Amelia Earhart was a childhood hero of mine. Of course by childhood, I refer to a period of time that stretched well into my early twenties...but I'm growing up now.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Putting the "Prop" in Appropriate: Part Two

My brain is rather stuck on this question of appropriateness, after recently recalling a repressed memory from pubescent years:

Following an incident with an “inspirational performer” named Magic Charlie, my high school had to have an assembly one year about appropriate assembly behavior. This consisted of an hour of speeches and skits from teachers, the ASB, and the principal on the subject. According to the great logic of the public school administration, students who already can’t sit still and shut up during an assembly will pay attention to an assembly that spends an hour telling them to sit still and shut up. (If you find this example of administrative lunacy amusing, the Library of Kari suggests you look for Up the Down Staircase, by Bel Kaufman at your local library.)

The tagline for the assembly was “Funny? Yes. Appropriate? No.” The funny referred to the fact that during Magic Charlie’s inspirational talk and display of supposedly awe-inspiring basketball-handling skills, he was repeatedly pelted with wadded paper and insults of the “your momma is so old, she has to use Super Polident” variety. The appropriate referred to the notion that even though poor Charlie’s shtick was aimed at a much younger audience (and was apparently much appreciated at my little brother’s elementary school earlier that same day), we students shouldn’t have taken it upon ourselves to make him want to cry, take his balls and go home. And so as punishment, we were pulled out of class (oh darn) for an assembly warning us that there would be no more assemblies if we didn’t learn to treat the presenters with more respect. The skits that were part of this cautionary assembly (exaggerated parodies of the actual incident) did nothing to downplay the fact that the taunting of Charlie had been very funny – not nice, considerate or polite, but nonetheless funny.

I still have a hard time not busting up laughing every time the phrase “Funny? Yes. Appropriate? No.” pops into my head. But, it’s the sort of thing that makes me wonder about my own responsibility as a person who likes to share her twisted version of comedy with the world. How do I decide where to draw the line between “okay funny” and “wrong funny”? I suppose it’s like deciding whether or not to wear a hazmat suit to a bridal shower. Funny? Yes. Appropriate? Well, maybe from a practical standpoint, because cold season is upon us, and plus I don’t want any punch or romantic sentimentality spilled on me. But will it reflect well on the subject of the occasion or even on myself as perpetrator of the joke? Probably not.

I’ll just tell people the gremlins made me do it.


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