Editor's note: In Part 1 of "Where have all the court jesters gone?": Ramon Presson reminded us of some great bygone columnists who offered much-needed doses of humor.
Long before I subscribed to The New Yorker magazine for the cartoons and the Shouts & Murmurs humor column, I was a faithful Sports Illustrated subscriber so I could read Rick Reilly’s weekly back page column. An award-winning sportswriter, Reilly had an unmatched ability to draw out both the humor and the poignancy found in sports, the laughably absurd and the profoundly important.
“Maybe I'm just getting old, but I remember when your average NFL player would come to the sideline, spit out three bicuspids, Scotch-tape his tibia back together, and then go back on the field.” — Rick Reilly
Joel Stein’s humor column ran on the back page of Time’s weekly news magazine for 19 years until 2017. The Smithsonian magazine dropped The Last Page humor column in 2012. Thank goodness that the monthly Garden & Gun magazine (perhaps my top pick for two words that don’t go together to form a title) still has Roy Blunt Jr. penning The Last Line.
In a single recent Sunday edition of our Nashville newspaper here were some of the headlines:
A Hospital on the Brink
4 sentenced in slaying that triggered series of crimes
Group dressed in KKK robes wanders Jamestown streets on Halloween
Suspect ID’d in fatal hit-and-run off Nolensville Pike
Mother dead, infant hurt in Clarksville Pike crash
Indiana woman found strangled by pet python
Pattern of racist graffiti riles Iowa State campus
19 arrested in Italy heroin ring
Car explosion in Syria on Turkey border kills 13
Malian government says 54 dead in jihadist attack on its army
And this does not even include the section’s stories about the California wildfires and the Trump impeachment drama.
Room for Cream
Just a rapid reading of those headlines alone requires some form of anti-depressant. I’m not endorsing an ignoring of hard facts and painful truths. I’m not one to stick my head in the sand in the face of difficulty. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist for goodness sake. I’m present in people’s deep stress and pain all day. One of the reasons I write a humor column is for my own comic relief and sanity.
The producers of 60 Minutes seemed to understand that its viewers needed an epilogue of humor from someone like Andy Rooney after almost an hour of serious news and confrontational journalism.
When I order a brewed coffee the barista asks, “Do you need room for cream?” and my answer is "yes." For all the coffee purists who drink their hot bitter brew black with no additives, good for you. Forgive me but I like cream in my coffee, icing on my cake, ketchup with my fries, and just a little levity with my wars, crimes, politics, mass shootings, famines, and corruption. If my tolerance for the news begins to feel like a daily hot pepper eating contest I may start skipping straight to the comics and finally learn how to work Sudoku puzzles.