Our typical Midwestern family is now scattered across the U.S. Like most families we get together for major life events or sometimes just because we like each other. We share some meals. We talk about old times. We play games. We laugh a lot. A few summers ago this scenario played itself out during my elderly father’s birthday. While playing a comedic board game, one of my brothers made an off-the-cuff remark about how liberals would not enjoy the game because they have absolutely no sense of humor. This got a big chuckle from the others because it’s the truth, right? Another brother got a gleam in his eye and replied, “Yes, but a game ABOUT liberals would be hilarious to the rest of us.” And with that the idea for our party game was born.
Most humor has a basis in fact. That is what makes it relatable to people and therefore funny. The best stand-up comedians and humorists take everyday situations that most in their audience have experienced and weave in some dynamic storytelling and a few exaggerated outcomes. The results are often a combination of guffaws, giggles and uproarious laughter.
How many of you remember the Dean Martin roasts from the 70s? I was a young child then, but I still recall that the nights when these specials aired were some of my favorites. My large family gathered around the tv, filled with anticipation of the belly laughs that were sure to come. My typically straight-laced parents actually let me stay up later than my normal bedtime to watch with them. Sitting among my parents and siblings as they erupted in laughter along with the Hollywood elite was a wonderful feeling. You can still see clips of these shows late at night on some cable networks. It’s astonishing now to watch the celebrities with lit cigarettes in hand, taking turns at insulting each other by poking fun at being black, over-weight, hooked on booze, unattractive, adulterous…the list goes on and on. Most quips were either self-deprecating or told in good fun among friends. Everyone participating had tears in their eyes, not because they were offended, but because they were laughing so hard at themselves that they were crying! Compare that with what the reaction would be in 2018. These jokes today would not only be criticized as racist, fat-shaming, unsympathetic and misogynist, but these beloved stars would be ostracized.
Far too often in today’s world of the politically correct and perpetually offended, attempts at humor are squashed or shamed. Every word is dissected by the self-appointed thought police. Every joke or story is scrubbed for an “ist” or a “phobia” that may reveal the author’s bias. Many high-profile comedians are avoiding gigs at college campuses altogether because of student hypersensitivity. Jerry Seinfeld, Larry the Cable Guy and Chris Rock are three examples. Others have to scale back content or risk being dragged through the social media mud and publicly forced to apologize. “I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘They’re so PC,’” Seinfeld famously told ESPN’s Colin Cowherd in 2015. “They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist’; ‘That’s sexist’; ‘That’s prejudiced.’ … They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”
Larry the Cable Guy, in an interview with “Sixty Minutes,” agreed that political correctness had gone way too far. He stated, “It’s gotten way outta control. You know, I really think we’re at a point in this country where people really need to take the thumb outta their mouth and grow up a little bit and realize there are a lot bigger problems out there than what a comedian did a joke about.”
Now let’s not confuse humor with out and out meanness. Simply rattling off insults is not generally funny. It may get a rise out of the audience, especially if the target is someone unpopular with the listeners. But having a potty mouth and a sharp tongue does not equate to a sharp wit. Using wordplay, nuance, situational comedy and a little good-natured mockery will get bigger laughs and better reviews across the board, except by far-leftists with no sense of humor. They prefer name-calling. It’s their M.O. and their lifeblood. “Entertainers” like Samantha Bee and Michelle Wolf can appeal to that group. But it cannot be considered humor. For it has no punchlines, only punches.
The quote “laughter is the best medicine” is not just a cute saying. Humor is therapeutic. Laughing feels good. It’s contagious. It’s necessary for living a happy life. When my brothers and I wrote the game cards for “Right On!” we used real life situations that people often find themselves in or hear about on cable news shows. Then we added a dose of wit, a bit of absurdity and a dash of snark. The result is a very funny game that mocks the mainstream media, political correctness and liberalism run amok. Our hope is that it gets a point across while making people laugh. Long live comedy!