Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why Are We Funny?

Above is a clip of one of the funniest guys I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. And I know some ridiculously funny people.

I went to high school with Don Harmon and he, it is widely agreed, had a comment, joke or sarcastic remark for every situation. On top of being just plain funny without really trying, he was also kind, smart and, I will admit, a cutie patootie.

He committed suicide this week. Leaving behind a wife and a very small daughter.

Thew news of Donnie's passing shook our mutual friends.When word broke as to the cause of his death even those who hadn't seen him in decades were (are) devastated. How does someone who appears so happy - I would go as far as to use the word jovial - decide no one will care if he no longer exists?

Last week my family watched "A Gaga Thanksgiving" (mock me now, I'll wait). Gaga has spoken often and publicly about being bullied and I asked the question (or no one in particular) "What is the difference between someone who is bullied mercilessly and becomes Lady Gaga and someone who is bullied mercilessly and decides they just cannot stand to live in this mortal world one more minute?" I honestly don't know. Maybe one really good friend or family member who keeps an eye on you and makes sue you know they love you. Maybe it is finding a place - in the nick of time - where your square peg finally fits perfectly. I just don't know.

Here's what I do know: A vast majority of the funniest people I know use comedy as a defense. When swearing like a sailor didn't work for me in Catholic school (go figure), I had to get funny fast, in order for people to laugh at me and not, you know, AT me. Lots of comedians are overweight (RIP Patrice O'Neal, Candy, Belushi, et al). Get funny or get picked on. Some are compensating for other reasons, perhaps reasons only they know or can see.

As I think about Donnie tonight, I wonder why he was so damn funny. Smart, talented, kind and handsome, I'm sad not only because the loss of his life is a loss to us all, but because I feel sure there was something that made him funny and I worry that this is the thing that finally pushed him over the edge.

The truth is, I was not close to Donnie. I have friends who were. Likely none of us are close enough to him now to ever have really know the demons he may have been fighting with a well-timed one-liner. But I have friends that share Don's sense of humor, who battle ghosts of their own every day and tonight, I vow to make sure they know they are more than the sum of their comedic material. You are special. You are loved.

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