See the introduction to this series here: Letting The Chips Fall Where They May
Tip #1: “You is a very Fluid Concept”
Tip #2: “Man the FUCK up!”
Tip #4: Let Your Smile Be your Guide!
Tip#5: Be A Baller!
and, Tip #6: Foreigners Are Friends Not Fodder
In Tip #7 of the original 2008 “10 Ways NOT to go Loco in Yokohama” entitled: Escape From Yokohama (if you haven’t read it, check it out) I recommended to the long term resident here in Japan that they periodically get the hell away from here like their hair was on fire…as a way of maintaining sanity. In that piece I said:
And I stand by that post 100 percent. Only, again, it was a recommendation that would score a ninety-nine on the “No Shit, Sherlock” scale, 100 being an utter no-brainer.
So, probably, will the re-mastered post to follow, but maybe not. Regardless, please bear with me, and I’ll endeavor to make the new improved Tip #7 worth your
while smile .
Like most people, I love comedians…
My all time faves:
Eddie Murphy – mostly for his characterizations and storytelling, finding and exploring the core of every person and heart of every matter,
George Carlin – for his ingenuity, masterly deconstruction of language and customs, and the balls to risk offending anybody for a laugh without coming off as especially biased
Ellen Degeneres – For her quirky brilliant ADD rambling, her clairvoyant understanding of human nature, the courage to make herself the butt of her jokes and somehow make us all feel that the joke is on us, and that we are hilarious!
And the grandmaster, Richard Pryor – For being the consummate epitome of all the above, for channeling the human spirit, bringing the drama, the tragedy and all the funny in-between to the stage with him every performance.
Honorable mentions to: Lucille Ball, Bill Cosby, Robin Williams, Dave Chapelle, and Louis C.K.
I like to think of my blog as a place where I share my experiences in Japan, both positive and negative, with readers. Although it leans towards the negative sometimes, there are a couple of good reasons for that trend: the majority of the experiences I have here are experiences it’s very challenging to put a positive spin on…and believe me I try. Sometimes I use humor to illustrate for readers how life in Japan potentially impacts residence.
Over the course of the life of Loco in Yokohama, I have incorporated parody, black comedy, blue comedy, a bit of gallows humor, irony and satire into a number of posts. Not only for the entertainment of readers but it also helps me to deal with the ill effects of living under such conditions as Japan produces.
Sometimes these posts have failed miserably, other times they have succeeded wildly.
My book — Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist — (a wild success for an indie book) has been praised by readers for its use of some of the above comical techniques. I must admit, though, that some of the humor that has been singled out as exceptional was totally unintentional. I think it arises sometimes as a result of readers from outside of Japan viewing the scenario through the lens of “These tales are absurd! No way do people behave in such a manner…this Loco guy has one helluva imagination!” and foreigners who live or have lived here, perhaps finding the humor in it because — like the above comedians have shown us time and time again — our common humanity, love, pain, courage, incidents, accidents and the truth that laces them, is the greatest source of humor.
That is to say, it was not an attempt at humor at all, no more than a dog chasing its tail in a circle near the top of a staircase, tumbling down the stairs, head over paws, and winding up at the staircase landing, oddly contorted yet uninjured and with a mouthful of its tail and an ironic almost human expression on its little face, as if to say, “why didn’t I think of that before?” or “Was it always that simple?” is trying to be funny…he just is, or rather the circumstance is.
My circumstance: a black man, fairly intelligent and talented, highly sensitive and observant, living for the first time in an environment where these otherwise favorable attributes often conspire against his mental well-being and emotional stability.
The irony is implicit. The comical frontier is broad. The funny doesn’t have to be sought, only acknowledged and, with great care, tweaked.
I have been known to get reckless sometimes, the natural result of this instability…and at those times I remember the words of wisdom from my role model for funny, Richard Pryor, and think about all the shit he had to go through to be who he was. And, sometimes that’s all it takes to laugh…at myself. Not the way one laughs at a joke, but the way you might laugh at that dog I mentioned.
The man found humor in EVERYTHING!! Death, Heart attacks, being burned alive while free-basing coke, getting arrested and thrown in jail, divorce after divorce, growing up in a whorehouse, slavery, Ku Klux Klan…any fucking thing was fodder for comedy. It appears to happen naturally, effortlessly. But, to quash that rumor before it took hold, ingrained in his jokes he magnanimously imparts — to those of us with minds open to such profound generosity — all you ever needed to know about the process of finding the funny, and in doing so he is basically handing out the blueprints to building a sustainable life amid circumstances where the funny is stealthy as a ninja.
It is his legacy…one I feel privileged to be the recipient of. One I often try to incorporate into my thinking, writing and being.
There was a time, not too long ago, when I thought my sense of humor had abandoned me. I felt like I’d gone in for a little cosmetic surgery, a simple smile implantation (a quite common procedure among the foreigners here to aid in assimilating into a happy society where artificial smiles are valued higher than the joy and pleasure that would naturally produce it) and while under anesthesia the quack went ahead and accidentally removed my sense of humor. “Oops! Gomen ne!”
For a long time, I couldn’t find anything around me funny.
But, it turns out that, like baby teeth, toenails (and this bloody fucking corn on my pinky toe I shave every other week), a sense of humor is resilient and regenerative. Its resurrection sparked by falling silent and listening to your inner world, spending time in your cave of creativity away from the noise pollution of artificial smiles, canned laughter and plastic giggles, by crying, weeping for all you’re worth, tapping into that well of pain and anger, frustration and humiliation, that fount of blues inside of you, gulping it down and letting it pass through you, letting your heart act as a calendar, filtering the absurd, the hypocrisy, the lies, the truth…and there you’ll find the true funny once again, growing inside of you like the life-force it is.
It’s a struggle to find, no doubt…but it’s always there.
Richard Pryor taught me that.
And, I will advise anyone coming to this land, or anywhere you might find yourself — particularly if you’re creative — to treasure it for it is most precious.
Never, Never, EVER surrender your sense of humor.
Stay tuned for part 8, coming soon.
PS: And if you haven’t read Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist yet, what are you waiting for? A personal invitation? Get yours now…don’t let the days go by! Find out why it was number #1 in The UK yesterday, and number #1 in Germany last week! It’s available in paperback and E-book version here).