It’s Thursday. I’m always in my silliest mood on Thursdays, perhaps reacting to the inherent boredom of the day. Friday is rock and roll. Thursday is an ambivalence festival. Thursday is named after Thor. How can a day so bland be named after a bearded, hard-drinking, serpent-killing, hammer-swinging thunder god? Anyway, I’m feeling ridiculous and I invite you to join me.
While absurd humor isn’t always linked to science fiction or fantasy, I felt I should mention them now so the article would fit better with the website. That aside, there’s no denying the common love of ridiculous humor among genre fiction fans. If you know such a person, just ask them. Futurama, Red Dwarf, Sealab 2020, Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog: these are just a few shows I’ve mentioned.
I need absurdity in my life. I don’t know if absurd humor fulfills a need in me for things I don’t actually need, or if needing something superfluous is itself a need or if it’s not superfluous at all but rather a necessary vehicle for anamorphosis. All I know is I hunger for absurdity like a toothless cannibal in an old folks’ home. Especially on Thursdays.
Maybe I just plain get sick of how serious life is, sick of the massive scale of injustice, foolishness, greed, rage and all the other components of worldwide batshittery. Absurdity mangles the nonsense of real life into a much more palatable presentation. It’s like homeopathy: a touch of therapeutic poison wrapped in sugar. Of course, there are also plenty of people who find nonsensical humor irritating, forced or numbing. That’s fine. That’s usually how I feel about Pushcart Prize winners.
My favorite joke when I was a kid: “A man walks into a doctor’s office with a duck on his head. The doctor says, ‘How can I help you?’ and the duck replies, ‘Get this man off my ass.'” This leads me to structuralism. Noted humorist Ferdinand de Saussure once quipped, “A linguistic system is a series of differences of sound combined with a series of differences of ideas.” Given the subjective nature of language, the shortest road to absurdity is often the literal. We speak of hot dogs and we mean sausages, as opposed to heated canines. The literal interpretation is the least likely and the most absurd. Same for kangaroo courts, pixie sticks, blowjobs and gravy trains. And if behavior is communication and thought is structured like a language, well there you go.
English lends itself well to the absurd because logic and grammar are always thumb wrestling. All the differing root languages with grammatical artifacts scattered about, Germanic suffixes on Latinate words in unnatural union. English is more an orgy than a language, and whatever rules an orgy has you can maneuver around, if you’re flexible and imaginative.
Though the convoluted nature of English makes for endlessly frustrated students diagramming sentences, I consider the inherent structural wackiness to be a wonderful thing. Would Carroll, Brautigan, Seuss, Rushdie, Wodehouse or Joyce have faired as well in Sanskrit? Well, maybe. But I think English helped. (Not that other languages can’t be goofy, of course. One need merely think of the word spumoni to realize that.) I love a good made-up or screwed-up word as much or more than a real one. I love Spoonerisms, portmanteaus, malapropisms, neologisms and ascendocrative discronyms.
And that’s just linguistic absurdity. Situational absurdity is a whole other basket of chimps. As I see it, there are three kinds of situational absurdity. In an earlier draft, I went into some detail about this.
So, as I said earlier, I invite you all, my noble tordotcomrades (torvaritch?), to show me your absurdities. Recommend your favorite completely loony humor, write me a love poem about the Montauk Monster, show me your self-portrait as a famous cyborg trombonist. It is your whimsy; do what thou wilt. Extra points if it has anything whatsoever to do with science fiction or fantasy.
Jason Henninger works near a tree that looks less and less like Godzilla every year. This is true, and it saddens him.