Today’s topic, at least until I get sidetracked: stuff that isn’t funny. (YOU: That’s what your column is always about! ME: Har!)
Certain things are considered not funny now because they are in poor taste “in light of recent events”; apparently, some people think that if something’s in poor taste, that means it’s not funny, when in fact I can think of many jokes that are tasteless AND funny, including a ribald yarn about a piano player who is 12 inches tall.
Here is a case study: The guy who hung around University Mall on Halloween and pretended to blow anthrax on people. According to the Daily Herald — and I don’t know if I believe anything I read in that rag — Scott Armstrong, 33, dressed up like a reporter and went around asking people if they were worried about anthrax. If they said they weren’t, he would blow a handful of nothing on them and tell them they had now been exposed to it.
Everyone freaked out, of course, because freaking out is what we do here — it will be an Olympic sport — and Armstrong was arrested. No doubt his defense is that he was just playing a Halloween prank. Well, fine. As a joke, it’s not bad, and though a 33-year-old should have stopped being interested in Halloween about 23 years ago, that certainly is the right day, along with April Fool’s Day and Pioneer Day, for a prank. However, he failed to take into account his local audience, which isn’t that good at taking a joke anyway (trust me), and which is particularly jittery right now.
Another example: Reagan Outdoor Advertising has refused to accept billboard ads making jokes about polygamy. An ad for Brighton Ski Resort would have said the new chair lifts have room for four people — specifically, “Wife, wife, wife, husband.” Reagan also nixed a Wasatch Brewing billboard that said, “Why have just one?,” in reference to both wives and beer. (If I had multiple wives, I think I’d have to drink a lot, too.)
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Reagan Outdoor Advertising president Dewey Reagan said, “Yes, there’s actually a guy named Dewey. Yes, I know it’s a ridiculous name. Yes, that’s why I have no sense of humor.”
No, that’s not what he said. He said, “(Polygamy) is not something Reagan wants to be associated with.”
I notice Reagan has no problem, however, being associated with Totally Awesome Computers and its owner/pitchman/cloven-hooved demon SuperDell, who is the embodiment of all evil and must be stopped before he slays our children and drinks their blood. No, Reagan likes him and his billboards just fine. When asked about the SuperDell connection, Dewey Reagan said, “Yes, like the Dewey Decimal System. No, my brothers aren’t named Huey and Louie. Can we just let it go?”
But just let it go we cannot, for there are important issues to discuss. At times like these, don’t we need humor more than ever? And more importantly, aren’t we tired of people saying “at times like these”? Yes. Yes, we are.
I maintain that the anthrax guy’s prank suffered more from bad timing than bad taste — it would have been viewed as mere harmless stupidity a year ago — and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the proposed skiing and beer billboards.
Let’s lighten up, folks. Anthrax is not an epidemic, and the odds you’re being targeted are slim. I know I’m not worried. I doubt the people who dislike me have access to anthrax; most of them don’t even have access to a spell-checker.
And do I even need to explain why it’s OK to joke about polygamy? Polygamists are Utah’s official State Joke. Let’s embrace them and mock them and let the whole world know we love our adorable, misguided little zealots. We need them now, at times like these.
I don't know what it is about SuperDell, but I just can't stop making fun of him (not that I've really tried).
There are more jabs than usual at my readers and Utah County people in this column. You'd think something had happened recently to make me especially bitter, but it hadn't. There were just several opportunities for jokes, and I took them, and I was grateful for them.
If I were a polygamist, honestly doing what I believed was right, I think I would be pretty mad if someone referred to me as an "adorable, misguided little zealot." Fortunately, I don't put myself in other people's shoes until AFTER I write the columns.