It’s good to know that while I tend to date myself everyday while teaching class (hardly any of my students catch the pop-culture easter eggs I work into my lectures, and my Back to the Future, Seinfeld and original Star Wars references just soar right over their heads), some things that were funny when I was in high school are still just as funny today.
It’s comforting, considering that so much of what shaped my sense of humor in my teenage years is completely foreign to teenagers today. Recently, I was recalling how many times my friends and I watched and quoted movies such as Tommy Boy, Billy Madison, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective when we were in high school, and was shocked to find out that out of the five boys in the small group I lead, none had seen the first two and only two of them had seen the third. Over the last year, I’ve had to introduce them to such wonders as Black Adder, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Bill Cosby: Himself when I learned that they could claim no knowledge of such comedy gems. I know there’s funny stuff out there these days (Andy Samberg, anyone?), but sometimes I’m saddened by how much of the humor I cherished when I was growing up has gone the way of the dinosaur (the dinosaur being me and my generation).
But tonight, I told these small group boys about a more personal source of humor when I was their age: my friend, Michael Stoner. I told them about the way Michael could sit through an entire meal without saying a word, only to ask one ridiculously odd question at the end that would end up as the only exchange anyone remembered (“In Massachusetts, is there ‘hang time?’”); I told them about his disturbingly hilarious “But the catch is…” questions (“But the catch is, every time you sell one of these magic stones, at 9:00 PM that next Thursday, a big sweaty gorilla comes to your house and…”); I told them about his self-destructive pickup lines (“Has anyone ever told you that you’re the most breathtaking, stunning, gorgeous girl they’ve ever seen? … No? Well, cheer up, I’m sure someone will one day”). I told them that no one else I’ve ever met has made me laugh more than Michael, and I was pleasantly surprised when they not only laughed at all the humorous stories and punchlines I rehashed, but pulled out their iPhones and iPods to jot down some of the jokes for their own use.
Sure, they’ll be plagiarizing, but to see them laugh at some of the jokes in the same way I did fourteen years ago was a reminder that while the faces of humor may change, some things will always be funny. It reminded me that I owe my friend Michael more than I can fathom for all the hysteric laughter, aching sides, sore shoulders and rasping coughs he gave to me for just being exactly who he is.