What’s So Funny?

     Many people, in fact, none, have asked me, “Bob, what is humor?”
     I usually answer, “Tengo un fusil.” (I have a gun.)
     The essence of humor lies in the answer to the question, “Why isn’t this funny? Or wasn’t it?” If not, then you should tell the other one.
     Humor varies by country, though you do not need a passport to try.
     Many people in the United States consider practically any statement about a foreign country funny, so long as it is insulting. And people in foreign countries feel the same way about the United States.
     England is an exception. H.L. Mencken said that England and the United States are two countries separated by a common language. This was considered funny once, but today Americans do not understand it, so it is not funny anymore.
     Jokes can die, just like people do. Well, not exactly the same way. You don’t have to bury jokes, for example, though it might be a good idea.
     Jokes have a life span, though, which generally is shorter than the lifetime of a human being. But unlike human beings, jokes can be legally dug up again and trotted around before they are buried again.
     The same thing happened to Haydn.
     After he died and was buried in the cemetery at Gumpendorf, Count Karl Rosenbaum paid grave robbers to dig Haydn up and bring back his skull. So they did, since that was honest work, in Austria. Rosenbaum gave the skull to a phrenologist, who also happened to be a prison warden. The warden had it cleaned up and pronounced that Haydn had a “fully-developed Bump of Music.”
     This did not wholly vindicate the science of phrenology, though. Some critics felt that the warden may have fixed the results. Or maybe the grave robbers did it.
     At any rate, Haydn’s skull remained atop a nicely carved skull case for 145 years, until someone put it back. Then – lo, and behold – they discovered that the grave robbers – or perhaps someone else – had put another skull in Haydn’s grave.
     Apparently, they did this to avoid detection, though it’s hard to trace their reasoning too closely, as whoever did it would have had to dig up a second grave to get the skull to swap for Haydn’s.
     What’s more, it’s hard to see why they would worry about someone else digging up Haydn and reporting that his skull was missing, as such a report would be likely to cast suspicion upon the second guy.
     “Just happened to be walking around the cemetery at Gumpendorf and you spotted it, hey?” the ofizier might say.
     Today Haydn’s grave has two skulls in it, the real one and the imposter. The real one is the one with the fully developed Bump of Music.
     This is not a joke.
     It all really happened.
     What’s important for us today, though, is not Haydn’s skull, but that saying “Gumpendorf” is usually good for a laugh.
     Try it. It usually works, except in Germany. Say “Gumpendorf ” to a German, and he’ll just look at you and say, “Ja? Gumpendorf was?”
     Germans don’t have much of a sense of humor.
     Humor is a fascinating subject, but you don’t want to think about it too much. It’s best to let it slip up on you unawares, just before sleep. Try it then, and I’ll tell you what will happen. Your wife will say, “What are you laughing at?”
     Now you are on your own. That’s about all we have time for today.

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