I feel sorry for people who take themselves seriously. And I really feel sorry for anyone who takes ME seriously.
Being serious is hard work. It's something I'd much rather avoid. This is not to say that being funny is particularly easy, either. Great humorists work really hard at their craft. But they sleep well when it's all over.
People who take themselves seriously never get a rest. People who take themselves seriously tend to ride hobby horses; they always seem to have a need to prove something.
It's no coincidence that humor and humility come from the same root...humus....dirt. It's the stuff they bury you under when you lose your sense of humor. Oh, and by the way, it's where HUMAN comes from, too. You have to have humor to be human.
The best humor is self-effacing...a constant reminder of one's humility. This is why Seinfeld will always be funny. Continous crass put-down humor gets old fast.
Even the devastatingly sharp-tongued Groucho Marx saved his best snipes for folks that really deserved it. His sarcasm was so effective because of its sparing, surgical use. He could take it and dish it out.
As society in general gets ruder and more impatient, the responsibility of the humorist becomes even more crucial. The humorist shouldn't be agitating people. The humorist has a sacred high calling as a "Minister of Mirth."
It's very old news now, but most of us remember Michael Richards' self-destructive, racially charged tantrum, which effectively put the coffin nails in his career.
When Michael was on Seinfeld, he was brilliant. Truly funny, truly classy, and truly different. And, must importantly, self-effacing. Most of us were devastated when we saw what became of him. On Seinfeld, nobody had shown a more tolerant, open-minded persona than "Kramer." Although you can't always assume that an actor's alter ego is any reflection of one's real person, from most indications, Michael Richards really was Kramer in real life. Something obviously happened to change that.
Richards' unseemly behavior was bad in itself. But worse, he failed society as a humorist. His calling was to smooth the rough edges of modern life. Nobody can question that he did it brilliantly as Kramer. That fateful night in the club, he could have used his brilliant wit to defuse a volatile situation. The "losers" would have gone their way, never to be heard from again, and Richards would have emerged a giant. Instead, he chose to take the low road....he lost his sense of humor...and then just lost.
Let that be a lesson to us all.
Causes Eric Nichols Supports
Free Burma Rangers, Partners Ministries (Thailand), Literacy council of Alaska, Access Alaska.