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Dear Garrison, I just read

May 23, 2005 |

Dear Garrison,
I just read a Post to the Host from Bobby in New Jersey who wondered why the jokes weren't funny to him. I think a lot of it has to do with an individual's background and whether or not you relate to either the subject matter or the culture surrounding it.

My great-great grandparents on my dad's side were Swedish pioneers who settled in Minnesota, then Dakota Territory. Because of that I really identify with a lot of the cultural references and I think they are hilarious. (I was raised in the South, though, so I laugh at "redneck" jokes, too!) My husband, who was raised in WV, always wonders why I find something so hilarious, and my kids will say, "Mom, that wasn't funny," when I am nearly choking with laughter. Since they don't have the frame of reference I do, they just can't see it. I think that a study of what makes something "funny" would be very interesting!

Thanks for so many years of wonderful entertainment! I've been a fan for probably 25 years or more and we used to listen to you on family camping trips when my kids were small. Last year was a wonderful thrill for me to see you in person at the Ryman in Nashville. Your quote from "Leaving Home" is one of my favorites: "Thank you God, for this good life, and forgive us if we do not love it enough." It's a good way to live.

Jody Cheon
Dayton, TN

Jody, the comedy that leaves me cold is the second-hand stuff that depends on one's having seen hit TV shows or movies, which is a weak frame of reference for me, whereas comic sagas that involve poverty and menial labor always move me, likewise stories about Americans in foreign cultures, fundamentalists, geeks, and fathers. On the other hand, I think that Paul Rudnick is wildly funny in The New Yorker, though he and I don't have much in common at all — it's a gift of language: he just writes funny, that's all.

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