For some time now, I have been anxious because I lost my sense of humor. I used to be funny, just like all my siblings. We learned it the hard way, by being forced to tell corny jokes in public by our father.
Dad — Rev. George Harper to many of you – was a genuinely funny human being who was the youth leader of the United Methodists in Montana when we were growing up in Great Falls. When we were young, for example 11, 9, 7 ,5, and 3 years old (all born in November except for the premature Nancy born October 31), our parents would take us to several high school church camps led by our father every summer. We loved being around the older kids, except for talent night, when we children would often be pressed into skit service. Dad would be the Sunday school teacher, and we would answer the Bible questions.
When was baseball first mentioned in the Bible? In the big inning.
When was tennis first mentioned? Joseph served in King Pharaoh’s court.
Smoking? Rebecca lit off a camel.
Who was the shortest man in the Bible? Not Knee-high-miah or Bildad the Shuhite, but the man who slept on his watch.
Most of these jokes would not even be recognizable for teens today who don’t read the King James version of the Bible and have never heard of Camel cigarettes.
There were lots more Bible questions and it seems like we added some new ones every year. Apparently these corny jokes were funny to teenagers when children gave the answers, especially if one of us got confused and gave the answer intended for a different question.
When are fireworks first mentioned in the Bible? Rebecca lit off a camel.
In college and later, I wrote and told jokes on stage with the Montana Logging and Ballet Company and the predecessor groups with me and Fitz. That was just for fun. I got really serious about humor when Pat and I had our two daughters.
Telling corny jokes keeps your children on their toes and off balance at the same time. After I told an especially bad joke, Molly might say “You have just made me dumber,” and Robin would add “Please tell me I’m adopted.” The children would retaliate by telling nose jokes, since they did not receive the great gift of the Harper nose, but instead took after their mother. “Can you sit on the other side of me, Dad? I’m trying to read and you are blocking the light.” “Will you please keep your nose out of my business – oh I guess that’s impossible unless you turn the other way.”
Yes, nose jokes aren’t funny, especially to those of us who are not nasally-challenged like the rest of you, but they served to make my children very funny people, and, more importantly, gave them an exquisite sense of embarrassment. Embarrassment is important when girls become teenagers. Parents use it because it is the last tool of control they have, and it often works. Fortunately for parents, teen women never literally die of embarrassment, or scenes like this would be commonplace: “Molly, is that your dad in his underwear letting the dog out in the yard?” (Whump.) “Wow, she’s dead.”
So everything was fine until our country went crazy. Sometime in there I thought I lost my sense of humor, so that I walk around depressed much of the time. Now I am starting to suspect I didn’t so much lose my sense of humor, as that it was stolen from me.
I suspect that because I got a ransom note. When I told Pat, she said “Don’t answer it. What if they send back all your bad jokes?”
The ransom note said “#makeamericagrateagin: we will not give you back your sinse of humer until you stop righting turrible things about the gratest precedent ever.”
I’m guessing the original note was tweeted, and then some flunky printed it off and mailed it to me, since I don’t tweet or twit and have no desire to learn.
I’m in a dilemma. I would like to get my “since of humer” back, although I suspect I could then only tell redneck jokes like “What do two rednecks say when they decide to get divorced? ‘We can still be cousins.’” Or “Did you hear about the man who won the Tennessee $3 million lottery? He gets $3 a year for a million years.”
Is a sense of humor really worth it, if I can only get it back by no longer righting turrible things about the gratest precedent? I wrote back and said, “He does grate on us, and he is setting all kinds of precedents never before seen.”
I got the reply. “That’s no joke.”
No argument there.