Art and Henny Youngman

No, not like Henny had a brother named Art. I mean art. Art. Henny Youngman had some funny things to say. His humor was made up of shotgun blasts of quick bits and one-liners. But with those bits over and over again he’d show us the world in a different way. He’d tell a kind of truth but slanty. “I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need. If I die by four o’clock.” He was the haiku man of comedy, with the set-up and then the quick shift, that quick flick of the backdoor light when the world falls into place. “God sneezed. I didn’t know what to say to him.” I believe great art does this very thing — shifts our vision of the world, even if for just a moment. It surprises us: Oh, the world isn’t exactly they way I had thought it was.  Yes, too much of his humor often relied on stereotypes, perpetuating tired ideas that did no one any good. But he could be hilariously profound now and then. “When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.” And we could all use some laughs with our profundity. Or some profundity with our laughs. Comedians “don’t get no respect” for the degree to which they help us see and grapple with our encounters with the perplexing world. So let’s raise a dribble glass: Here’s to comedy and our very human ability to laugh. “If at first you don’t succeed, well, so much for sky diving.”

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