Wednesday, December 3, 2008


1. What scene from a sit-com, book, film or play have you found the funniest and why?

I think it depends on my mood, because I’ve watched some films and laughed so hard I peed my pants, then watched them years later and thought, “I laughed at that?” I don’t know why I find it so funny, but Raising Arizona gets me every time. Oh, here’s another one… I made my husband watch it with me on one of our first dates, just to gauge his reaction… So I Married an Axe-Murderer… don’t miss it. Fargo… I think I most enjoy black comedy when it comes to films.

I love reading books that make me laugh out loud. Tom Robbins’ early stuff, like Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, will do that to you. John Irving’s early stuff too, like The World According to Garp… Irving mixes the absurd with utter tragedy to great effect, I think. My kids and I love laughing at the Minnie and Moo series of easy readers. You won’t be able to help yourself with Minnie and Moo Go to Paris or Minnie and Moo Go to the Moon. I loved the Ramona books for the same reason… I still remember the “dawnzer” episode of Ramona the Pest from when I was eight.

Sitcoms… I loved Seinfeld, just like you Andy. It defined my generation and our humor. Anyone in their 20’s when Seinfeld was on the air knows exactly what you’re talking about when you say “soup nazi” or “sponge-worthy.”

2. When was the last time you laughed so hard it hurt and who or what made you laugh?

I love to laugh and fortunately come from a family which also loves to laugh. We play games all the time, cheat, and laugh about it. We tell the same stories, year after year, and laugh again. Here’s just a little example from my family just last weekend that was actually captured on video and posted on You Tube (Caroline is my mother, responding to a photo given to her by my little sister, Lindsey).

I’m a big fan of Saturday Night Live, and I must say that I laughed pretty darn hard at Tina Fey’s impersonations of Sarah Palin.

3. What’s the funniest or most absurd situation you have found yourself in? Did you find it funny at the time or afterwards?

It was my first year teaching high school, and I had one particular student in my class, BJ, who had no filters… every thought that came into his head came out of his mouth. So there I was, attempting to teach Lord of the Flies or something, and BJ, who had evidently just come from health class, announced to the class, “Did you know that the closest physiological experience to orgasm is a sneeze?” Dead silence. I thought humor might be the only way to respond. I replied, “Well, pass me the pepper” and went on with my lesson, as the kids’ jaws dropped. Evidently, one of the students repeated the conversation to his mother, who ended up complaining to my department chair, so I got a “talking to” about appropriateness. But honestly, I still think it’s the only appropriate response, and I think I gained a little of the kids’ respect by not getting flustered.

4. How would you describe your sense of humour and why do you think there is so much variation among individual’s senses of humour?

I do not like physical comedy. It has never appealed to me. I do enjoy black comedy… I think it appeals to my intellect. I enjoy self-effacing humor, like Obama and McCain roasting each other at the Alfred E. Smith dinner (many versions on You Tube)… wish they had conducted the entire campaign that way.

5. Is humour powerful?

I think humor is what gets us through tense times. And it’s a great way to negotiate issues in relationships, like when I was frustrated with my husband for not dealing with his dirty dishes and asked, “Are your dishwashing muscles broken?” One of the best ways to deal with grief is through laughter, as those left behind sit around and tell funny stories and laugh and cry at the same time. I remember the story of my grandfather who, when he was asked by the paramedics on his way to the hospital if he had any allergies, adamantly insisted that he was allergic to onions (I think they meant drug allergies). My grandmother leaned over and said to her dying husband, “They’re not taking you out to lunch, George.” Shakespeare was the master… all of his tragedies have comedic characters and moments. I think he knew that in order to most deeply feel the tragedy, it has to be juxtaposed with comedy.

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