What's funny? What isn't? And why do I never get a laugh when I tell that joke about the moose?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

God is An Iron

As long as we're on the subject of Science Fiction writers:

Spider Robinson, is a pretty good science fiction writer with a REALLY good sense of humor. I'll be coming back to him several times in the coming months, but let's start with this observation of his:

"If one who commits gluttony is a glutton, and one who commits a felony is a felon, the God is an iron."

Irony is one of the classic types of humor. It's basically when you you say one thing and mean another (as opposed to a Freudian slip, which is where you say one thing and mean your mother.)

On a cosmic level, it's when human goals and activities end up with the completely opposite results. In literary terms--well, just read O. Henry. There's a reason it's called an "O. Henry Twist". The Gift of the Magi is just about the perfect example of dramatic irony.

To me, irony is the sort of humor that gets a smile--maybe even a snort--but rarely a laugh. There's something satisfying about a drug dealer whose car gets totaled by a drunk driver. Or the anti-gay activist who gets caught with his pants down with another guy.

But at some point, the smile fades. I mean, consider the case of humorist Douglas Adams--told by his doctors to exercise regularly to improve his health, he dutifully ran on a treadmill--until he died on the treadmill of a heart attack.

Or Stephen Hawking, a physicist whose imagination spans the stars, stuck in a disease-ravaged body which he can hardly move, and which makes it almost impossible for him to discuss his own ideas.

Or my good friend, one of the cleverest and most perceptive readers I know, struck with a cerebral episode and aphasia that keeps him from understanding the written word.

Enough irony already. We get the point.


  1. Or my cousin the cardiology professor, who died of a heart attack at age 59.

    Yeah, we got it.

  2. Sure, but how *else* was Douglas Adams (and yes, I still miss him) gonna die except ironically? I mean, it's not as if there were *actually* any Vogons around to finish him off. (Some, possibly including himself, might see Vogons as a metaphor for critics and such, but I think those actually tended to treat him pretty well.)

    Anyway, speaking of Spider, is "I'll be coming back to him ..." in part a promise that you're gradually working your way up (or down, as the case may be) to a post about puns?

  3. Oh, and just for your information, my mother *never* wore Freudian slips.

  4. And I'm saddened to hear Jim is still not doing well. Please give him my best wishes.

  5. OK, so why are the ads on this post for self-defense schools on Long Island? Jerry didn't so much as hint at any phrase like "In my own defense, may I say ...."

    >Krystek Self Defense
    >Judo, Haganah & F.i.g.h.t. Classes for all ages &

    (What about corporals, etc.? Or does "privates" refer to the body parts they teach you to defend against, uh, corporal punishment?)

    >KMLI Kombat Masters of LI
    >The Island's premier Krav Maga training center

    "You've got to help me. I've tried everywhere else, but my Krav Maga *still* pees all over the house!"

  6. Google must be keying on "iron" or something. Now it's

    >How To Defend Yourself
    >Discover What The Martial Artists And The Army Don't Want >You To Know


    >Criminal Justice Degrees
    >Stop & Look at an Exciting New Career Path in Criminal

  7. "Haganah" self defense?

    I guess if you're really into it, you do "Irgun" ...

  8. Or "Stern Gang." But "Haganah" *means* "defense" in Hebrew.

    But I did always think it, well, ironic that the likes of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir refused to "negotiate with terrorists." I suppose it takes one to know one. Similarly, I guess whoever planned Monday's activity never read or saw "Exodus."

  9. Speaking of irony, or just plain awful coincidence, exactly a week after Jerry mentioned Spider Robinson (with a link to his website, where I just found out about it), Spider's wife died.

    (I wonder what the Google ad machine is gonna do with *that*.)