Happy Mother’s Day! It comes but once a year, to remind us that we’re darn lucky to have mothers in our lives. With any luck, we remember to tell them this on a regular basis. Thanks, moms!
How Humor Complicates Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day is hard on comedy writers.
No one likes to hear a joke that could, potentially, be about their mother. It’s a very thin line between “funny” and “enraged mob.” I have too strong self-preservation gene (thanks, mom) for me to enjoy being on the business end of “enraged mob.”
Understanding that a mob triggered to ferocious anger by misfiring-mother-related humor is akin to wearing brain earrings while exposing my own pretty brain cleavage in front of a hoard of starving zombies, I’ve been losing sleep for weeks trying to figure out what to say on this day.
There was one horrible dream where the ghost of Erma Bombeck, looks at me over the rims of her glasses, shakes her head, and waggles her finger at me like I just tracked mud into her newly cleaned kitchen, and looking over my shoulder, yup, there’s the mud. Wordlessly, I go to find the mop and bucket, where I end up just making it worse, spreading the prints into a muddy paint all over the white floor. Things didn’t improve from there.
Another night, I dreamed that I sent out a lovely, sentimental essay, lauding the ideals of motherhood, and saying beautiful things with the best prose I’ve ever written. It was, however, seriously unfunny, and all my readers, in a fit of confusion, hastily unsubscribed, and I was now facing the proposition of continuing without an audience. Not at all cheery.
Clearly, whatever I came up with needed to do mothers proud.
After all, some of my favorite people are moms. Having an angry, blood-craving mob at my door is worse when some of those in attendance actually know my address. Without Googling.
The rage so easily generated by a well-placed “motherly” insult is the key to understanding the power of the entire line of “Your mamma” jokes. It’s easy to see why they’re so effective as taunts by various sorts of ruffians and no-good-nicks, who prove the depths of their evil by taking pot shots at the one person their enemy loves most. Their mamma.
And, despite popular belief that comedians arrive on this planet in giant fibrous shells carried by space pterodactyls, or grown in cabbage patches sprinkled with rainbow jimmies, most of us actually do have mothers.
I know, it’s disappointing to learn that. I feel a bit bad for revealing it to you, but, as it’s less likely to get me lynched than a joke about you-know-who, well, I’m willing to make that call.
Nope, I think I’m safer avoiding that altogether. I’m going to steer clear of the clichéd jokes made about mothers and motherhood, and I’m not going to make jokes about anyone’s mamma.
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