I ask the question fully aware that “conservative” is not a label generally applied to me. But I have an online friend who sends me e-mail forwards that are always a little edgy. Which is fine. Laughter is by definition a variant on the emotion of surprise. It’s gotta catch you off guard a little. If you see the punchline coming ahead of time, it’s not necessarily working. But many of his e-mails tend to deal with issues of gender or sexuality, and as often as that’s the case, I see the punchline coming.
Let’s start with this recent one, which followed an exchange with him about the nature of the forwards in question, and where I thought I’d made my wishes clear:
Arrival in Heaven!
All arrivals in heaven have to go through a bureaucratic examination to determine whether admission will be granted. One room has a clerk who inputs computerized records of what each applicant did on his or her last day of life.
The first applicant of the day explains that his last day was not a good one. “I came home early and found my wife lying naked in bed. She claimed she had just gotten out of the shower. Well, her hair was dry and I checked the shower and it was completely dry too. I knew she was into some hanky-panky and I began to look for her lover. I went onto the balcony of our 9th floor apartment and found the SOB clinging to the rail by his finger tips. I was so angry that I began bashing his fingers with a flower pot. He let go and fell, but his fall was broken by some awnings and bushes. On seeing he was still alive I found super human strength to drag our antique cedar chest to the balcony and throw it over. It hit the man and killed him. At this point the stress got to me and I suffered a massive heart attack and died.”
The clerk thanked him and sent him on to the next office.
The second applicant said that his last day was his worst. “I was on the roof of an apartment building working on the AC equipment. I stumbled over my tools and toppled off the building. I managed to grab onto the balcony rail of a 9th floor apartment but some idiot came rushing out on the balcony and bashed my hands with a flower pot. I fell but hit some awnings and bushes and survived, but as I looked up I saw a huge chest falling toward me. I tried to crawl out of the way but failed and was hit and killed by the chest.” The clerk couldn’t help but chuckle as he directs the man to the next room.
He is still giggling when his third customer of the day enters. He apologizes and says “I doubt that your last day was as interesting as the fellow in here just before you.”
“I don’t know” replies the man, “picture this, I’m buck naked hiding in this cedar chest…..”
…Still with me here? Would Jesus laugh at it? Maybe. But that’s not the issue for me today. So I write this short note back, reminding him of our earlier changed that the e-mail clock verifies took place just ten minutes earlier:
You seem to have sent this one just ten minutes after our other exchange. Hey [name], I’m starting to worry about you!
This one has nudity, adultery and language (SOB) issues. There are some other things online that are worth celebrating and sharing, but this isn’t one of them. Yes it is funny, but it’s funny in the way that U.S. network half-hour sitcoms have to put the humor on the lowest shelf to get a laugh. I think this one would fall into what the Bible calls the “coarse talk, foolish jesting” category, and not the “whatsoever things are pure…lovely…of good report” category.
Again, I’m no Baptist, but I really feel that any attempt at personal holiness demands that we aim somewhat higher than the world.
Did I overreact? Here’s his reply:
But like I said at the beginning of that joke, my MUM sent it to me. and she IS a Baptist, mother to a Baptist minister, sister to a United Missionary pastor. Which is why I sent it; to demonstrate that humor of the “Blue” persuasion is universal. I thought that particular joke cute, in a suggestive sense while not being explicit.
Paul, I get that you think that all humor pertaining to man’s basic instinct is “coarse talk, foolish jesting,” but if you think about it, ALL humor is at the expense of someone else. Newfie jokes, Polish jokes, Red-neck jokes, blonde jokes, Baptist jokes, Catholic jokes,… even when they are clean, they are in a very real sense debasing someone else.
Maybe we shouldn’t even laugh at the guy slipping on a banana peel, or at me for for falling asleep with a mouth full of coffee and drooling it all over my lap, because joking about it points out our foolishness, and is ” foolish jesting?” Maybe we should all just return to the strict Puritan standard of being so serious about everything we don’t crack a smile at anything at all?
Okay, so my sense of humor offends your sensibilities. Obviously I don’t and can’t live up to your standards.
Am I really Puritanical? Is it possible to share a story that is genuinely funny that is not at someone’s expense? Could the joke above still work without the suggestion of adultery?
Feel free to use the comments section including examples of something you think I would, pardon the redundancy, enjoy enjoying.