"I just hate stupid people. They should have to wear signs that say 'I'm Stupid'. That way you wouldn't rely on them, and you wouldn't ask them for nothing."
About a month ago, I heard a story on NPR about an anthropologist who studies comedy. Yes, I'm serious; it's not a joke. He was trying to study humor from a scientific perspective to see what makes something funny. Needless to say, when it comes to something as subjective as comedy, the results were inconclusive. And to that guy, all I have to say is "good luck, brother." I think it's safe to say that any attempt to quantify the funny is foolish, if not outright stupid itself.
Of course, when it comes to identifying stupid, perhaps I need to defer to the best stand-up comic judge out there. That's because no one out there will nail you for being stupid quite like comedian Bill Engvall.
A native-born Texan who has gone from stand-up act to big time comic as part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Engvall is more than a mere country-fried comedian. Originally from Galveston, Bill studied at Southwestern University in Central Texas and then resided in Dallas, where he was a disc jockey before trying his hand at stand-up. After making minor appearances on television, Engvall was named Best Male Standup at the 1992 American Comedy Awards. Things really took off when he began appearing on "The Jeff Foxworthy Show," which led to continued success with Blue Collar Comedy and now as a game show host. Oh, and along the way he's also a multi-platinum selling recording artist for his comedy albums. Yep, over the years he's made quite a living as a very busy entertainer.
So what's his secret? It's pretty simple. Bill is very good at all he does, and perhaps what he does best is describing identifiable situations that not only we can relate to, but can't help to laugh at.
Someone tell the anthropologist in the NPR report that it's no riddle that the key to making people laugh is forming a real connection with your audience. Just take a look back at nearly all successful comic acts. From the popular (Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen), to the controversial (George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks), to the unorthodox (Mitch Hedberg), all use audience connection as a gateway to laughter. Whether it's childhood experiences or something we take for granted on a day-to-day basis, comedy lies in whether the stand-up comic is relatable. And when the comedian connects with you, he/she isn't merely spouting one-liners... they're speaking the truth!
Now, if you're wondering why I referred to Engvall earlier as a judge of stupid, please don't think it's a derogatory term. I only say that because Bill is probably best known for placing his stamp on popular culture with a particular act. His signature bit is where he points out the inherent stupidity of others. As a warning to other people who may have to interact with such people, he mimes giving out a sign that reads, "I'm stupid!" That way, others in society can be warned and give a wide berth to avoid interaction with such maddening imbeciles.
Yes, it is a novel concept: to get the stupid to wear badges of shame (or honor if they are, in fact, that moronic). But it got me thinking... Maybe Engvall was on to something.
In a perfect world, wouldn't that be a great idea? And in that case, what individuals (whom have demonstrated questionable judgment) might have benefitted society by having their own "stupid" sign?
When one considers this small assembly of bone-headed decision makers, perhaps it has some merit.
I don't know if it's something to write our local congressman about, but it sure would be nice. I'm not saying we need to brand these simpletons with a scarlet letter (Hester Prynne style), but maybe a press conference while wearing a dunce cap would be in order. After all, let's admit it. We've all done some truly stupid things, and I don't think there would be enough signs to go around.
Speaking of dumb decisions, missing out on Bill's appearances at The Paramount Theatre would be a very foolish choice indeed. You don't have to be an anthropologist to come and laugh at Bill's antics and anecdotes. So get ready to welcome the return of a native Texan who has made it big. There's no reason to hesitate, but if per chance you're feeling reluctant and looking for a go ahead.... Well then, here's your sign.