This is Nick, Nikolaus Maack; the former owner of this website. I don’t know if it’s right to call him a goofball, yeah he was goofy; maybe witty.
Nick was a prankster; maybe he still is, but some posts and images on his “Comics’. Foundstuff & Paintings’” page all seem to suggest so. I also at times feel that he was just a self-depreciating dude with a quirky… no a warped sense of humor.
You know, sometimes I feel like I’m living in a different country now from the one I grew up in. Sure, that was a long time ago – I’m not going to say how old I am, but I’m pretty old – probably older than you. I’ve seen a lot of changes, but you know what one of the biggest has been? Humor. That’s right, humor – you may not realize it, especially if you’re young, but there are jokes I shared with my buddies as a kid that I just don’t feel able to share with anybody today. It’s becoming a lost art, and that upsets me.
Why’s that, you ask?
Well, I’m going to tell you something. I think too many people today are way too quick to take offense at little things. There are plenty of reasons we use humor, but one of those reasons is to keep ourselves sane. They’re a way of venting without getting into trouble. At least, they should be – these days, I reckon I’d get into trouble for a lot of the jokes I used to tell, and I think that’s a real shame. So, how have we reached a situation where we’re scared even to open our mouths?
I’m sure you know the expression “political correctness.” I sure do, since it’s been annoying the heck out of me for years now. If you’re honest with yourself, it’s probably been the same for you. Don’t tell me you’ve never thought up a really great joke, but kept quiet about it because you were worried that someone out there wouldn’t appreciate your sense of humor. We’ve all been there, but it’s not healthy. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean a thing if it’s as limited as that.
It’s gotten worse since the Internet came along, with how easy it is to comment on someone’s Facebook post or Twitter tweet. People who have no business reading your joke in the first place – people who don’t know you at all – just can’t stop themselves sticking their noses into your affairs and telling you what you should say, how you should say it, how you should change your entire behavior just because of what they want.
I bet you all know exactly what I’m talking about here.
In the old days, there was a lot of humor about people that included racial or sexual comments, like you might make fun of the way your Chinese friend’s eyes looked or make a crack about how women had no clue how to drive. These weren’t meant to be mean or rude – they were just part of everyday humor. When I told a racial joke to my Polish friend, he didn’t get upset or threaten to turn me in. He just waited until he could get me back by telling a joke about my goofy teeth. It was harmless.
You got that everywhere. If you went to the movie theater or listened to a radio comedy show, that sort of humor was all over the place. The Marx Brothers didn’t get to be famous by telling jokes that avoided offending anyone at all – but everyone understood it was part of their act. When a guy painted his face black for a part in a play, there wasn’t a big outcry from the African American League of Offended People or whatever. Why? Because they understood what was going on, too.
It was all in good fun.
That’s my beef, really – that “it’s all in good fun” isn’t good enough for people anymore. Go on TV today and tell a joke about a fighting Irish gypsy or a lazy Polish worker and you’ll be yanked off air in two seconds and blacklisted for life. Though I guess we can’t use the word “blacklisted” anymore either, since, you know, it might be considered racially offensive. Now I come to think about it, it’s surprising we’re allowed to say anything at all without being told we’re “appropriating cultural heritage” or some such guff.
Regarding Nick, I recovered some material that he had previously published. Including his awfully weird paintings.
And then there’s sarcasm.
If you want to be a great humorist, then you need to know how to use that. Listen to the way the old-time comedians timed their sarcastic remarks to perfection. They were artists, and it was a joy to listen to. My buddies and I used to make sarcastic comments to each other all the time – about how their new haircut looked like a bowl of Jello in a bush or how the baseball team they cheered for was going to draft them because all the hot air they blew would help balls over the fence.
If you really want to feel the self-righteous anger of the Internet generation, though, make a joke belittling women, even a mild one. You’d better put on a suit of armor, though, as you’ll be flamed to the ends of the Earth and back. Of course, there’s no problem at all with jokes by women belittling men, since that’s just “fighting the patriarchy.” It’s a case of double standards, plain and simple, and that bugs me more than just about anything else in this whole mess. Women can insult men for a laugh, fine – but if a man insults a woman for a laugh, it’s no dice.
Can you do that now? No way. And it’s getting worse, since it’s kids who are the most hypersensitive about what they call “inappropriate humor.” To my way of thinking, there’s no time that humor is inappropriate. You talk to old guys – yes, there are some even older than me! – who were in World War Two and they’ll tell you they told off-color jokes all the time. It helped them get through it all and it brought them closer to the men they fought with. If today’s students had been there, they’d have had their minds blown.
Go on Tumblr now and it’s all about “trigger warnings.” Honestly, it’s getting so those things take up more space than the actual comments. Everyone has a whole bunch of stuff that “triggers” them, and no one is allowed to mention that stuff anywhere they might see it. What do these kids end up with? A boring discussion that doesn’t have any of the life and art – yes, art – of the humor people like me grew up with. Their lives must be pretty empty; I wonder sometimes whether the nation’s kids even know how to laugh anymore.
Do people growing up today even get to hear about the great artists of American humor from the past? Or is it all censored from them in case kids can’t cope with the idea that the world doesn’t revolve around them? And yes, I said “artists” – the humor that made me, the humor that made America, was an art form. I guess even saying that is offensive to someone, somehow. But you know what? Let them say that. But let’s start giving humor from the past the place it deserves. Let’s get back to just having fun.