Sunday, October 28, 2012

Little Boys and the Magic of Butt Jokes

I would like to think I’m a pretty funny guy. I’ve contributed many articles to MAD Magazine, I wrote a regular humor column for the Arizona Republic for several years, and when I’m walking around in the mall people often point at me and laugh. True, in high school I lost my bid for “Class Comedian” to Vinny Conenna, but I think that’s largely because his main campaign pitch was, “Vote for me or I’ll beat you to a bloody pulp.” Nonetheless, I think that most people find me somewhat amusing. (Especially at the mall, it seems.)

Yet, despite my finely honed humor skills I have come to learn that nothing can make my 6-year­-old and 3-year-old sons laugh like the word “butt.” In fact, all I have to do is insert the word “butt” randomly into any sentence and I can guarantee uproarious laughter from my kids. If I were particularly ambitious and inserted the word twice into the same sentence, it would result in the two of them rolling around the floor laughing and clutching their sides. I would never even attempt three times in the same sentence for fear of having to take one or both of them to the hospital in respiratory distress.

Why my boys find the word “butt” so hysterically funny I can’t quite say. It’s not as though my wife and I have gone out of our way to raise them on a diet of butt jokes and Cheerios. But I have noticed that this phenomenon is not unique to them. It seems that all boys in this age range are similarly amused by the mere mention of the “B-word.”

A few months back we took my older son to his Kindergarten orientation. While the teacher spoke to the parents about what she would be teaching her students, the kids were in the play area getting to know each other. My son is a bit shy and at first he was playing by himself, but after a little while he was playing with another boy. When it was time to go, I went over to collect my son and he and the other boy were laughing and pointing at a stuffed animal while simultaneously saying, “Look at his butt!” Yes, they bonded over the word “butt.”

The incident above raises another interesting point. Perhaps the only thing funnier to a young boy than the word “butt” is the sight of a butt—on a stuffed animal, an action figure, or especially in a TV show or movie. I’ve noticed that some studios pander to this more than others. DreamWorks, in particular, is not at all shy about getting butt-laughs. In fact, I’ve never sat down and done the math on this, but I’m pretty sure at least 30% of the laughs in the “Shrek” movies come from the title character’s butt. My kids are more into the “Madagascar” movies and nothing makes them laugh harder than when King Julien—the flamboyant lemur voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen—dances around and shakes his butt at the screen. To them it’s comedy gold.

Over the past few years I have done what I can to resist resorting to butt jokes with my kids, but I think they’re slowly breaking me down. After all, you have to give the audience what they want. This morning while playing super heroes with the kids I picked up an Iron Man action figure and said, “Look, the bad guy is going to throw Iron Man into the recycle bin, but that’s the one for paper and plastic only.” No reaction. I went to Plan B. “Look, the bad guy made Iron Man fall on his butt.” Uncontrollable laughter.

Maybe I’ll send in an application to DreamWorks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Pointlessness of Political Lawn Signs

I am very much done with this political season—have been for months now. I’m done with the divisive political Facebook posts from friends on both sides of the aisle who clearly need to toss back a glass of wine and lighten up already. I’m done with the endless barrage of political ads on television that tell you nothing about the candidate they want you to vote for, but make the candidate they don’t want you to vote for appear like a less well-adjusted version of Charles Manson. I’m done with the countless Saturday morning robo-calls from my own political party that make me want to vote for candidates from the other party out of spite. But most of all, I’m done with the political lawn signs.

I know of all the things I mentioned, lawn signs probably seem the most innocuous, but for some reason they bother me the most. At least the other forms of political expression I mentioned above attempt to convey some sort of information. Yes, the information is usually biased, skewed, faulty, and otherwise not very helpful, but at least some sort of message is coming across. What information does a lawn sign provide? A name. That’s pretty much it. Just a name.

I don’t mean to offend people with lawn signs, but really, what’s the point?

Now that you’ve shown me the candidate’s name what would you like me to do with that microscopic bit of information? If it’s the candidate that I like do you want me to pull over, ring your bell, and shake your hand? Congratulations, you’re just like 60,000,000 other people who are going to vote for the same dude.

What if your sign has the name of the candidate I don’t like? Are you hoping that seeing the name of the guy I’m not going to vote for as I drive past your house is going to throw me into such a blind rage that I may crash my car into a tree, slip into unconsciousness, and not be able to function until November 7th when it’s too late to vote?

Ah, I know. You think that I may be an undecided voter. You think that despite the fact that I’ve seen your candidate’s name approximately 3.8 billion times over the past year, this one instance of seeing his name will throw me over the edge and cause me to say, “Okay, this settles it. This person who I’ve never met before and I know absolutely nothing about is going to vote for Candidate X, and since they have such lovely gardenias in front of their house, I guess I’ll vote for him too.”

Not going to happen. I looked it up and found out that in the history of democratic elections not one person has ever attributed their voting choice to seeing someone’s lawn sign. But hey, don’t let that stop you from proudly displaying yours. I mean there’s a first time for everything, right? Maybe if you take extra good care of your sign, and you wax and polish it every night before you go to bed, someone driving by will be so impressed with your lawn sign that it will influence their vote. And maybe that one vote will cause there to be a majority of votes in your state for your candidate! And Maybe Your State Will Be The State That Tilts The Electoral Map To Your Candidate!! AND MAYBE YOU AND YOUR LAWN SIGN WILL BE DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR SENDING YOUR CANDIDATE TO THE WHITE HOUSE!!!

But probably not.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Annual Halloween Conundrum

With Halloween a scant three weeks away it is time to start thinking about the costume questions. There are three questions to carefully consider:

1) Should I even bother wearing a costume?

2) If I do bother wearing a costume, what kind of costume should I wear?

3) If I gave this much thought to my finances would I own a mansion and a yacht by now?

Let’s ponder these questions one at a time, shall we?

First off—should I bother wearing a costume? It’s the age old question for somebody whose age is getting a bit old. As a kid, wearing a costume on Halloween is a given. Our kids have been discussing what they will be this Halloween since November 1, 2011. They have changed their minds about eight dozen times over the past year. They will likely change their minds several more times between now and when we get to the costume store. In fact, there is a high probability that one of them will change their minds once inside the costume store. This is exactly what happened last year. My five-year-old son was three inches away from the Spiderman costume he said he wanted for the previous two days when out of the corner of his eye he saw a Wolverine costume, which cast some sort of voodoo-like spell on him and caused him to completely forget that he ever wanted a Spiderman costume in the first place.

For adults the question of costume wearing on Halloween isn’t as cut and dry. If you’re going to a Halloween party you would definitely wear a costume. If you’re taking your kids trick-o-treating you might wear a costume. And if you’re going to the doctor’s office to have them look at a questionable mole, you might not want to wear a costume. But I’m not going to a Halloween party, my wife is the one who takes the kids trick-o-treating, and I have no questions about any of my moles, so for me there is no clear cut answer. I’ll go with “yes” simply so that I can answer question number two.

Okay, so now that we know I’ll wear a costume, what should I wear? I’m not crazy about traditional Halloween costumes like ghosts, vampires, and devils. I’m not going to do the super hero thing, because I don’t want to steal my kids’ thunder.  And I refuse to wear an Obama or Romney mask because I don’t want to terrify babies and small dogs. No, I prefer more subtle costumes like a math tutor, or an account representative, or a proofreader. You know, the kind of costume that drives people crazy for hours trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be. My other option is to dress up like a Fig Newton—I really like Fig Newtons.

As for the third question, the answer is “no.” No matter how much thought I give to my finances the closest I’ll ever come to owning a mansion and a yacht is to dress up like Warren Buffett. that’s a pretty subtle costume.