Monday, October 28, 2013

Were you the joker?

The class clown. Do you remember one? Were you one? I was, sort of. It all started for me when I was in my early years of elementary school. I discovered that I enjoyed making my classmates laugh. Getting the teacher to laugh was a real score.

And this is the way it apparently also was for the Andrew Hudgins, author of a recent book entitled The Joker: A Memoir, published in 2013 by Simon & Schuster. Hudgins has indeed written a revealing narrative about himself and offers and insightful look at the American culture during a time when your Uncle Nasty would tell the worst racist jokes possible and everyone would laugh. Or so it seemed. Not everyone, even back then, would see the humor in some of his jokes, but, to be "part of the crowd," all would laugh, even if some were feigning it.

Even though we have made progress as a country, too many Americans still have a long way to go in shedding racism. If you think I'm wrong, visit a small-town bar in backwoods North or South Dakota or Minnesota. Some of the jokes and smart-ass remarks you'll hear will make you think you were riding in a bus in Mississippi, back in the 1940s.

Hudgins account ranges from his childish pleasure in tasteless "dead-baby" and "Helen Keller" jokes to adult observations on sex, religion and race in the mid-century South, where he was raised.

This is a very different but interesting read - ya, you'll laugh a lot, then you'll groan - and sometimes, you'll think. He helps the reader understand why some humor works, and some doesn't. He pointed me to my own conclusion: some subjects aren't meant to be used in jokes. Some humor hurts. And sometimes we don't know that as we relish in hearing all the laughter.

For more information on The Joker: A Memoir, in print or Kindle formats, click here.