Humor in American newspapers, magazines and even books these days is a rare commodity. Is it hard to write stuff that makes people laugh? Must be. We’re sure feeling a dearth of it in these crisis-laden times almost one quarter through the 21st century.
Look who’s gone: Art Buchwald, Russell Baker, Molly Ivins and that folky Southern quipster, Lew Grizzard out of Atlanta, all graduated to the humor club in the sky. Even Dave Barry is no longer syndicated for newspapers.
Preachers sometimes make up for what we’re missing in the public prints.
Our pastor at St. Stephen, a Catholic parish in Ona, hails from India. We know him as Father Thomas. Usually his homilies bear down on key theological points in the Christian walk and are not typically laced with humor.
So our small congregation was pleasantly surprised one Sunday when Father Thomas started his sermon with this:
“Johnny’s mother looked out the window one day and noticed that Johnny was playing with their cat. The boy had the cat sitting quietly, and he was preaching to it. After a while the mother heard loud meowing and hissing. She ran back to the window. There she saw Johnny baptizing the cat in a plastic tub.
“‘Johnny, stop that!’ she called out the window. ‘The cat is afraid of water.’
“Her little son looked up at her and said, ‘He should have thought of that before he decided to join my church.’”
If not upon preachers, perhaps we can rely on ordinary folks in ordinary professions — like high school football coaches.
Over 25 years of riding herd on a regional publishing company out of Huntington, West Virginia, I had several chances to publish humor. One recently involved a retired high school football coach, the late and wonderful Ivan McGlone, whose long career spanned Vinson High School in West Virginia and Russell High School in eastern Kentucky.
Ivan, in one of his football stories, told of a game between Vinson and Northfork High School. Game almost over, Vinson found themselves leading 7-6 in what would be an upset win. On fourth and 8, Northfork went for it. The quarterback was hit by a Vinson tackler but on his way to the ground, he blindly heaved the ball into the air.
A Northfork back found himself in position to catch the ball. Securing the catch he ran the ball all the way into the end zone to notch a 13-7 victory over Vinson.
A devastating loss for Ivan McGlone and his Vinson squad.
Let’s let Ivan McGlone take it from there, from the pages of his first book, “Just Around the Corner”:
“After the game I stood close to the fence that surrounded the playing field and rewound the game in my head. A stranger came up beside me and started a conversation.
“During the exchange he stated, ‘They should fire that Vinson coach for not having more defenders dropped into the secondary.’
“‘I agree with you 100 per cent,’ I said.”
The above is an excerpt from an afterword I wrote for a soon-to-be-published book by Richard Hartman of South Charleston, titled “A Night in the Woods.” It is brim full of enchanting stories and limerick-like poems sure to coax a laugh.