Recently, I attended a virtual class on the subject of humor, as found in written pieces, stand-up comedy, and movie scripts. It didn’t take long to learn that I was the dullest person in the class.
From the appearance of some classmates, I couldn’t tell if I was the oldest, though our time together proved I had the longest uncomplicated history.
The format of the class consisted of the instructor asking a question or set of questions and then calling on each participant for an answer. The point was for her to show how each answer could be turned into a humorous incident.
Question one: “Tell us one thing you’ve done that few people know about you.”
Right away, I regretted having signed up for this course. From my perspective, when only a few people have a particular piece of information about you, there’s a reason. And while taking in-person classes might allow you to sit in the last row and confess to everyone’s back, Zoom gives you no such option. Everyone is staring at you and if they can’t hear, they can turn up the volume on their speakers.
Several responses to this question stood out for me:
“I financed my college education by selling drugs.”
“When I turned sixty, I decided to become a pole dancer.”
“I talk to my mother once a month, and only at noon when she’s drunk and I’m stoned.”
I realized then that my reveal that I’ve been baking cookies every week since the start of the pandemic had little promise of entertainment value.
As each subsequent question became more difficult, panic ensued and my struggle led to more and more innocuous answers.
Question two: “Tell us a little white lie you told recently.”
I can’t remember any of the lies told that day, including my own. Given the kind of truths people were exposing without a second thought, it’s hard to imagine anyone in the class would want to waste our time with a little white lie.
Question three: “What seems not worth paying attention to?”
Phew. I didn’t have to struggle for an answer to that one, just repeated the answers of other students who named a variety of professional sports.
Question four: “What have you done recently that you pretended to care about?”
The only answer I remember was not mine. It came from the student who said she had just had a mammogram. The instructor wanted to know why she pretended to care about that. After the woman said, “My breasts are my strongest feature,” she had our attention. What did it matter to anyone if she didn’t care about a mammogram?
Question four continued: “What have you done that you’re overly excited about?”
“I’m a recovering addict.”
That ended any hopes I might have had of bragging about my progress on the third draft of my novel or the fact that next year I’ll be celebrating my fiftieth wedding anniversary.
As the clock ticked, blessedly, toward the final moments of class, it occurred to me that the instructor had found nothing in my answers that would form a basis for a humorous blog, as she had with most other students. She did say our lives were filled with small stories that lead to something good, such as a new learning.
I’m just grateful that the class provided me with this small story.