Inside looking out: That’s not funny — or is it?
Have you ever laughed at something that’s not supposed to be funny?
You might have told a true story about an awful or shocking event and someone said, “Oh my God, that’s terrible,” but somebody else said, “Oh my God, that’s hilarious!”
So let me tell you a true tale about the corpse who had a screw loose. Years ago at a funeral in New Jersey, eight pallbearers were carrying a casket holding an elderly woman, let’s say named Agnes, down the stairs to put into the hearse for the procession to the cemetery.
On the third or fourth step, the bottom of the casket broke loose. Out dropped Agnes, hitting the steps first before rolling down onto the sidewalk below. Needless to say, but worth mentioning anyway, the woman’s family and friends witnessed the entire disaster and shrieked in horror.
The funeral director hustled everyone into cars. Her staff circled the body to try to stop further screaming and hysteria.
This might be a very funny scene in a comedy movie, but not at all funny in real life. The distraught family sued the funeral home and the casket company and was rewarded a large compensation for their “extra” grief. It was determined that the bottom of the casket, which was supposed to be both glued and screwed together, had come out of the factory with the screws not tightened.
Let the visual run through your mind. Funny or not?
Then there’s the story about a real-life Forrest Gump. A friend of mine told me what had happened to him when he was coming up from the Army after his final tour of Vietnam. He had spent his last dime for a bus ride that dropped him 5 miles away from his house. In his Army fatigues, he walked another 3 miles before he waved down another bus.
The driver, obviously having no compassion or respect for a Vietnam veteran, refused my friend’s boarding of the bus, but he offered him a challenge. If he could outrun the bus moving at 5 miles an hour until they got over a nearby bridge, the driver would give him a free ride for the last mile and drop him off right in front of his house.
“So I took the challenge,” said my friend. “I was already exhausted, but I felt I could outrun the bus.”
What he didn’t know was that his parents were sitting on the porch of their house not aware he was coming home. They hadn’t seen their son in more than two years.
“The race was on,” said my friend. “I was so angry and determined to beat the bus. I was winning at the end of the bridge, but he kept going and I kept running. I didn’t even think about where I lived. I just wanted to beat the bus until he stopped again.”
In a scene reminiscent from the movie, “Forrest Gump” (well before the film was made), the bus passed his house with my friend still running slightly ahead in full stride. From the porch, his mother’s eyes followed the chase. She looked at her husband and said, “Was that our son?”
Her husband got in his car and found the bus stopped alongside his son, who was bent over, catching his breath.
“My father banged on the bus door. He walked up the steps and threatened to kill the driver. It was the only time I can remember that my father stood up for me.”
Picture him running right past his house and unsuspecting parents. Funny or not?
Next is “A Slip of the Tongue.”
I had attended a music education convention several years ago. An awards ceremony was held to honor retiring music educators who had performed their teaching duties with excellence. When one unsuspecting gentleman’s name was announced, he looked particularly nervous while accepting his plaque at the podium.
With resounding applause coming from the audience, he stood behind the microphone, looked out at the hundreds of people in the convention ballroom and began to speak.
“I am humiliated to accept this award.” The audience stared at him in disbelief. Quickly realizing his mistake, he said, “I mean humbled, humbled that is!” I didn’t know whether to laugh or to pretend I hadn’t heard him say “humiliated.” He hurried from the podium without saying another word.
Funny or not?
Then there’s the “Jesus and the Drunk” story that actually happened to me during a Christmas Eve midnight Mass in a Catholic church in New Jersey. I was a Eucharistic Minister at the Mass and I was administering the wine, or what Catholics believe is the precious blood of Christ.
As members of the congregation stood in line to sip from the golden chalice, a man approached me looking quite drunk.
“The blood of Christ.” I said, tipping the cup toward his lips. He grabbed the goblet out of my hand and began to chug in deep swallows. I grabbed the other side, and for an embarrassing moment, we wrestled with the cup. He gave up and staggered down the aisle. My eyes followed him and he got back in the line again! He approached me for a second time, but I put my hand over the cup.
“It’s empty,” I lied. “Let me see,” he slurred. “It’s empty, “ I said again. This time he staggered out through the exit door.
What do you think was the pastor’s reaction when I told him?
When we look through the rearview mirror, sometimes we laugh now at what was not funny when it had happened. Then we learn to never take anything in life too seriously again.
Rich Strack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.