As graduation looms, my son Gideon has been named both salutatorian and Wittiest Boy of the Cornersville (TN) High School Class of 2021.
(I myself did well academically "back in the day" - which even then was about 15 years after the hoary phrase "back in the day" had applied for Medicare. I also absorbed comedy vibes from Steve Martin and Monty Python and made good use of the copy of "10,000 Jokes, Toasts and Stories" that belonged to my father - another salutatorian. I just wanted you to know that Gideon comes by certain predispositions honestly. And that I go by my father's axiom, "Blessed is he who tooteth his own horn, else it might not get tooted.")
The salutatorian honor looks good on college applications (although nowadays even "Listen up, dean - I don't think a diploma from your institution is worth anyone except Uncle Sam PAYING for and if you beg nicely, I'll allow the graduate assistants to mow my parents' lawn" is not necessarily a deal-breaker), but the long-term prospects for "Wittiest" seem more questionable.
Oh, I agree this vale of tears will always NEED bon mots, wry observations, sly jabs, satirical barbs, clever turns of phrases, outrageous puns and slapstick pratfalls; but will it always APPRECIATE people with a sense of humor?
Granted, there will always be a place for the umpteenth permutation of "That's what SHE said" or knee-slapping "glory days" reminiscences of all the butts that were kicked and all the bras that were removed under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol; but will genuine cleverness and originality survive?
I have enjoyed driving Gideon to school and engaging in fast-paced verbal jousting based on current events or sights along the road. Up until my recent crisis of confidence, I have believed that the ability to THINK ON YOUR FEET is a skill worth developing. Now I fear that most people, metaphorically speaking, would rather zone out while getting a pedicure.
A push for inclusiveness will rob jokes of their spontaneity and simplicity. There may be a future Oscar Wilde or Will Rogers out there, but how many humorists will tolerate requirements of checking all the right boxes? ("A priest, a rabbi, a minister, a mullah, a warlock, an atheist, a shaman and approximately 15 other people from somewhere along the spirituality spectrum start to walk into a bar but realize the bar doesn't have any Cro-Magnons on the payroll, so instead they wait around on the sidewalk for a stranded-on-a-deserted-island anecdote to develop.")
Once upon a time, Shakespeare's Polonius assured us that "Brevity is the soul of wit." Now that advice would be greeted with "The word 'soul' is so problematic... "
The self-deprecating humor of a Rodney Dangerfield wannabe is triggering, too. ("You're guilty of 'Myron McGillicuddy of Weasel Spit, Wisconsin' shaming.")
Don't get me started on the prospects of artificial intelligence making human jokesters obsolete. ("Alexa, give me another of those rib-tickling 'Yo' momma's algorithm is SO fat' jokes.")
No matter how politically correct you make your wisecracks, there's always another hurdle. ("We have several people with untreated ADHD in the audience. Maybe instead of one-liners, you could deliver some HALF-liners.")
Perhaps someday Gideon will moonlight from his proposed engineering career and gamely continue THIS column.
Yes, son, I'd be honored for you to fill my shoes. No - not the pedicure bath! My shoes!
Copyright 2021 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes email responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades." Danny's weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.