I’ve always had this knack of finding humor in the least-expected places. This talent, if you will, has served me well at times, but still…’tis a fine line between wit and impropriety. Often I’ve been…am…insensitive.

“Not everything is funny,” my mom would admonish. Ducking behind her, my dad—desperately hiding a smirk—would support his wife: “If you have to laugh, little boy, then leave the room.” THEN, after I’d taken maybe three steps, my father’d add a tag line:

“There’s a time and a place for everything,” he’d say. (“Al-speak” for “Yes it’s funny Bruce, but not now and not in front of your mother and this is one of those times, son, that I have to be a father and not a friend.”

I’m not sure, even now, that I’ve learned the lesson. The players change over time, but the game goes on.

“Daddy, you always make me laugh!” says Stacy. “It’s not funny, Dad,” says Michael. They’re both, of course, right.

I blame Stuart. My first “best friend,” my first peer role model, he wreaked of work ethic, conservatism, and a macabre sense of humor. Of these, it was only his perverse wit I latched on to.

As Walt would say, “Go figure.”

In its day, Morrill Tower was the jewel of campus. Its lobbies were plush in ’68, and there on the banks of the Olentangy, on those cylindrical, movie-theater-like couches Fenton taught me to people watch. We had nothing better to do.

Stuart was still pre-Marilyn and I, of course, was pre-everyone. Endlessly we’d poach on the sofa, but ten feet from the yet-to-open elevator doors, and wait. (Not that we knew anyone. This was “west campus,” trafe for the Jews. Our people, (excepting Bobby in the frat house), were living north: guys at Drackett and girls at Taylor. Still, the two of us, freshman clowns that we were, would sit, ponder, observe…recounting probable life stories of strangers as they’d funnel into the lobby. And laughing. Always laughing. We were so mature back then.

“Just look at these people, B,” he’d urge. I remember the first time like it was yesterday. There was this fat kid, a farmer…in a plaid flannel shirt…lost look on his face. He exits the elevator, turns left, then right, then pivots and gets back on to go upstairs again.

“Just look at him, B…guy doesn’t know where he’s going!”

It never occurred to me, ‘til Stuart showed me, that I didn’t have to know someone to study them. Or to laugh at them. Like I said: it’s Stuart’s fault.

My life’s been touched, of course, by others that think everything’s funny. My friend Greg has a rapier wit. Our paths cross less now—he’s moved to Strongsville—but our rule survives: the only thing that matters is if it’s funny. Weiskopf, for that matter, is another. He is a man who trusts few and suspects most; laughter may be the only of his venues that has no boundaries.

Someone once noted that human beings are the only species that don’t want to be who they are. Would it be wrong, then, for me to admit that, right or wrong, I stand by my unfiltered sense of humor?

As does Stuart.

They were dancing to Motown at a recent Brush reunion. Standing on the side, we saw Will surrounded by five or six women, in the middle of the floor. They all had their shoes off.

“B,”  Stuart prompted, “I’ll distract Will while you hide his shoes.”

And we did. (We were so mature then).

I’m reminded of these rather isolated incidents on days like today, (in the best of my times), and in days of more stress…when I need to smile.

The other day I sat outside Caribou with a female friend. Two tables down was a mutual acquaintance, a man. Someone, actually, that I don’t particularly like.

“Look,“ I whispered to her, “He’s got toilet paper stuck to the bottom of his shoe.”
“You really should tell him,” she said. “ Aren’t you going to tell him?”
“Not a chance!” I retorted, amused by it all…chuckling.
She sat there, silently. Didn’t quite get it. So be it.

That’s why I love Stuart…and Greg…and Ed. They, you see, would have laughed.

2 Responses to “SEND IN THE CLOWNS”

  1. sheila says:

    Why didn’t you tell Stuart?

  2. Stuart says:

    Maybe the student has become the teacher; the teacher has become the student. Favorite moment: Moving legally parked car into handicapped space and watching it as it was towed. Victim deserved it. Laughter is the best medicine.

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