SNL – Read My Lips….
In the spring of 2006 I moderated a course at the McGill Institute for Learning in Retirement called “Ethnic Jokes – what’s funny and what’s not – the philosophy, psychology, propriety, and politics of how we laugh at ourselves and how we laugh at others…”
There were about sixteen of us from several different ethnicities. What we shared, except for one bright youngster (early fifties) was our advanced age (sixties to eighties) and well-earned wisdom. So it’s no surprise we agreed well before the course was done that every group makes jokes about itself but woe to those who make jokes about “us” who are not “us”…..except, of course, that every ethnicity jokes about some other ethnicity, if we can even call it that. “Canadian”, is that an ethnicity? “Scot”, ”American”, are they?
An American, a Scot and a Canadian were in a terrible car accident. They were all brought to the same emergency room, but all three of them died before they arrived. Just as they were about to put the toe tag on the American, he stirred and opened his eyes. Astonished, the doctors and nurses present asked him what happened.
“Well,” said the American, “I remember the crash, and then there was a beautiful light, and then the Canadian and the Scot and I were standing at the gates of heaven. St. Peter approached us and said that we were all too young to die, and that for a donation of $100, we could return to the earth.”
He continued, “So of course, I pulled out my wallet and gave him the $100, and the next thing I knew I was back here.”
“That’s amazing!” said one of the doctors, “But what happened to the other two?”
“Last I saw them,” replied the American, “the Scot was haggling over the price and the Canadian was waiting for the government to pay for his.”
(Since I am Canadian and American, in telling this joke, I need only worry about the sensibilities of the Scots. and all those I know know how to make me laugh.)
Our course was not designed to discuss personal or bodily characteristics, “locker room” jokes we called them, even if they had the ethnic handle. And I don’t recall that “blindness” ever brought tears of laughter to our eyes.
In the clip I saw of the Saturday Night Live jokes about New York State Governor David A. Paterson, who is blind, I was not amused. In the adjoining clips of SNL’s Sarah Palin skits I was hugely amused. I’m not sure that blindness has anything to do with it. I don’t know Governor Paterson. Although I had read that he was blind, I had never seen him before I saw him satirized. I don’t know if he’s goofy, awkward, brilliant, or inspiring. On the other hand, well, we don’t need to mention the other hand – we all know Sarah.
A jest’s prosperity lies in the ear
Of him that hears it, never in the tongue
Of him that makes it. (Shakespeare. Love’s Labour’s Lost, 5.2.869)
Hey, wait a minute - ear, tongue, isn’t television a visual medium?
Reminds me of a meta-joke, a joke about a joke, like this one: A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar. Bartender says, “What is this, a joke?”
A blind governor and a bunch of blind people all across America sit down in front of a television set. An actor playing the blind governor holds up a graph showing unemployment figures in our troubled times. Interviewer says, “Governor, the graph is upside down.” Governor replies, “You bet it is! The whole world is upside down.”
Is this a joke?
Confession: in the search for accuracy, I watched the whole skit on You Tube and heard myself laughing. No kidding!
©Elaine A. Zimbel 2008
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