Preface: The Joy of Pure Laughter
Consider these two limericks:
There was a young man of Calcutta
Who had a terrible sttttt-tutter
He is reported to have said
Please pass me some bbbbbb-bread
And also some bbbbbb-butter!
There was a young man of Ghent
Who had a penis so long it bent.
It was so much trouble.
That he kept it double.
And instead of coming, he went.
Almost no one these days will narrate these limericks in mixed company (and by mixed company, I don’t necessarily mean the two major sexes). Because both of these unfortunate young men are Persons with Disabilities—one has a speech impediment, and the second has a medical condition (Peyronies’ Disease?) that might result in—please pass the tissues—his not having babies or being able to lead a normal love life, the poor thing. He needs advanced and expensive plastic surgery, baby, so let’s not laugh at his expense, but pass the hat and take up a collection for the unfortunate soul.
And it’s also true that for the man with a bent penis, or for the poor bloke whose parents gave him the name Randy, the limerick about bent penises or Randy-themed jokes are not going to sound funny, especially after the fiftieth time that he has heard them.
The rest of us must admit that what makes us laugh makes us laugh, and laughter is not really an impulse that is under our control.
. . . . .
Finally, humor is by its nature subversive (which is why an effective Department of Homeland Security would have sent Bill Maher and Jon Stewart to Guantanamo long back). Adam Mansbach’s book is a subversive parenting book—giving you the kind of thoughts or feelings you least expected from a father. In turn, this is a subversive title for a subversive book of humor by a subversive writer who had to survive a series of fascist adults when he was a child—and it is perfectly appropriate for a book which in its first essay presents an imaginary child’s response to Adam’s fictional Dad in equally surprising language. The Imaginary Child, of course, is me—the child within me has never stopped being a rebel, and the rebellion is obvious in the rest of the book, even when it touches on a variety of subjects. Every one of its dozens of targets will have fair reason to complain, but please, hold off and simply enjoy the book, if you can. Because once a person is in the mood to laugh, all authority and authoritative pronouncements become suspect. And if the targets in here do not always match with your targets (and how could they? I was born in a different country and have had a completely different history from almost anyone I know), I hope I have your understanding as well as your support for the Spirit of Humor and of skepticism.