Making people laugh has always been a personal mission, dating as far back as infancy, when I first inserted fake rubber poo into my diapers. I've been blessed to come from a distinctive lineage of large-funny-boned people, and surround myself with friends and coworkers who have, on occasion, succeeded in making me laugh so hard that I've involuntarily released a variety of personal fluids.
While the mission of laughter is a bold and positive one, I developed my sense of humor at an early age primarily as a defense mechanism. Like most kids (and stand-up comedians), I had a variety of insecurities. Rather than take on the "introvert" or "bully" persona, I opted for the "class clown." I found the moniker fit me well and I enjoyed the recognition and modicum of status.
As I grew up and matured, I followed in my father's footsteps and developed a dry wit. Self-deprecating humor, observations and light barbs were my signature M.O. in middle school. After a field trip to the Oberto meat factory, I took my two free pepperoni sticks to my band teacher in the guise of a "fundraiser" for chess club, of which I was not a member. There was a dark side to my humor, however, which only came out in dire situations. I found that my quick wit was a powerful tool when reacting to dangerous or stressful situations.
On one occasion in middle school, the school bully came after me during a game of pickup basketball. He started making fun of me and pushing me around, so I launched into a mean-spirited tirade about how I'd overheard him crying in the counselor's office like a little baby because his mother wouldn't let him visit his deadbeat dad.
The rush I felt crushing his ego and forcing him to cry in front of everyone was immediately followed by disgust with myself for airing someone else's personal information in such an inappropriate manner. Still, the physical abuse he'd put me through over the years paled in comparison to the instantaneous emotional smack-down I'd put on him.
The middle school incident enlightened me to the power of words, and I realized that making people laugh was much more productive than making them cry. Since then, I've developed "10 Humor Rules of Engagement" that I've lived by with reasonable success (in terms of the laughter-to-physical-assault ratio):
Those of you who understand and appreciate my rules of engagement, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject. If you think these rules are way off base and I'm possibly the unfunniest guy you've ever read, I invite you to stop by my office, in downtown Little Rock.