Laugh it Off


By Fred Koenig

My wife was recently helping me select photos one evening from the WOW youth rally to use in this issue. Our star photographer, Rev. Eric Mattson, pastor of New Madrid and Lilbourn UMCs, once again volunteered his time and talent to shoot the event. My wife, while looking through pictures: “These are kind of disappointing. They seem somewhat random. It doesn’t look like he’s capturing the emotion like he has on previous years.”
Me: “Uh, you’re looking through the pictures I took. Here are the ones by Eric,” clicking open the next folder. 
Her: “Oh yeah. That’s what I’m talking about. This is National Geographic-quality work,” she says as she looks through Eric’s pictures with relief.
Well, I always have said I’m more of a writer than a photographer. One thing I couldn’t really capture with Eric’s pictures, or my words, was a highlight of the show for many kids: the comedy. Most of the setups for the jokes were too long to convey in the WOW story, and they wouldn’t be as funny anyway – it was all about the delivery. The Slap Happy Comedy team kept the main auditorium of the Expo Center enthralled. When they broke out to a large workshop room they had to turn people away during both of their sessions due to overcrowding. 
People love to laugh, and I’m right there with them. My favorite form of comedy is news satire, like the newspaper The Onion or Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. I don’t have cable television, but whenever I’m in a hotel that does, I never miss The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report. I find their shows to be hilarious, but also insightful, with some cutting edge commentary. Now Colbert is changing shows, and Stewart is stepping off of the Daily Show. And although that has left many people crying in the streets, I think it’s a good thing. 
The bread and butter of the Daily Show was Jon Stewart ridiculing people he disagreed with, primarily politicians or news media. His team would scour cable and broadcast to media to find clips of people saying things that were ridiculous. He often had to do little more than play the clip and stare at the camera in slack-jaw silence – the message clear – “I’m astounded at how unbelievably stupid these people are.”
I’m not saying Stewart’s targets weren’t often deserving of scorn, but I felt for the Stewart fans who watched the show every day. Living in a place where you’re reveling in the stupidity of people with whom you disagree isn’t a good place to be. It’s better to try to gain an understanding of what motivates people of a different thinking than to dismiss them as being fools. 
I once had a job in a government office, and while there I had concerns about the competence of some of the administrators. Looking back, it wasn’t really as bad as my self-righteous, just-out-of-college self thought it was, but there were some issues with effectiveness and efficiency. Around this time I discovered the comic strip Dilbert. I was always a fan of comics, but never before had three simple drawings ever created so much joy. It was as though cartoonist Scott Adams was following me around the office all day and then drawing comics specifically for me, mocking my superiors. 
When I later left to take a different job I lost my Dilbert addiction. I still respect Adams as a cartoonist and recognize his insight that cleverly translates into humor, but I no longer need to see his drawings just to get through the week. 
I’ve got a free trial of satellite radio in my truck, so I’ve been listening to a lot of stand-up comedy in it lately as I drive to and from work. It can be a nice escape, but as the comics try to one-up each other on their edginess, I need to remind myself when it’s time to turn the channel to some music.