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Humor


Wacka Wacka Wacka: The Humor Issue Is Here!

Ladies and gentlemen, wisecracks, cornballs, jesters, and twerps! After what has felt like eons of soliciting writers, fielding interviews, landing interviews, losing interviews, editing, copy editing, proofing, and an entire magazine REDESIGN, we have finally reached the best part. Childbirth. Out of the womb and into the world. After all, what’s the fun of stockpiling jokes when there’s no one to share them with? We can’t wait to share the entirety of Issue 11 with you. In it, we cover the gamut: church humor, potty humor, dark humor, community humor, tumor humor, tv humor, and puppets. Hopefully, if we’ve halfway done our job, the writing is as lighthearted and truthful as the subjects we cover. Oh, and did I mention the magazine has a brand new look, too, which we think you’ll really dig? 

Per usual, here’s a sampler of what’s to come, including the table of contents. Thanks for your patience as we’ve pulled this together. We’re sure it will be worth the wait. To order some extras for your nieces, nephews, and pets, go here. Until it lands in your mailbox, though, here’s Ethan’s Opener, where the magazine’s first wimple enters the stage.

Your Very Own Magenta Wimple

The secret sauce in every good New Yorker cartoon is juxtaposition. A good cartoon lines up two things you normally wouldn’t put together, and does it in a way that surprisingly makes a whole lot of sense. The illustration itself is usually an everyday life trope we know well: a patient and a doctor, employees in a business meeting, a husband and a wife out to dinner. They are situations we have a language for. Throw in an uninvited guest, though, and you have a recipe for jokes. Most of the time, the caption offers the curveball.

There’s the one of a pro football player, giving an on-field postgame interview, with a nasty look on his face: “First, I’d like to blame the Lord for causing us to lose today.” There’s the man in a flower shop, asking the clerk at the counter, “I need something that says, ‘I’m sorry about that thing I said that caused you to totally overreact.’” There’s the yoga class, everyone cross-legged in the lotus pose. The instructor beckons: “And now I want you to send out peaceful, loving thoughts to all sentient beings on the planet who have exactly the same political, economic, and religious beliefs that you do.” With each cartoon, the illustration sets the stage, and the caption turns that stage upside down.

This is how juxtaposition in humor works, by tearing down the barrier between the world we see every day and the subterranean, invisible world that we know but never talk about. Humor, in other words, peels back the shower curtain on our lives, revealing the banal and less-than-sexy truth, and yet does so with such a light touch that we can’t help but look. Somehow, looking makes us feel better.

At least that’s what humor can do. But not lately. Whether the subject has been the President, or Hollywood scandals, or the racial divide in America, “humor” of late has not been all that funny. Even the staples—Comedy Central standup, SNL, The Onion—have been hit-or-miss, often trading punchlines for cheapshots and laughter for scathing ridicule. This is par for the course in divided times, I suppose: moral outrage may provide juicy material for satire, but it is a non-starter for poop jokes…

I’m not saying that humor is only humor if it is toothless. Satire definitely has its place. What I am saying, though, is that humor is at its best when it is delivered at some expense to its teller and his/her audience, not at their behest. It was as true with Guildenstern as it is with Howard Stern: the joke must be on you to some extent. Somehow, the more particular that joke is, the more universal, and the more universal, the better.

Think about the person/people in your life who you feel really love you—those ones who have seen behind the “shower curtain” and yet still pick up the phone when you call. Odds are, that person (nothing against you) is a funny person. Maybe not a stand-up comic, maybe not a big jokester, but certainly someone who can handle the odd dissonance between how you ought to be and how you actually are, and can laugh at it. It takes a sense of humor for one person to love another, because the task demanded of them is absurd.

Humor has always been an emblem of grace for us here at Mockingbird. Since the beginning, we’ve felt humor is almost as essential as the message, as it tends to embody the “divine perspective” granted in being forgiven. If the world is a courtroom, full of accusations and demands, humor represents a recess in the proceedings, a superseding presence of mercy in a merciless world. Sure, some great humor comes from anger or despair, but the Christian message offers a different reason to laugh. If the Gospel is ever experienced for the ridiculous good news that it is, humor is, at least in part, an expression of relief.

Steve Brown describes it perfectly in his story about a woman who, after years of hiding an act of infidelity from her husband, suddenly feels the need to admit it to him. Though nervous, she decides to do it.

I saw her the next day, and she looked fifteen years younger. “What happened?” I asked. “When I told him,” she exclaimed, “he replied that he had known about the incident for twenty years and was just waiting for me to tell him so he could tell me how much he loved me!” And then she started to laugh. “He forgave me twenty years ago, and I’ve been needlessly carrying all this guilt for all these years!”

Her laughter is the laughter of the forgiven. It stems from a simultaneous flood of relief (“He forgave me twenty years ago!”) and a corresponding lack of self-seriousness (“How ridiculous that I carried this around for so long!”). This sense of humor comes from the ridiculousness of your happy outcome, and the fact that it had nothing to do with you.

This is why humor and hyperbole are reliable ministers of God’s grace. In various ways, they uncouple the truth from its sting. Humor has a way of including its speaker on the wrong side of the righteousness equation—there’s a delightful willingness to be wrong, because you can afford to be. Humor, in other words, is an expression of Paul’s great boast: “If Christ is for me, who can be against me?”

And yet, as “easy” and “light” as humor is, the theme has made for a shockingly difficult issue to pull together. Humor’s the kind of topic you have to embody, not just describe; if you have to explain a joke, you kill it. On top of that, try telling someone to “be funny” and see what happens. Nothing will be funny. Humor is spontaneous; it can’t be coerced.

That being said, we have plenty of laughs to dole out in this issue. We have an interview with comedian and show writer Jeannie Gaffigan, wife of comedian Jim Gaffigan, who talks to us about finding humor in brain tumors. We have an essay from award-winning humor writer Harrison Scott Key, and an essay on the sitcom of the century, Seinfeld, as well as a lesser-known puppet show from hell, Wonder Showzen. We have illustrations and comics from the New Yorker’s Miguel Porlan, from the zany and inimitable Glen Baxter, and from John Hendrix, creator of the “Adventures of the Holy Ghost” series. And that’s just to get your attention. The other gutbusters are merely waiting in the wings…

So, here’s hoping that, like a good cartoon, this issue points out an absurd juxtaposition—the most absurd truth we’d all have to be idiots to believe. I’ll set it up: there’s you, cartoon you, standing in the atrium outside the Divine Courtroom. You’re awaiting your hearing, reading back through your permanent record, mostly hoping the Judge bypasses that rough patch in ’03 (and to a lesser extent in ’04). You stand at the threshold of that courtroom on that final day, testimony ready—only to find behind the door not a courtroom at all, but a very noisy dining hall, filled with all your favorite people. Do you have the wrong room? Has there been a mistake?

The Judge approaches from the back, ensconced in light, but instead of the gavel, he’s got a serving tray. And he doesn’t hand you a verdict at all; with mock grandiosity, he instead offers you your party hat. The hat is magenta, a papier-mâché dunce cap, and if you look closely enough, the paper itself is your permanent record, all your life’s accomplishments, all glued up into this stupid-looking wimple. You’re not one for sporting magenta, or cone-shaped headgear, but everyone else has one on and, for once, being a dunce is a tremendous alternative to, well, the courtroom you expected. Lying before you on the Judge’s tray, though, lies the real test: Bud Light or Bud Light Lime.

The caption below reads: The Final Judgment.

Enjoy reading, and as always, remember the good news: that, by the grace of God, your life will one day amount to one magenta wimple, and that, most importantly, the joke’s on you.

Ethan Richardson, Editor

Subscribe today! Or preorder your copy here!

 

From The Onion: Neurologists Find Brain Still Shows Signs Of Self-Criticism Minutes After Death

America’s Favorite News Source delivers once again! Click here to read the whole thing:

PASADENA, CA—“Using the latest neuroimaging techniques, we have been able to confirm that the brain can still produce thoughts about being worthless and unlovable even when the body is clinically dead,” Professor Ellen Garoza [of CalTech] said Wednesday, noting that up to four minutes after death, scientists have observed neural activity in the parts of the limbic system where phenomena such as low confidence, inner ridicule, and crippling doubt are believed to originate. “Research is still in its early stages, but it’s possible that after you die, you can actually berate yourself for not having accomplished more while alive, and feel guilty for making anyone dumb enough to care about you feel sad.” The researchers emphasized, however, that they had not yet determined if brains in heads severed from their bodies could momentarily reflect upon how stupid and embarrassing their torsos must look.

Consuming 2017: Favorite Music, Media, Humor, and Books

Consuming 2017: Favorite Music, Media, Humor, and Books

Alrighty, my friends, it’s time for our annual round up of favorites, which I had way too much fun putting together. As always, these are predominantly personal picks, albeit ones with an eye toward Mocking-resonance. TV went live last week. (Click here to check out last year’s list). Here goes:

Music

Favorite Discoveries

Jimmy Webb. This one counts as about 20 discoveries wrapped up into one. I had known the hits–“Galveston”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Macarthur Park”, who doesn’t?–but that was as far as it went. Talk about the tip of the iceberg! Webb’s is a gift that’s been giving for nigh on…

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A Couple Seasonal Calvin and Hobbes


To peruse our archive, click here.

Raising the Stakes Is Lowering the Stakes for Justice League

Raising the Stakes Is Lowering the Stakes for Justice League

From Justice League expert Jeremiah Lawson, here is an insightful look at the recent holiday season blockbuster.

It may be a law of blockbuster cinema that there is an inversely proportional relationship between how high the stakes are raised in explicit and implicit narrative terms and the actual significance of said stakes. In a phrase, when everything is at stake, you can be relatively confident nothing is at stake, and this is, in sum, a weakness that the film Justice League can’t shake off.

The plot is as follows: in the wake of Superman’s death through Kryptonite exposure and injuries fighting General Zod,…

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Thanksgiving: A Personal History

Thanksgiving: A Personal History

There were the countless Thanksgivings of my childhood spent in the Mississippi Delta. There’s nothing better than farm country in the fall. Harvest has happened and deer hunting season is in full effect. I remember the adults being cavalier with their joy. I would sneak beers, and I once almost lit my Memaw’s house on fire when I was playing with matches. That was not all in the same year.
Once, in high school, my mom decided we should get up at East Jesus in the Morning and drive to the Baptist Mission Church in downtown Jackson to feed the homeless a Thanksgiving…

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From The New Yorker

Portal Guns, Talking Horses, and the Future of TV Comedy (Part 2)

Portal Guns, Talking Horses, and the Future of TV Comedy (Part 2)

Too long for one post, we’re looking at the advent of the “sadcom,” a unique TV comedy developed over recent years. Sadcoms are shows that find humor in the debauched and dysfunctional lives of lead characters, punctuating that wildness with sincere moments of sympathy. For a longer breakdown, check out part 1, with a review of BoJack Horseman‘s season four.

It’s worth asking how we got to this place, where alcoholic horses and mad-scientist grandpas become critically acclaimed television for adults. It’s a question that Elizabeth Bruenig’s write-up “Why is Millennial humor so weird?” worked to answer last August in the…

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From The New Yorker

The Foolish and the Weak are Confounding the Wise and the Strong...Yet Again

The Foolish and the Weak are Confounding the Wise and the Strong…Yet Again

If you haven’t watched any of Austin Rogers’ first 12 Jeopardy wins (running currently), you’ve missed seeing the most money amassed over a 12 day period (over $400k) in Jeopardy history. Rogers is a bartender from Manhattan. Do yourself a favor, and start setting your TiVos and DVRs, and treat yourself to a master. It’s not what you think, though. Rogers is tremendous at trivia, but he’s even better at poking fun at the Jeopardy Intelligentsia. Take the last 4 episodes for example (through Oct 11). While being introduced, Rogers has mimed making a martini, solving a Rubik’s Cube, and…

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The Preacher Goes to Fashion Week: Jim Carrey's Gospel Madness

The Preacher Goes to Fashion Week: Jim Carrey’s Gospel Madness

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

God, in his mercy, sends preachers. Some are well-educated and institutionally-approved folk serving the faithful in fine old churches, but in these last days we should take no alarm that the same Lord who spoke through Balaam’s ass might again choose an eccentric instrument. His preachers are not necessarily welcomed even under ordinary circumstances – indeed, the urgency of the need and the warmth of the reception seem often enough to have an inverse relationship. Again, this should not surprise, because the preacher’s first word is a word of law,…

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From The New Yorker