comedy – pratfalls or deliberately running into things, hitting my head on stuff – but that’s bullshit. Why physically beat myself up when I can easily do it emotionally? Not to mention, getting hit in the head gets seriously damaging after a while. I’ve been hit by a car and knocked in the head with a metal clothing display on separate occasions, so comedy that leads to hospital is really not my bag. It’s fucked.

I’m not sure why I decided to make this a whole post. I think maybe I wanted to apologize to or even thank you all for putting up with me. I don’t know why you people like me, or if you even do. Thanks for tolerating me.

crying child

a portrait of the author, age 32.

* “genius.”

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