The difference between death and taxes is death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets. – Will Rogers
What does that mean?
This is a quote from the cowboy, aviator, humorist, columnist and movie star from the early 20th century. One of his favorite targets for skewering was the government. This is probably one of his best known quotes. It refers to the even older quote, referring to the two certainties of life: death and taxes. By stating that death doesn’t get worse each time Congress meets, he is implying that taxes do.
Remember, this isn’t a present day comment, but one nearly 100 years old. To me, this says that complaining about taxes is as old as, well, taxes. Anyone who says they want more taxes is lying, as there is no penalty for sending more money to the government than you actually owe. So what people are really complaining about is that other people aren’t paying as much as that person thinks they should.
But complaining isn’t what is important. What is important is keeping your sense of humor in a tough situation, in this case, death and taxes.
Why is a sense of humor important?
It has been said that laughter is the best medicine. A monthly magazine even has a page or two devoted to the idea. And Hunter “Patch” Adams, M.D. has made it his mission in life. There are studies that have shown laughter to generate helpful and even beneficial chemicals, which are released into the body when you laugh. Not just a casual chuckle, but a real belly laugh.
How they interact with the physical healing process is not well documented (to the best of my knowledge, although many claim such a connection without rigorous documentation to back it up), but I know it makes me feel better, psychologically, and that’s enough for me.
I believe that there is much to be gained from humor, stress relief being one of the key factors. It is also a key social factor: who want’s to be around a gloomy person all the time (or at any time)? It can help to smooth over an accidental insult (or subtilty inflict a deliberate insult – see any court jester from any kingdom in any country in any era).
In fact, in most places, mocking the aristocracy (and the royalty in particular) was a crime punishable by death – unless you were the jester. So humor and politics have a long and co-mingled history.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Let’s explore some aspects of humor in life. One can laugh to help in social situations, the pinnacle of this is the “life of the party” person. Another is a professional comedian, one who is paid to help people laugh, which runs all the way from open mic nights at a local club to playing Vegas or getting a special on a cable TV channel. The third would be as a political commentator, like the person who made the quote we are exploring today (check him out, he’s an amazing character).
Laughing socially takes some skill. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a people person, and can sometimes be a bit awkward with jokes in a larger group. In smaller groups or among friends, I can have a lot of fun trading jokes. I wouldn’t put myself in the category of “life of the party” (but my dad often was), but I can give as good as I get (at least until we get to word games or puns, then I usually clean up, driving away all challengers with my wit, intellect and massive vocabulary, or the horridity of puns in general, and mine in specific).
But it’s hard to imagine a more pleasant way to pass a quiet spring evening than with a group of friends, laughing. And that’s the whole point of laughter, and of friends. This might be the most fun you ever have while practicing, just try to learn from your “mistakes” and be sure to apologise when you offend people, because being both insulting and funny at the same time is exceptionally tough.
Take the same idea (socializing humor) and turn it up to 11, and you have stand-up comedy. The hecklers are the feedback given to the comic, and some comedians used to expect such a reaction (see Don Rickles, who would (if no hecklers were present) pick on audience members as part of his routine).
In the end, it’s very similar in reaction, in that the audience feels good about the evening, having laughed for at least a while. The comic feels good too, as they (typically) live to perform and to give the gift of laughter to others. Getting paid probably helps them feel good, as well. Most of us don’t do stand-up, but if you do, enjoy it.
Even if all you do is MC a small event, a little humor goes a long way. Toastmasters is a club that specializes in the art of public speaking and can give you both tips and practice on how to mix in a little humor when talking to a group.
While some countries still have royalty, the places you are most likely to get killed for mocking the leaders are in brutal dictatorships. If you have the freedom to read a blog, you probably don’t live in one of these countries. So for most of the readers of this blog, you probably have neither the position of jester, nor any great fear of commenting about political or social issues.
With the above assumption as a given, I will presume that freedom of speech is at least partially recognised. That said, don’t expect to be treated kindly by the powerful (or their minions) when you ridicule them. In part, the trick is to couch the “slap in the face” portion with a little humor, softening the blow. Good luck with that, as that involves tact, and that’s not my strong suit.
It gets me in some trouble now and again, but that’s just how I roll, and I’m willing to take my lumps for it. As for practice, well, there’s twitter, facebook, blogs and a ton of other places to practice your attempts at humor in the face of politics. As mentioned before, every cause has a few crazy types, and some have some crazy haxor skillz, so watch your accounts and use strong passwords.
Most people will engage in some level of debate, more or less vicious depending on how accurate your point was. Only a few will ‘go postal’ on you. If you want to start in nice and easy, look for a place where like-minded people gather, and poke fun at the opposition. You should get mostly supportive, or at least neutral responses, except for the occasional troll. From there, the sky is the limit.
Who knows, you could be the troll on the opposition’s sites in a few short months! Won’t that be fun, stirring up the hornet’s nest? Just remember to laugh when the other guy scores points, humor should be a two way street. If it isn’t, your just being vicious and hiding behind the concept of humor, and that’s no fun at all.
From: Twitter, undocumented feed (my bad)
confirmed at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/willrogers386904.html
Photo by Justin A. Wilcox