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Where is America’s Humor?


Why is there no imagination and humor today – in modern America? Where is our inner Mark Twain? Why do we take ourselves so seriously, missing the best? How do we find that gem?

Yes, national security, fiscal responsibility, and moral compass matter. But as Twain – and Ronald Reagan – reminded, so do creativity, imagination, and humor. We must recall the link.

A relationship exists between problem-solving and distraction, managing reality, and indulging creativity, including good humor. Twain and Reagan knew it, and we should remember it.

Daily, we watch loops of ugly news, try to get accustomed to it. Now and then, we reflect on the world, how lost, lopsided, and divided society is – bad ideas discussed as good, good disparaged.

But pause and look at Twain’s and Reagan’s lightness. The value lies in seeing through their eyes. They were realists, different political persuasions, but knew humor leavens life.

Born 181 years ago this month, Twain offered wry, stinging irony. Awash in ideas, he wrote the “Prince and the Pauper,” “Tom Sawyer,” “Huck Finn,” “Connecticut Yankee …,” then teased “there is no such thing as a new idea,” just “old ideas” and a “mental kaleidoscope” which “makes new and curious combinations… with the same old pieces of colored glass.”

Maybe, but his “colored glass” and humor fed another side – social and technological problem-solving. Not a politician, he did patent inventions, pioneering fingerprints in forensics, new games, adhesives, snaps, and buckles. And humor enhanced his thinking. See, e.g., Mark Twain Granted His First Patent on December 19, 1871.

What did Twain do? He leveraged humor to spur freshness within and without, promoting solutions to what others deemed insoluble, spurring action, ending inertia. True, he suffered few fools, but he taught with humor, causing people to reflect and trade seriousness for honesty.

His words echo, some silly and sarcastic, others subtle, even sublime. They should make us smile. “Always obey your parents, when they are present.” “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.” “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” “I was born modest, but it didn’t last.”  

Other laconic bits, oddly modern: “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.” “Character is the architect of achievements.” “Prosperity is the best protector of principle.” “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”  “The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”  Bingo!

Like Twain, Reagan was a humorist in his time and an enduring teacher for ours.

At the Cold War’s height, thinking he was off-mic, he poked Communism. “My fellow Americans,” he said sardonically, “I’m pleased to announce I’ve signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union; we begin bombing in five minutes.”  An obvious joke, it escaped. So be it.

Criticized for early bedtimes, he quipped: “It’s true, hard work never killed anybody, but I figured, why take the chance?” Critiqued on age, he said: “Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.’ And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.”

On the operating table after the assassination attempt, bullet near his heart, he eased his surgeons’ nerves. “I hope you’re all Republicans…” To his wife: “Honey, I forgot to duck.” 

How could Reagan, and Twain before him, dare to live by such whimsey and heart, to laugh at themselves without regret, risk offense, offer so light a touch that words produced affection?

They could do that because they did not take themselves seriously, were self-confident yet self-deprecating. They never forgot their humanity, to be humbled by it. They knew the power of undisguised truth. And they knew what you know, that in the end – we are all the same.

What did humor, imagination, spontaneity, and originality get them? Some offense, but more respect, gratitude, nod for the nod, smile for a smile, decency, dignity, longevity, and results.

What Twain and Reagan knew is that the best of me and you – of all America – is not conserved by arrogance, nor a humorless grip on power, not by truculence, forcing you to believe as I do, but by chance to laugh at ourselves, as they did, and take comfort in our own conscience.

Of course, that takes patience, practice, an honest sense that we are not so important. It takes love of what lies in humor, appreciation for originality, imagination, and each other. When we find that gem again, the ability to traipse the path of a simple laugh, we will be rich again. And somewhere, Twain and Reagan will be smiling, maybe laughing that it took us so long.

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8 months ago

God Bless Ronnie: He had a wonderful sense of humor. We miss him.

8 months ago

I loved President Reagan’s sense of humor. Unfortunately, these days the opposition is looking for a moment—any moment—to take words out of context, twist them around, and spit out something that was neither spoken nor intended. We’ve become so guarded for fear that our words might be misconstrued as being racist or sexist that we’ve become less creative in our speech. Now and then someone says something funny…Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy (a former dem) is one.

Bill on the Hill
8 months ago

My personal favorite of Reagan’s wit was his presidential primary debate with Walter Mondale, when he forgave Mondale’s lack of experience due to his youth…The place irrupted with laughter, Mondale himself included!
Another favorite of mine is what RBC has reminded of in this article… “My fellow Americans,” he said sardonically, “I’m pleased to announce I’ve signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union; we begin bombing in five minutes.” LOL, it don’t get any better than that…Only Ronald Reagan could pull that one off!
Bill on the Hill… :~)

8 months ago

Few people understand that real humor requires great intelligence. To look at a situation, assess it quickly, and find the humor in it is a very real skill.
The Left has neither intelligence, nor skill. They operate by roteness. Someone, or something, tells them how to operate, and they go do that.
One half of America has been dead since 1960, and angry with the deadness since 1980. Want humor? Want GOOD humor? Go find a conservative.

8 months ago

Conservatives have laughed at the lefties for decades. Rush Limbaugh aired many a side splitting skit on radio. I still fondly recall ‘algor and taxula’ in 1992. After the 08 election the skits became much rarer. The maestro himself said laughing at them had no effect. Conservatives tend to be multifaceted personalitys. Leftists not so much. Their inner pain turns into hate for anyone who is happy. We’ve grossly underestimated their intentions, tenacity and their hate. Laughing is surely healthy, but we’re going to need greater efficacy if they’re to be defeated.

8 months ago

In my opinion, Ronald Reagan is the best all-around POTUS this country has ever had as our leader.
God Bless his soul and his gift to us.

Deplorable MIKE
8 months ago

IDK, clueless leftists just elected the biggest clown in American history.

Joanne 4 justice
8 months ago

There is LOL in the present WH administration ! These CLOWNS ARE AWESOME IN THEIR ROLES !!!!!!!!!!

8 months ago

There is no appreciation of satire, irony and humor. All that Communists demand from art is that it serves the agenda and is obedient to the cause.,

8 months ago

Humor and lightheartedness have been replaced by wokeism, political correctness, cancel culture and the perpetually offended.

Jesse F Tiede
8 months ago

The most simple response is often the most truthful! In this case, the answer would be that the Liberal Progressive Socialists (re- Democrats), have no sense of humor! My somewhat Left leaning oldest son laments the fact that there is no longer any real comedy, or comedians. He refuses to see the underlying responsibility for that…(Not to be discouraged, as my youngest son is a “Minime”, a Fiscal Conservative Tea Bagger!

Tim Toroian
8 months ago

Did you ever hear of Lenin or Stalin cracking jokes? Communists can’t, they don’t know how to.

J. Farley
8 months ago

Politics has humor, the have Hidden, lying Joe Biden —- what a JOKE he is, but come to think of it he’s not funny, I only laugh at Comedians not people with low I.Q, s.

8 months ago


Where did America’s humor go? To answer your question, the left in this country has essentially outlawed it as being either racist (everything in their view is racist if you don’t conform to the very narrow and acceptable definition of what is politically correct on virtually any subject) or the cause of “micro-aggressions” extremely upsetting to snowflakes. So when at least half the country can be “triggered” (another politically correct leftist term) by 99.999 percent of everything around them, it is kind of difficult for humor to have a broad, national audience anymore. The people you discuss in your article would ALL be defined as either racists or micro-aggressors to be “canceled” by the woke mob.

Why do you think most comedians have given up doing live shows these days? A number of them have openly stated that they fear a backlash from members of the audience, who are constantly on the lookout for anything they might deem as “offensive”, “inappropriate” or “racist” in nature. Humor in the MSM today has been largely reduced to publicly ridiculing or insulting Republicans, conservatives or anyone else that happens to be on the left’s hit list of people to ostracize from society. It is neither funny nor nor thought provoking as much of Will Roger’s humor was. It’s just constant verbal attacks and insults with a canned laugh track.

Humor used to be about poking fun or discussing subjects in a light-hearted way. Politically neutral and everything was fair game. The humor of Will Rogers took a certain level of mental acuity, as his humor provoked people to actually think a little bit about the subjects he discussed. In today’s society, where most of the under 30 crowd needs almost everything broken down into extremely rudimentary terms to be understood, his humor would fall flat.

Sorry if that is not the response you may have been looking for, but that is how I see why humor has died in America today. As speech becomes more and more politically correct, true humor becomes harder to do and far less acceptable in society unless it denigrates the enemies that wish control our speech and thought.

8 months ago

Joe Biden lived a previous life as a mountain lion. Unfortunately, as a lion, Joe was not a good hunter. On one hunt, Joe the Lion managed to kill a bull. He was so hungry, he ate the bull at one sitting!

Joe the Lion was so happy he roared and roared! A hunter heard Joe the Lion roaring and stalked to within sight of the roaring lion and shot him!

Moral of the story? When full of bull, keep your mouth shut! I reckon Joe Biden did not learn his lesson as a mountain lion!

Tea Tephi
8 months ago

Witty repartee along with intelligent debate expressed through elegant elocution used to be a valued trait among politicians in our western nations. We have lost all of that.

Jesse F Tiede
8 months ago
Reply to  Tea Tephi

Not to mention Personal Responsibility, Fiscal Awareness, True Justice, and even the ability to use the correct word, instead of an oft misspelled word that sounds the same, but has up to 3 different meanings and uses… I no longer insist the Immigrants speak English because WE no longer speak English…

anna hubert
8 months ago

I didn’t see Leonid Breznev or Mao killing themselves laughing humor to an autocrat is a dangerous thing

Judy Dencker
8 months ago

Let’s also include Will Rogers…..he had his finger on the humor/political/life in general, angle. Too bad these sources of TIC humor have long left us…..perhaps it wasn’t age that took them, but they could “see” into the future and didn’t want anything to do with it.

8 months ago
Reply to  Judy Dencker

Agree he was another good with with wisdom for the ages.

Les Jones
8 months ago

Actually, what it takes is intelligence and self-confidence. Our current Presudent exhibits neither.

8 months ago

Thank You for reminding us of the true Great Patriots and what we all need to practice.

8 months ago


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