Re: Silly

I like being silly. Silliness is a part of me that rarely sees the light of day because I am such a serious person. When I get silly, people are often unsure whether to believe what I have just said so I will have to reassure them that everything I say isn’t to be treated as gospel.

My silliness is usually verbal. My late wife once called a halt to a family card game because I had started a series of silly sounds with our young sons that went on and on until my boys and I were in tears of laughter. I think silliness may be a guy thing. As a form of humour, silly ranks up there with slapstick. The Three Stooges: Adults acting as kids. What’s not to like? These comics were physically funny and goofy at the same time. As a kid I couldn’t get enough of them. As an adult, I marvel at their comic timing and visual artistry.

Being a self conscious individual and quite reserved in general, it’s no wonder friends and family members have taken umbrage when I let my silly out. There are some seeming contradictions to my silly side. For example, I don’t like Halloween or any kind of charade game. I feel badly when I’m teased and work hard not to tease others. Romantically, my enthusiasm can be construed as silly, but then love can be senseless and beyond rational explanation, so what’s wrong with that? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fK5oJcn99d4

The mood has to be right for me to feel comfortable being foolish. I have to be as malleable as a blob of Silly Putty. At my most absurd I am likely overtired. That’s when my funny bone is most sensitive to suggestion so an outrageous video can be very cathartic. Stand up comedians often rely on silliness to drive their sketch. A good performance will reveal just how crazy we humans are. George Carlin tops my list of artists who can make silliness seem sensible. His intellectual manner shone through even while he made endearingly goofy faces. Robin Williams was a master of showing the beauty of keeping the child within from being smothered by the responsibilities of adulthood. Time after time he would delight me with his silliness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmqmyYRi-lU

Responsibility can be a burden more lightly born when mixed with a dash of jester-ism. That’s likely why rulers once ordered fools to be amongst their court. The troupe Monty Python is clearly an example of using comedy to make the powerful look silly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoIdEjdZIls

Sarcasm is hurtful, yet silliness can’t possibly harm. An act of silliness may disturb someone’s sensibilities yet I say, “Get over yourself!” I herald those who can pull off purposeful irreverence through a silly reference. Sometimes a sound like a snort, well timed, can reveal the snobbery, the stuffiness, that too often comes with polite society. Kudos to those brave enough to bring others, too serious for their own good, to a heightened awareness of the value of nonsense.

Re: Polyglot

Some words are so weird you don’t know what you are hearing. When I first heard this one I thought someone had made it up just to be funny. And silly is my favourite style of humour. In the tradition of the party game Balderdash, let’s do some guessing. Polyglot is: A) a rare breed of goat, B) a bunch of discarded plastic, or C) someone who knows three or more languages. Who knew that C was the right answer? I didn’t when it first came to my attention so I did some research and voila!

To my ears Polyglot still sounds like something you might read in a Dr. Seuss children’s book. That aside, I have an enormous amount of respect for someone who has mastered a poly amount of anything. I may aspire to the notion of being a Jack of All Trades, but that generally signifies I’m a master of none.
A dentist I saw for regular checkups told me all about his life while I was wired, probed, drilled, filled and/or dental dammed. My teeth may be in good shape but I couldn’t help but feel diminished by this one man’s list of supplementary skills acquired over his lifetime; Orchestral Trombonist, Black Belt Karate, World Bridge Federation Member. Not to mention, he was also a Polyglot; fluent in Polish, German and English.

Hanging out with members of my home town symphony orchestra made me very aware of people who exist in a multi-hyphenate world. Many of these highly talented individuals work as doctors, lawyers, accountants or professors during the day and compose or interpret music in their off hours. As a teacher I was familiar with research that suggests there are many examples of areas where a crossover of skills is complementary and not necessarily layered. The music-math crossover is often touted as an example in people who may be considered of genius intellect. Einstein comes quickly to mind, yet so does Steve Martin the comedian/banjo picker/writer/director/actor/producer/magician.
Is Mr. Martin a genius or a polymath? Phewff! Take a bow already.

I enjoy watching artists challenge themselves in different media or venues. You must have talent to skip around artistic disciplines for sure. You also have to make the time to do it. Imagine being able to say you have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. Only fifteen multitalented artists have been able to accomplish that laudable goal. As of the posting of this blog page the following are in the esteemed EGOT Club: Richard Rogers, Helen Hayes, Rita Moreno, John Gielgud, Audrey Hepburn, Marvin Hamlisch, Jonathan Tucker, Mel Brooks, Mike Nichols, Whoopi Goldberg, Scott Rudin, Robert Lopez, Andrew Lloyd Webber, John Legend, Tim Rice.

Someone once flattered me by calling me a Renaissance Man. That compliment as much as I loved the taste of it, made me embarrassed. If I cut out television, reading the newspaper, tweeting about stuff and staring lazily out the window I may discover the time I need to be better. Another Leonardo Da Vinci, I’m not.

Re: Tease

When I was a kid I thought Christmas Eve was such a tease. My mom would mention that times had been financially hard and that we mustn’t expect much under the tree. As an adult, I came to the conclusion that this was her way of reducing expectations so that when Christmas morning arrived we would all be awestruck that Santa had somehow pulled off one of his miracles. I think my mom’s approach to Christmas morning gift giving was the reason I often developed a stomach ache on December 24th.

This example also taught me about the larger pattern in my mom’s behaviour towards others: set them up with what seemed like the truth, orchestrate a reversal, say you were just having fun, accuse them of not being able to take a joke. Sadly, she lost many friends using this strategy of social engagement, including her own daughter.

My mom was a natural born teaser, yet she hated the comedy of Don Rickles; a man who made a career from taking the mickey out of people.

His use of mockery and ridicule at an audience member’s expense disturbed me. While I recognize that many people think teasing is all in good sport, my experience with my mom, taught me that teasing someone, like in any sport, produces winners and losers. Maybe my mom thought that teasing me early would give me character, or thicken my skin. I would say it made me shy with people. A former girlfriend, early in our relationship, said she wouldn’t ‘joke with me’ until she knew me better. A pretty accurate comment, I felt at the time, since teasing can bore into your heart if you don’t ‘get the joke’.

Teasing was not promoted as a form of humour when I became a father. My wife and I agreed that making fun of someone would not be something we modelled to our sons. She was a fibre artist and was very practised at teasing out particles from animal fur. For example, raw sheep wool, even after it has been washed, has much debris embedded in the fibre. Deft fingers are required to remove tiny seeds or vegetable filaments. Bits of straw, dung, dead insects and such can be picked from the fleece using a carder. A hand carder has many rows of fine metal spikes. A carding machine looks like an instrument of torture. When the fibre has been processed in this way, you can roll a clean roving that can be spun into yarn.

Christmas is a time of yarns. Sometimes we have to tease apart the truth from the stories before we can spin the best yarns. I guess in this sense finding the truth requires some teasing. Perhaps that’s what we do when we are poking fun; trying to provoke a reaction that will tell us something more about the person who is the butt of our joke.

Life can be messy, especially when we aren’t sure how to separate the drama from the comedy.