Watching old television programs we remember from when we were growing up is a favourite thing Keri and I do. I recall a coffee discussion at a Humpty’s restaurant a really long time ago about how our generation learned our morals from M*A*S*H and Taxi. What strikes us as humorous can change over time. I know the next generation refers back to Full House and Friends, which I never saw much of and kind of loathe. My son, belonging to an obviously younger generation, watched youth market-based television that doesn’t really connect to my sense of humour. My parents could not comprehend something like Monty Python but actually liked Robin Williams, who was always “that Mork fella.”
Actually, something that can be good for laughs on old television is the original Dallas. Everyone seems astonishingly gullible and vacant except for the bad guy, JR Ewing. He seems to be the only one to have any brains at all – bad, bad, naughty bad brains. Honestly, there are moments of “high drama,” like when Jock has a heart attack, that have me and Keri rolling in the floor. Mind you, these are things that had our parents’ generation on the edge of their seats.
Despite the generation gap, humour can be a very effective tool for communication. My son and I can have an odd thing between us that can somewhat baffle Keri. We can have giggle fits between ourselves, the basis of which can be nearly incomprehensible to anyone else. Once the laugh connects us, its momentum is based on mutual understanding. This sometimes falls into what Keri calls “boy humour,” which is likely goofier and more slapstick than any intellectual humour.
I had a physics high school teacher who was the living embodiment of a Marx Brothers sketch. He taught classes from upside down text books, walked into class with his shirttails out, and called us things like geese for not understanding a concept. Physics class brought me some of the worst marks of high school, but I have stories of that teacher that should have come from a sitcom plot. I can’t tell you anything about physics. However, I could go back home and swap a lot of stories to and from about that physics teacher and laugh.
Learning to laugh helps us to navigate life. Even if we never have the opportunity to drive a taxi through New York or make a million dollar oil deal or learn physics from an upside-down textbook, we can still laugh like we did.
Reinhardt lives in Boyle Street with his wife Keri Breckenridge and is a guest columnist.