My husband is said to be the funniest man in his whole family, but all of his siblings are doctors in rather unfunny specialties, so how funny is that? Also, he really gets annoyed when I explain something he did by saying, “He’s the funniest man in his whole family.”
The perfect selfie:
taken while sitting on the toilet on an airplane
Whether I am funny is a question I find hard to answer. I said I was funny on the first day of my writing class at the New School about a year ago, and my writing teacher asked me to clarify. “Oh, you’re funny?” she asked.
“No,” I replied, trying to be funny.
It wasn’t funny.
There are several ways to measure funny, like if you get a laugh, or even if you get a snort or a smirk or a smile. On Twitter you might get favorite stars or retweets. On Facebook you get “likes.” Sometimes west coast audiences clap for good jokes, instead of laughing.
When I used to teach night classes at the University of Utah, sometimes I had as many as 110 students. Ok, they didn’t all show up all the time, but I used to like to say that if you’re a math teacher and you can get a laugh in a room full of bored undergrads, you feel like you’re Johnny Carson.
Should I say Ellen DeGeneres now? Louis C.K.? Tina Fey? Back then, it felt like Johnny Carson. It was the 80s, you know.
Anyway, I was at a fancy party with the Bacon Provider, and while he was fetching drinks and tiny plates of hors d’oeuvres I found myself talking to a suit-wearing finance guy from a large media company. I have no memory of what I was talking about. Sometimes I just talk. I can do it without thinking. I can talk about dogs or cats or horses or children, about St. Louis or pure mathematics or Seattle, about figure skating parents or ultimate Frisbee, or Twitter or non-profit and governmental accounting, about skiing in the 1970s. I have stories from my childhood about crows, imaginary friends, and not eating mixtures of foods. I tell stories about being a math teacher. It could have been any of these, or something else.
As the Bacon Provider walked away for more drinks, the suit-wearing finance guy from a large media company said, “I know your husband, and he’s a nice guy and all, but you, you’re really funny.”
I probably smiled and nodded, with my eyebrows all the way up.
“No,” he continued, “really funny.”
Now. At the time I took it as an awkward moment at a party. But sometimes on Twitter I get mistaken for a guy. Not because I get called “Bro,” or “Dude,” because my kids and former students did that. Because I get wished a Happy Father’s Day. I keep my avi the same: a cartoon monster drawn a long time ago by my youngest child. I tweet about stuff I’m interested in. Some people can’t tell my gender from that. I’m A-OK if people don’t know my gender.
Really, I find it amusing, as I do almost everything. I think if you can’t find life funny you’re fucked.
There is another kind of funny, like funny meaning odd. I have the strangest feeling that I’ve written this essay before. That’s a funny feeling. Funny meaning odd.
My writing teacher pointed at me a few months ago and indicated that she wanted me to read next. “You,” she said, forgetting my name. “You, with the funny hair.”
Why do I get to be congratulated for being funny? Is it because I’m known to be unemployed? Is it because I’m a middle-aged-mom-type? Is it because women aren’t thought to be funny?
Last Tuesday, I tried to tell the story of being told I’m funny at a fancy party by a suit-wearing finance guy from a large media company, and while the details seemed amusing to the person I told it to, he clearly didn’t get it. Why would he? He’s a smart guy, good at his job, a dad, and a serious person. He’s a suit-wearing finance guy himself.
Maybe it’s because my stories never have a point.