Pardon me while I have a strange interlude by
(7 Stories)

Prompted By Comedy

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Comedy, for me, is reified in the Animal Crackers scene when madcap Captain Spaulding (Groucho Marx) steps away from staid Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) and  Mrs. Whitehead (Margaret Irving) saying: “Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.”  You know, recently I’ve favored cremation over burial, but burial’s preferable if I can have Groucho’s line carved on my tombstone.

And speaking of death, which is de rigueur at the beginning of any contemporary media, how about these lines from James Tate’s fabulous poem, “On the Subject of Doctors.”

“Sorry, Mr. Rodriquez, that’s it,

no hope.  You might as well

hand over your wallet.”

Sure, I’m a Marxist, and a disciple of P G Wodehouse, and until I discovered Thelonius Monk (I don’t mean on a street, I mean his recordings), Bugs Bunny was my deity. Now, Monk’s God, Bugs’ the Son, and Eugene the Magical Jeep is The Holy Spirit.)  I love comedy because its oblique and non sequitur is its nature (even if that doesn’t make sense, it ‘s fun to say, and that’s enough for comedy).

I’m increasingly convinced that language is a joke, especially as I listen to evangelists, politicians, scientists, and athletes bloviate. (cf. philosopher, Harry Frankfurter’s essential book, On Bullshit, Princeton, 2005).  If humans would admit most language is jabber we could choir like birds, to similar effect and greater delight.  Think about it, do birds sing because they can fly, or fly because they sing?

And what about Western Grebes?

I have only one tenant, which I discovered, if I remember correctly, on the New Year 1972 cover of Parade Magazine: “Avoid zealots.  They are generally humorless.”

Humans suffer from Stockholm Syndrome vis-à-vis zealots, because they’ve been taught and brainwashed in school and through media to slavishly capitulate to “ideals,” which are too often manias.

Combine that with the pernicious truism “life sucks” (yeah, I gotta bone to pick with Buddha over “all life is suffering,” although I highly recommend Billy Collins’ poem, “Shoveling Snow with the Buddha”) and you can understand comedy’s essential because it stands up to Fuddian pessimism and cracks “Whatta maroon.” 

Comedy is not only part of our history, it’s part of our spiritual heritage. Imagine the patriarchs’ roars of laughter when the author of Genesis started his routine with Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt (Brilliant!  Worthy of Alan King.), continued with Lot’s older daughter liquoring him into the sack.  And then, ba-da-boom! the second daughter does it, too!  Samson and the temple?  Bonk! Bawdy and slapstick material like that brought down the caravanserai.  St. Matthew’s quip about a camel getting through the eye of a needle easier than a rich man into heaven still slays ‘e at glitzy synods.

To paraphrase Prospero, “We are such stuff as jokes are made of.”

That’s it…Gotta go…Be sure to tip your server…

Oh, wait!…I just realized cottage cheese is not a cheese.  That’s just occurred to me.

Profile photo of Zeque Zeque

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Khati Hendry says:

    If you can’t laugh, what’s the point?

  2. Thanx for your comic comedy story Zeque, and for the dancing Grebes!

    And thanx for the wonderful Billy Collins poem that I hadn’t heard before. I love that guy and have heard him read his poetry at Hunter College where he was teaching.

    • Zeque says:

      Dana, I’m a real fan of Billy Collins, too, but I never got to hear him read, except online. Often when I need to reconnect to the world amicably, I reach for a Billy Collins collection.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Thanks for sharing your humor. For some reason, the Western Grebes made me laugh.

  4. Jim Willis says:

    Good stuff, John. Until you and Bill McCann came along, I never noticed some of the comedic effects that a few Bible stories could produce. Take the story of Jonah, for example, or what’s sometimes called The Belly, the Burp, and the Beach. What really went on inside that whale, anyway?

    • Zeque says:

      Jonah’s more of a Godfather (eerie) drama. Even after the sailors know Jonah’s cursed they try to save him, and when they can’t they plea don’t hold us responsible, we’re doing your (the Godfather’s) work. Then Jonah “sleeps with the fishes” until he promises to obey the Godfather. I’m wondering about what the animals in Nineveh thought of being starved and covered with sack cloth. I can just hear a couple of the cows: “Every time one of these prophets hit town, the farmers go nuts.” “Yeah. Just be thankful they’re not roasting a fatted calf.” As Steve Martin used to say: “It’s a mystery!”

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