Am I funny?
No, I’m not fishing for compliments, I assure you. That, my readers, is a rhetorical question which stems partly from that region of my psyche that doubts everything about me.
My humor being the source of my most prolific angst.
Insecurity, for some reason, is a by product of wit. At least I think it is. The one thing that behaviorists can’t quite put their fingers on is which comes first: are funny people funny because they’re insecure OR….do insecure people use humor as a crutch to combat the insecurity?
It’s a conundrum that has plagued philosophers and noted thinkers since the Ancients first gathered in the round to laugh at the comedy stylings of Sheckyus Greenus.
Personally, I think wit is an innate gift; something you’re born with. God given. Genetically predisposed by generations of funny simians turned cro-mags turned protein eaters turned homos modernos.
Yessir, I think truly funny people have it in their DNA double helix, that twisting mobius strip that’s loaded with those specific chromosomes that make us who and what we are. We’re talking genes, X…Y…and that H one.
H for hilarious.
I’m lucky. I come from funny stock.
I’m told that I was a funny kid. I know when my sense of humor was defined and in a sense, refined. I was 12 and in the 7th grade. By eighth grade, I was something of a younger, more shiksa version of Totie Fields.
My mother is funny. My oldest sister Kathy does physical comedy very well. When Karol, Kathy and I get together and we’ve all had a few drinks, the comedy, doth flow.
I have funny cousins and I had funny aunts and uncles.
Most of them were already old and had lived full lives by the time my parents decided to try for their third and final child.
My father wanted a boy and I was the last chance for him to get that son he always wanted.
What he got was a daughter who had penis envy for about three days when I was seven. That was as close as it got.
But funny family members were strewn all about the Crews and Kendrick sides.
Take my Uncle Ralph and Aunt Peg.
They married late; never had kids. He was Jewish. She wasn’t. They fought and yelled and screamed and to listen to their tirades was truly funny. Saturday Night Live caliber (the Aykroyd/Gilda Radner years, thank you very much!!). I vaguely remember them, but I know that deep down inside, despite the arguments and teasing and name calling, they adored each other. She was the cup to his saucer; he was the reason she woke up every morning.
Peg was short. Peg was also dynamite. Uncle Ralph was the fuse. They were innocuous apart….EXPLOSIVE together.
But they loved…and they lived and they laughed.
Peg was a devoted partner. She’d spent the last part of her life, as Uncle Ralph’s wife and took care of him, especially when he fell ill. In his latter years, he was suffering from renal failure and had been in a coma for almost twol weeks. Peg never left his side. She was at the hospital every day. She held his hand and talked to him as if he was lucid.
One afternoon…it was on a Wednesday….the sun crept through the hospital window and illuminated Ralph’s face and I remember Aunt Peg saying it was as though the light was healing; as if generated by the Good Lord himself specifically for Uncle Ralph.
He slowly opened his eyes, wincing in the sunlight. He blinked a few times, trying to absorb where he was and what was happening to him. He pointed at his oxygen mask and Aunt Peg helped him remove it. His voice was weak and hoarse.
“Where the hell am I?”
“You’re in the hospital Ralph and you’re sick. Your kidneys are failing and you’ve been unconscious for more than a week now”.
Aunt Peg stroked his forehead as she spoke.
“Ah jeez….I don’t feel so good.”
“I know Ralph, but we’re going to get through this. I’m not going anywhere. In fact, I’ve hardly left this hospital room since you were admitted last week”.
Ralph lay there for a minute, gathering his thoughts. He then motioned for Peg to come closer.
“You know what, Peg? I just realized something. You’ve been with me all through the bad times. When I got fired from my job at the railroad, you were there to support me. When my business failed, you were there. through bankruptcy, too. And in a way, you were there when I got a piece of shrapnel stuck in my back and it almost nicked my spine because I was reading one of your letters back during the big one, W-W-Two. When we lost the house and my truck, you supported me and here I am, on death’s door, I suppose, and here you are, right by my side…like always”.
“That’s right, Ralph, I’ve always been right here by your side”.
“Well, you know what, Peggy?”
“What Ralph…what is it?”
“Get the hell away from my bed, you goddamn jinx whore!!”
The bruises on Uncle Ralph’s neck were barely visible after the mortician artfully covered them with make-up..