While I was drawing the cartoon yesterday, I was struck with the feeling that a joke as lame as the one in the cartoon deserves a rimshot (*buh-dum bum*).
Which reminded me of a story that I had almost forgotten.
I was a senior in high school when the first Iraq war was going on. And being from the conservative side of Washington State, we took the war very seriously. Well, at least some of us did. Being surrounded by farmers and good old boys, us more liberal kids basically kept our cynicism in check (and a good thing we did too, huh? What with the worth-whileness of that conflict and all…).
And since the principal of my high school was a retired Army general, we tried to keep a somber and serious mood around campus about the war and the brave men and women who were fighting in it. I personally remember lugging my saxophone out to center court before basketball games to play a “jazzy” version of the national anthem while wearing a hopelessly stylish tee-shirt that said “Support our Troops.” And on my 230 pound frame, I was practically a billboard of jingoism.
My band director made me wear it. But it turned out to be a good thing. It deflected a lot of angry criticism about the blasphemously upbeat rendition of our nation’s most sacred tune. In wartime, the national anthem must be played like a dirge apparently. Nothing rallies the nation like a good funeral after all.
Ratty old, stupid tee-shirt…patriotism. Jazz and the national anthem…sacrilege.
But that was eastern Washington State for you.
But soon (very soon), the war was over. We had won and all was right with the world. We could relax knowing that the situation in the Middle East had been handled promptly and permanently.
The mood was lifting. So much so, that we had an assembly later. I don’t remember exactly what it was for, but out principal was going to give a little speech to open it.
And he wanted to be funny.
He was going to tell jokes. Now our principal was a nice guy, but he wasn’t what I would call…funny. And I think that deep down, he knew it too. The choir and the band were playing at this particular assembly (a crowd favorite, I’m sure) so my principal decided to recruit my good friend Dave to give him a helping hand with the whimsy.
Dave was a drummer. But he looked a little lost when the Principal asked him for rimshots. See, the principal was going to tell some jokes, after which Dave would give a light *buh-dum bum* for emphasis (and to let the audience know where the punchline was, which, if you had heard the jokes, was a real necessity).
The problem was that Dave was having a heard time finding the funny also. It didn’t help that our principal practically refused to let Dave in on the secret. It didn’t help that Dave was asked to perform this duty five minutes before the assembly had begun.
And it definitely didn’t help that Dave wasn’t the most self-assured guy on the planet and was now being stared at by the entire assembled audience.
So, it started out rocky enough. The principal made a couple lame jokes, Dave was a little late with the *buh-dum bums*.
But as the jokes got more predictable, Dave got more comfortable.
The principal made some brainless joke about the lunch menu.
A stupid joke about the teachers.
A feeble attempt to make the parking situation on campus comical.
The jokes were actually getting laughs! Dave was a freaking rock star! He was single handedly creating a comedian out of an old Army general.
But, it was then that the smile melted from the general’s face. We can only joke enough for one evening after all. The war had brought with it a tragic loss of life. And no one could appreciate that more than my principal.
“But seriously,” said the general, his eyes taking on a sense of stoicism usually reserved for the most serious of occasions “there are a lot of people who couldn’t be here tonight because they have given their lives to protect the freedoms of every one of us at this assembly.”
And a momentary hush fell across the crowd of students as we let the weight of the statement sink in. Kids stopped fidgeting. No one gossipped to their neighbors. A long pregnant pause and…
Oh, poor Dave.
The Principal gave Dave a puzzled look, with just the right amount of betrayal.
And Dave…I’ve never seen such a goofy grin replaced with such a visage of terror.
Dave had turned death into a vaudeville routine.
Some people were actually confused. A few polite giggles rose here and there. They didn’t know whether this was a joke or not.
But, to be sure, backstage with my saxophone in my hand as I waited to jazz up yet another stupid assembly…I was rolling.
Dave, wherever you are, you can play my funeral any day.
Fun Fact: I’m about to commit a horrible crime against nature. There are some baby birds outside my window that aren’t long for this world. At least if they don’t learn how to shut the hell up!
They sound like tiny puppies are being beaten to death in the top of the tree outside my apartment.
Okay, so I won’t actually do anything to them. But mark my words, If I were evil, they would be toast.
Oh, and the latest TAM Cartoon is up! Buh-dum bum!