I Try to Kid, But I (Sometimes) Have a Point


For better or for worse, I seem to leave a distinct impression on people, although I can’t tell whether the impression I leave is good or bad.  One week into my foray into law school at the particularly liberal Rutgers of Newark, people started coming up to me and saying, “So you’re the new conservative, huh?”  I had barely met anyone at that point.

Although I’m proud of my conservatism, I’d like to think that I leave my mark less for my politics and more for my humor, especially if it’s at my own expense.  It has served me well over the years, allowing me to be close friends with liberal people because I don’t take my wisdom and their misguided principles too seriously.

The humor also lightens up the mood in an otherwise serious atmospheres, like a collegiate classroom.

My freshman year, I was in this great seminar where we studied Greek traditions and other liberal arts stuff.  I emphasize the importance of a liberal arts education now, but back then I had little appreciation.  My respect and admiration for the traditional Boston College education grew only after I got my degree–far too late to take full advantage of it when it was offered to me.  So when I was sitting in the class back when I was a young fool, I tried my best to bring some humour into a class which I considered to be quite a bore.

Because the class was a seminar, student participation drove the class.  Among the great classmates were many who could be counted on to make invaluable contributions.   I, on the other hand, could be counted on to make a valuable contribution about half the time.  The other half was to just get a laugh.  But often, I tried to do both at once.

One time, the professor broke the class up into small groups to discuss how we should handle the Taliban regime in Afghanistan destroying Buddhist temples dating back a thousand years.  I proposed a modest suggestion: invasion.  People took it as Joe just being Joe, and yes, I was, but I also wanted to make an important point: a regime that destroys history and culture needs to be taken out.

I obviously couldn’t have foreseen what would happen less than a year later, but I knew even back then that Communists in Russia and China and the Fascists in Germany and Japan shared one common thread despite their polar opposite political ideology:  they burned books.  I’m an uncivilized savage, but I don’t burn what I don’t understand.  The Taliban’s destruction of the temples showed similar dispositions as the fascists and the Communists that I found to be quite dangerous.  That message got lost in my intentional humor, but I was okay with that.

Later in the year, the class read David Mamet’s play “Oleanna.”  “Oleanna” is about a female college student going to office hours of a male professor who is distracted by his attempt to sell his home.  Eventually, the student ends up accusing the professor of sexual harassment and the play ends rather dramatically.  I liked the piece, as I did Mamet’s film, “State and Main,” but that didn’t prevent me from feeling the need to point out what I believed was the social undertone of the play.

So when the professor asked for my thoughts on the work, I used the phrase “feminist propaganda” to describe it, a comment I stand behind to this day.  The class laughed and moved on.  I do wish now, though, that there was some discussion on my comment because I intended to make a serious point, which is that the piece is clearly a product of the 70s and 80s feminist movement.  The play didn’t offend a conservative in me, but I did take notice of the undertone.  Despite my attempt at trying to be humerous, I think that reflection on the state of society was worth a class discussion.  I would have been greatly outnumbered, but I think it would have been worth the fight.

Of course, sometimes I don’t have a point to make except to provoke a laugh.  Later in the semester, the class inevitably ventured to the world of poems, which, despite my liberal education, I still fail to see the point of.  There was a poem which I obviously don’t remember that talked about a “grass bed” and the professor sought opinion of the phrase from the class.  I opined that I took that to mean there was a bed on the grass.  It is, after all, what was written.  This commentary, intended to humerously highlight my utter failure to understand the absurdity of poems’ “symbolism,” touched off a firestorm discussion on why it’s not a bed and why it’s not on a grass.  My goodness.  The one time I didn’t need deep analysis of my commentary is when I got it.

And sometimes, never being taken seriously has its benefits, like when I make controversial statements.  In a group meeting of guys, the conversation drifted towards describing the ideal woman in one word.

My choice was “domestic.”

Now, mind you, I’m not a sexist fool.  I’m just a fool who would use the same word to describe an ideal husband.  I also understand, though, that  without further elaboration (and even with it), the statement could be deemed offensive and insensitive by many (mostly in the opposite gender, although not exclusively), so I was not displeased when everyone laughed and moved on.

And sometimes, even I can’t tell whether I have a point to make or not.  I was one of two speakers at my high school commencement.  My buddy James’ speech was deep and intense.  Mine was intended to be humerous but, depending on whom you ask, may have also been substantive.  Even the speechwriter, yours truly, is not sure.

So next time when I make a statement that you think is funny, before you dismiss it as unsubstantive silliness, please think about reading between the lines to figure out whether I’m trying to make a serious point.  And if you think my comments could be offensive, please laugh it off and move to the next topic on which I could provide a humerous, and possibly astute, commentary.

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6 Responses to “I Try to Kid, But I (Sometimes) Have a Point”


  1. 1 andrew May 29, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    How’s it goin joe. You may not remember me but I used to play tennis with you at quest. I started reading your blog from both your persistent marketing and my boredom at work.

    I find in general, humor is funnier when there is a point. Also if you have to explain it, its not funny anymore.

    • 2 joesas May 30, 2009 at 1:45 am

      Hey Andrew! Yeah I remember you. We had some fun times.

      You know, I always wondered whether being annoying on facebook leads to more hits. Apparently that answer is yes…

      Thanks for reading! I pray it’s a little less boring than boredom at work.

      So I have to ask: do you think my humor has a point (or am I not even funny?).

  2. 3 andrew June 2, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    I think you have a point, but I don’t find much humor in your writing. It doesnt actually seem like you intended it for humor…

    But hey that might just be me. I a bit of an oddball. Anyways what i was trying to say was that humor in general usually reveals a degree of truth. That’s what makes it funny.

    • 4 joesas June 4, 2009 at 11:23 pm

      Andrew,

      Ha. No, this piece wasn’t supposed to be that funny, although, hopefully, it wasn’t a bore either.

      Hey I know what you mean about humor revealing truth. I’d like to think my bitching about the NY TImes fits that mold… https://joesas.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/critiquing-movie-critics/

  3. 5 Laura July 2, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Oh Joe…

    I don’t remember talking about the temples at all…must have zoned out for that one. I clearly also fall into the category of those who did not appreciate what we were doing, although now would really like to go back and actually read Thucydides. : ) There was always a method to the madness of Joe, except when there wasn’t…

    • 6 joesas July 3, 2009 at 5:07 pm

      Laura,

      Why, welcome to the blog all the way from… Brazil, where my officemate is from. Man, it’s great to hear from you. Nice to know you’re still keeping tabs with what I’m doing. I do miss our little back and forth. And during that period of silence, you got married! Jeez.

      Ah, I’m so glad to hear that even you did not appreciate what was going on. I’d redo it if I could, but I think that also misses the point. I guess the BC education has value precisely because they imprint it on an empty slate. I personally think we got a very good education.

      And now on to my post. I have to say that I distinctly remember your being in my little group and saying something along the lines of, “Oh Joe.” Yes, Laura. We had different views, yet we’re now in Afghanistan. What do you think about that? Ha? Ha???

      LOL. Don’t be a stranger. Thanks for leaving a comment!


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