It’s the slap felt ‘round the world and discussed ‘round the clock.
Will Smith’s roundhouse smack of Chris Rock during the Oscars reveals one of the hazards of being a humorist.
What Will did was wrong and inexcusable. Yes, Chris cracked a bad joke, but it didn’t deserve him being sucker smacked on live TV. I worry that this incident will encourage others to go slap-happy on comedians and humorists if they don’t like the words they say or write. I don’t want to have to wear a mouthguard and Everlast protective headgear when I’m out in public. Hell, I’m lookin’ over my shoulder enough, as it is.
I’ve never been slapped, hit or otherwise assaulted for anything I’ve written.
What comes out of my maw, is another story. I’ve been slapped, punched, kicked, hair-pulled and doused with assorted cocktails for many of the dumb and wise-ass words I’ve voiced.
It taught me the number one hard rule of comedy: It’s ALWAYS at the expense of someone or something. Humor pokes fun. It insults. It harpoons life with lampoons. To do so ALWAYS requires a goat. That is the essence of the sense of humor. Even the simple groan-inducing pun has a goat, and that’s the listener.
Humor is a complex phenomenon that can’t easily be explained. We laugh because we feel superior during humorous or unexpected situations. That’s why we laugh when we see someone trip and fall or get hit in the crotch with a baseball. We know it hurts and is embarrassing because we’ve probably experienced the same gaff. The laughter brings needed levity and stress relief to an otherwise serious situation.
It's all based on one’s sense of humor.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the same sense of humor. Some poor saps have none. They are easy to spot as they are forever proclaiming that they possess “a great sense of humor.”
Your sense of humor is like your sense of taste. I don’t like garbanzo beans. You may love them. It doesn’t mean that you are or I am any less of a person because of it. We just have different tastes. But that doesn’t stop people from believing that there must be something terribly wrong, for example, with anyone who eats raw oysters.
“How can you eat that crap?” they ask with such incredulous disdain that they infer that the mollusk lover eats shit.
Will Smith has a sense of humor, how else could he have done the “Wild Wild West?”
But his sense isn’t as expansive as Mr. Rock’s. It has limits. Its boundary, the line you don’t cross, ends with making fun of his wife, who lost her hair due to a medical condition.
Those property lines are where humor runs into trouble and morphs into “I don’t get it,” “I don’t think that’s funny,” “I’m getting pissed” and “KER-SMACK!!!!”
The joke goats will laugh as long as they see the humor in the joke. When they can’t, they headbutt.
Surveying, understanding and respecting those boundaries affect your sense of humor.
Upset readers have told me “You stepped over the line with that last column. You went too far.”
I stepped over THEIR line. My comedic property lines extend way beyond those of most people. They’re cosmic in acreage.
Those endless boundaries let me find humor endlessly, which is important, given all the dumb things I say and do. I laugh them off. It makes life more fun and protects my fragile and aging male ego.
Unfortunately, political correctness, cancel culture and wokeness make it more difficult, and now, hazardous, for us to express our thoughts, ideas, slants on life and sense of humor.
You have a right to criticize my writing and my humor and explain to me how and why it offends you. That’s freedom of speech. Most writers and comedians want public feedback, good and bad.
But that feedback doesn’t include violence, or a punchline will become just that.
If my writing ever makes you so angry that you want to strike me, at least give me a heads-up so I can don my mouthpiece and headgear.
Jim Pfiffer’s humor column is posted every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page, Twin Tiers Life.com, and Twin Tiers Living.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets and is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper.