Somehow, somewhere, over the last few months, I seem to have lost my sense of humor. I just can’t figure out what’s happened to it. I’m a bit suspicious, knowing it, that “lost” may not be the word I want. I think it’s playing a trick on me and is hiding somewhere, because every so often, for a few special occasions like on Thursday nights when 30 Rock is on or when Bob and I go see a performance of The Cocktail Hour on stage, it materializes. But most of the time, it seems to be hiding in some deep, dark tunnel underneath a city street somewhere, the sort of place that echoes with mysterious voices and maniacal laughter where it knows I won’t dare set foot to try to find it.
I first realized it was missing when I picked up the audiobook version of Little Children by Tom Perotta a few months back. The jacket on the CD cover declared that this book was nothing short of brilliantly funny (granted, the subject matter didn’t scream “funny,” but I’ve been surprised in the past by good comic authors who can make any subject laughable). I was looking for a good laugh and eagerly inserted it into the CD player as soon as I got out to my car to find myself somewhat amused by the opening playground scene and its depiction of suburban motherhood. But that was the only amusement I was able to squeeze from what I found to be a hauntingly sad portrayal of 21st-century suburban life where people haven’t a clue what they want or need, and everyone is looking for a scapegoat for his or her own unbelievably wretched unhappiness.
Shortly after that, I picked up the audiobook version of Prep, a book about which I’d been curious for some time. This one also promised to be “funny.” I found absolutely nothing – seriously, N-O-T-H-I-N-G – funny about this gut-wrenchingly poignant portrayal of one of the most painful periods of a girl’s life. I did, one morning, find myself crying while listening to this book on my morning walk, but not once did it elicit even a slight chuckle. When I returned it to the library, I decided to take a look at the print book to see what its jacket copy had to say. Guess who endorsed it as funny. Tom Perotta. Well, if those two think they’re funny, I’d hate to see what they’re like when a loved one dies, and I hope I don’t ever end up in their company at a dinner party.
Thinking that maybe my sense of humor is just becoming wary of audiobooks, I decided to try a DVD. Holy Smoke was hailed as a comedy. Okay, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t call a movie that takes me from butterflies-in-the-stomach in the beginning to cats-with-sharp-claws-in-the-stomach at the end a rip-roaring comedy. Maybe I’m odd, because although it was a very good movie, it just wasn’t the sort of thing I would describe to a friend thus, “Ohmigod, I was laughing so hard, I couldn’t stay in my seat while watching this one.” That’s the sort of thing I might say about, oh, I don’t know, There’s Something about Mary, maybe (I’m waiting to read somewhere that that one is a three-hankie tear-jerker).
Finally, encouraged by rave reviews in The New York Times and The New Yorker, Bob and I, desperately in need by this point of some gut-bursting laughter, decided to watch The Sarah Silverman Program. After the first episode we watched, I decided I was just being a bit dense or dumb. I must have missed something, because it had promise. It seemed like it could be so funny. So, I waited a week and watched it again, which is when I decided “dumb” was the right word but not to describe me.
You don’t know how much I’ve been missing my sense of humor. I count on it, especially when I’m down. I don’t understand why it’s chosen to desert me. Oh, wait a minute…hold on…I think I hear something. Was that it peeking through the pages of Rose Macaulay’s Crewe Train? Oh, and there it seems to have been flashing subliminally across the TV screen as we watched Casanova. It even came along and popped up to say “boo” a couple of times while I was sitting in the theater watching The Queen. I guess it’s not really gone after all. Maybe it’s just chosen to be a little more subtle these days, which is something I can truly appreciate.