We need funny.We need it so extra very much super badly right now. What we don’t need any more of is sad or scary. Yet that’s what we are inundated with every morning as we slurp our lukewarm coffee while hunched over newspaper photos of angry or terrified faces reacting to crashing stock prices and foreclosed homes, and hear more pundits on TV blabbering on how to still consider saving for college or retirement. (There’s also all the regular old bad news we always have, like car accidents, murders, and natural disasters. But that all seems amplified too. There’s actually a lot that sucks right now.)
What we need, badly, before we are all checked into treatment centers that our insurance won’t pay for, or before we all decide to pull out of a wildly ricocheting system that needs us to be invested in it right now, is a good laugh. (Truth: What we really need are awesome, phat vacations with lots of sweet drinks, but since there’s no way to possibly afford jet fuel or even car fuel to get away, let alone hotel rooms or the $15 drinks, we are left with mental vacations. That’s where funny comes in.)
The Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn movie “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” was on TV the other night. (Which made it a good choice for the evening’s entertainment, since I shouldn’t be spending much money on going ut anymore, or even on one of those Netflix or pay-per-view dealies. Even though, yes, we have established that we still need to invest in the economy, and not get all panicky and stop shopping and stay home depressed while people go out of business because we aren’t eating at their restaurants anymore. I get it.)
I turned on “Dodgeball” and mentally put down the angst of pervasive bad news for a few minutes. And I did one of those laugh-out-loud embarrassing, sputtering horse laughs. (I was alone, which makes it easier to laugh at the stupid parts.) I even laughed hard at the parts that weren’t really amazingly funny, like when Stiller’s real life wife, actress Christine Taylor, is pegged in the face by a dodgeball by Stiller, dressed up in a tight purple suit. I laughed just for the relief of actually being able to laugh at something again. Stiller deserves much of the credit. It’s something about his chronic expression, which depending on the movie, can reflect painful self-consciousness or inflated self-importance. He walks the line between being ridiculously exaggerated and yet not beyond belief as a character.He just is funny. (Plus it looked like he really enjoyed smacking his pretty wife in the face with the ball.)
Any Ben Stiller movie will do. I recommend a prescription of “Zoolander,” on repeat. I refuse to believe that watching scantily dressed male models having a good old-fashioned gasoline fight won’t make the world a better place. Or seeing Stiller humiliated while he tries to do his nebbishy best and impress De Niro in any of the “Meet the Fockers” movies. Funny will make us braver. It will relax us enough to make us clear headed as we face hard decisions right now.
Funny will remind us it’s good to be politically incorrect sometimes. Because if we are all so damn uptight that we can’t laugh at ourselves, we aren’t going to ever have the humility necessary to get ourselves out of this big old mess. Funny will cheer us up. (Think hair gel and zipper scenes in “There’s Something About Mary.”) And when we are cheered up, we will have the confidence to move forward, one step at a time, dodging the enormous potholes along the way.