Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where are the laffs?

These R grim times.
As any look at a newspaper or any random 5 mins of CNN will tell ya.
Now more than ever, we need laffs.
& I don't mean in silly movies or in TV situation comedies or in comedy clubs or on "Reality TV."
I mean in the very media that bring us down every day:
TV news & newspapers.
About the only time TV news & newspapers R the slightest bit funny these days is when they're covering the latest screw-up on the Republican presidential campaign trail. (Did you see Herman Cain's latest act on Tuesday? Oh my Ghod! Couldn't stop laffing!)
Things R getting so freaking serious that we NEED SOMETHING 4 a break. When the GOP fields the Usual Gang Of Idiots as potential presidential nominees, when there R STILL 10 million people out of work, when Congress is useless & the President is helpless & the US teeters on the brink of becoming another 3rd World country....
We need SOMETHING to help us lighten up. About the only time that happens these days is if the media MAKES A MISTAKE (Ghod forbid!). Or if some soundman or camera guy accidentally farts during a press conference.
(Of course you'll never hear THAT on the 6 o'clock news....)
4 Ghod's sake, at least give us another Republican debate 2 laff at....
(If Herman Cain would just ADMIT that he's got a thing 4 white women, we could all have a big laff & then get on with our lives....)
Things didn't useta B this serious. & the media useta have a lot more fun with covering the news. These days the only reporters I see REGULARLY making fun of what happens out there in The Real World each week are Jeanne Moos at CNN & Craig Wilson, who writes a weekly lite-humor column called "The Final Word" 4 USA TODAY. (Is Dave Barry still writing his syndicated humor columns 4 newspapers? I haven't seen them in quite awhile.... Maybe he gave them up 2 write books?)
& there is NOBODY in my immediate local area writing topical humor 4 any of the newspapers -- that I've noticed. Almost all the reporting & commentary is viewed straight-on. There's an editorial columnist 4 the TACOMA NEWS TRIBUNE named Peter Callaghan who occasionally does screamingly funny Q&A columns about hot statewide political issues. But he otta write them every week. His newspaper could use a little more life.
It didn't useta B like this. Back in my newspaper days it seemed like every paper had somebody who could write comedy. When I was working on Air Force base newspapers in the '80s & '90s I went outta my way 2 try 2 find some lite & funny stuff 2 counteract all the dead-serious & sleep-inducing stuff we hadta print.
I remember writing columns about "Air Force Medals You Don't Want To Win" (like the infamous "Air Force Condemnation Medal"), an Air Force "Glossary" (in which a bureaucratic phrase like "alcohol-related incident" was decoded into its real meaning: "A drunken brawl"), & "Air Force Bases You'll Never Want to Serve At" -- an atlas of fictional bases located in desolate West Texas, desolate Southeastern Oregon, & desolate Western Wyoming ... 2 go along with the real bases we already had in Greenland, Iceland, Korea, the Aleutian Islands, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana & other Ghod-forsaken places....
I also wrote an off-the-wall sports feature on an AF doctor named Joe Kenny who competed in stair-climbing races during his off-duty time -- a hobby that got his name in2 the GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS. Not Xactly yer standard AF-newspaper-type sports coverage....
When I left the AF & started working 4 civilian papers, I discovered real-life comedy was all around, all I had 2 do was notice it. & it practically wrote itself.
I wrote silly lite-comedy features about a married couple who used multi-colored carpets 2 replace their front lawn after their grass died -- & about how many traffic jams & car wrecks in front of their house this led to; about how a computer glitch led 2 3-dozen turkeys being delivered 2 a local Senior Citizens' Center just in time 4 Thanksgiving; how a small-town council had 2 subpoena a pot-bellied pig 2 a council meeting 4 a discussion about the town's livestock ordinance; how some packets of Holly-brand sugar got a 5-second close-up during an episode of THE X-FILES (there was a Holly Sugar factory in the Wyoming town where I lived); how a local highschool senior wanted 2 impress President Bill Clinton during a National Honor Society visit 2 the White House -- so the boy performed a gorilla impression....
...& lots more. Some of this stuff got picked-up by the Associated Press & sent 2 newspapers all over the country. & it was an absolute BREEZE 2 write, like a gift from Ghod. It was a great break -- & a great RELIEF -- from my usual straight-news reporting about council meetings & car wrecks. Most of these silly stories I could crank out in 30 mins or less, & it was like every word flashed in2 my head perfectly from beginning 2 end.
It was my favorite part of being a reporter & the 1 thing I miss most about the newspaper business.
& I knew that after writing a story like that -- after sharing a laff with readers on the front page -- I knew I'd done my job & a whole lot more. I'd earned my paycheck ... & hadda great time doing it.
You can't fake comedy. It's either good or it isn't. & you know when it's good. Not just because you're laffing. You get that sorta glow....
I really miss that.
& even tho these R grim times, we could use a lot more real-life comedy. Fun stories. I know they're out there, even at the worst of times. Because people still have a sense of humor -- & still use it 2 get thru their days -- no matter how bad things get.
I don't know if newspaper & TV reporters' hands R tied or if everybody's just 2 tense these days 2 try 2 crack a joke....
But it's the 1 thing I hardly ever see anymore on TV news or in newspapers. & it's the 1 thing I would most LIKE 2 see.
We could all use some laffs. LOTS of them....

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