Coming Through: Humor, Me

People who know me know I’ve got an off-beat sense of humor. I find most of my humor in situations others would consider pretty terrible, because I have a sick sad little mind, sometimes.

We have to laugh though, because if we don’t we’re gonna get crushed. And that isn’t some two-bit philosophy – sometimes you literally can’t break the cycle of psychology and brain chemicals until you force yourself to enjoy something humorous and get the endorphins and serotonin running through your system.

In light of that, I wish to share a few things that have entertained me lately as I’ve continued to come through and get better following the losses I’ve dealt with lately.

Trigger warnings: slight crudity, black humor, robin williams

First up, some headline humor. No, not the silly puns that people think are funny, like following the release of the video game “Remember me” with “Remember me? Kind of forgettable,” (hat tip to Ben Yahtzee Croshaw of Zero Punctuation for that illustration).

No, this is the kind of humor that comes from bizarre juxtaposition and entertaining word choice.

I follow news “aggregators” that put the most relevant headlines in a quick list for people to check. Recently I saw, “Tear gas used in Ferguson; Robin Williams Found Dead.”

Well, doesn’t that just sound suspicious and unfortunate? I don’t know if anyone else would find that funny, particularly now that we know the details regarding his unfortunate death. Me? I just couldn’t stop laughing when I saw it. Seriously, it’s just…wow. Really? You put those two together? And you’re sure this is an automated thing, and not someone like me having a terrible joke at the world’s expense? Two awful situations that have personally caused me some grief, and yet still something I can find a laugh in.

Another good one was “Rolling Stones Resume World Tour After Mick Jagger’s Girlfriend’s Death.”

What really happened was that she died several months before, they took a break, and are resuming. The way that headline reads, they were just waiting for her to die and the moment she did it was time to go forward. Like she was the one holding things up. And that’s awful, that’s not funny, what the heck is wrong with you brain? (you might notice the “what the heck, brain?” theme in more of my articles, please forgive the conceit). But it was funny, just an absurdity that I, an English major, found worthwhile and delightful and cheered me up. I wasn’t laughing at their loss of course, just some weird editor picking the least functional headline he could.

There are other terrible things that stick in my mind. I watched Guardians of the Galaxy recently, an entirely delightful modern take on Star Wars. Can’t get over it, perfect in every way, couldn’t stop laughing. But what really stuck out was that during the “gearing up” montage toward the end, they decided to take a lingering moment to show Rocket the Raccoon in all his glory adjusting the crotch of his trousers. NECESSARY, I say. It was just so absurd, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and laughing and smiling and feeling better about all the stress lately, because it was so damn over the top. Some might say I’m weird for focusing on THAT, like I might have a problem, but honestly I insist on taking my laughs where I can find them.

About a year ago I was in a car accident, and cracked my head on the windshield. The result was a bloody face and a concussion, so I went to the ER and waited while others were processed. Then, feeling very faint, I politely leaned in and asked the poor lady at the reception desk if I could have a wheelchair. She looked up, saw my bloody face, and SHRIEKED. The poor dear, I didn’t mean to traumatise her, but her reaction was so overwhelming I laughed for a good five minutes. The doctor was hesitant to prescribe me any painkillers, I was laughing so hard.

Now, you might not find these things funny. I probably wouldn’t find the things YOU think are inappropriately hilarious funny. That doesn’t matter; don’t apologize for finding that little bit of something to laugh at, even if there’s a bit of schadenfreude to it. We have enough grief in our lives.

Of course, some things genuinely shouldn’t be funny, and people who laugh at them are awful, but we won’t discuss the outliers like that because bigots are boring.

I’ve been asked how I can laugh like this about kind of awful things, especially regarding things like death, given how hard my mother’s death was for me. That’s a fair question. Everything about humor has to do with a sense of the absurd. My younger brother, Johno Cain, is a standup comic. In the interests of full disclosure, he is not an atheist, but understands why I am and is a kind, hilarious man. He told me that he finds things funny because either he’s been through something similar, or because it’s so completely out of left field that he can’t help but find it funny. The more absurd and the more supremely inappropriate something is, like briefly thinking Robin Williams was killed by Ferguson riot cops, the more potential there is for that moment of frisson themed humor.

When I’m grieving, I’m hurting of course. Recently it was memorial day, and my Grandfather who served in Korea had just died the year before. I was hurting. I posted some stories about his time in the Indianhead division, and a friend jokingly said “Indianhead is racist, it should be something more PC, let’s petition to change it.” And even though I was sad, I just started laughing and said, “Sure, and I’ll leave you alone with the survivors of Popi’s squad, see how they like your suggestion.” It wouldn’t get more than a chuckle out of anyone else, but I knew it was something Popi would have laughed at too, because that was the way he was. The humor in a situation no one else would have really found all that funny gave me relief, gave me release from that ache for a few minutes. When I’m hurting, I look for the laughs, I look for the humor that will make it better, and it doesn’t necessarily matter where the humor COMES from.

So what are the odd stories that you find funny, and won’t apologize for a good laugh at? What gets you snickering when anyone else would be horrified? What’s your “my head was cracked open and covered in blood, and I couldn’t stop laughing” tale? Maybe someone else will get a laugh, and you’ll have made a new friend.


Fond regards,


William Cain

2 responses to “Coming Through: Humor, Me”

  1. Nora Miller says:

    Nailed this one, William. When my husband died, I too recognized that I needed humor in my life, that it made no sense to stop finding things funny or wonderful just because he was gone. I decided instead that I had a responsibility to “enjoy for two”. My niece, who has for the last three years been caring for my sister who has dementia, decided that while she definitely does NOT believe in “intelligent design” she’s pretty sure that someone somewhere is exercising “comic design.” How else to explain such bizarre diseases that rob the mind of memories but replace them with a sudden burst of artistic flare or a passion for scarves and hats in one who never cared for such things “before”? I see humor in part as an affirmation that I am still alive, and I know my late husband would totally approve.

  2. William Cain says:

    I’m fully convinced that -everyone- loves a good scarf, and it’s only some kind of horrible fear of social approbrium that prevents us from celebrating our fascination with such awesome garments, but that’s just me.

    And yeah, I can get behind the idea of “comic design.” So many things are just too on-the-nose funny to be anything but intended. 😉

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