It took a string of mortifying events for me to find humor. In fact, I remember the first funny thing I ever said. I don’t mean to imply that here begins a longitudinal study on the making of a comedienne. I was rarely if ever funny growing up. I took myself and life far too seriously to be making jokes. Furthermore, I was cute and had big boobs, and I used these powers to hypnotize my cohorts, so it was never really necessary for me to develop any strong social skills, humor, or character for that matter. Friends in youth are easily won with good looks and boobs, and one does not feel the need to garner laughs.
I think it must have been after I cut them off (my boobs) in 2001 that I began to learn more respectable ways to make friends (I will blog about my boob removal another time). But in my bustier days, sitting and looking pretty came easily, so that is what I spent most of my time doing.
I was particularly stunning when I sat in American History (honors class, the completion of which earned a high school student college credit). Towards the end of the year, the principal was making rounds, checking our progress, when he popped his head in and singled me out, “Who won the Civil War?” he asked. But he asked the question really fast, he kind of barked it, and it sounded like a trick Jeopardy question, like he was saying the part I was supposed to say, and anyway I was busy preening. “America?” I squeaked. (Strong posture, big smile, “Look! Boobs!”). He looked confused, like maybe I had made a joke. He then shot the teacher a death ray look, making an obvious mental note to drop his salary, before he made his departure. Our teacher, Coach McCrosky, recited this little tidbit at my ten year high school reunion. It got just as many laughs the second time around. Thanks Coach!
But this doesn’t count as the funny thing I said, because it was completely unintentional. I decided I was better suited to beauty pageants than history lessons or books in general, so I entered a few pageants and sang songs and shared my voluptuousness with my little small-town Arkansas world. Mom did try to encourage me to read, but I just didn’t see reading and writing as my skill set.
I actually did well in pageants, always placing, but just out of reach of the crown. No one could understand it, because I had such big boobs. But in beauty pageants, you can’t just be pretty. This isn’t American History. You must score high in four categories: 1) Evening Gown, 2) Talent, 3) Swimsuit, and 4) INTERVIEW. “Interview” was 30 minutes long and consisted of being grilled by three old people (30 somethings) about current events, which was my worst subject. I lacked confidence in my knowledge and ability to speak an intelligible, much less impressive, sentence. I just hoped they noticed how sharp my interview suit looked. And I had practiced by first learning who won the Civil War, but they never even asked that question!
The half hour was a blur. I tried to remember what it was they asked, what it was I said, but all I know is that I identified Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor as Richard Pryor. Then I think they dumbed down the questions for me a bit, because the next question I remember was, “If you were an animal, what would you be and why?” “I would be a horse, because they’re wild and fast” (strong posture, big smile, “Look! Boobs!”) Apparently I just wasn’t the Miss Arkansas type. “Early bird senior discount at Denny’s, you old fogies! Better bring your Depends so there’s no accidents! Bitches.”
But that still doesn’t count as the funny thing I said, because again, it was unintentional. I have to say, though, that I learned some tough lessons in humility. As people grow up, looks and boobs are not quite as hypnotic, and I began to lose my powers. And once you turn 16, what you drive becomes your most important quality. On Christmas of my 16th year, my cousin and I both opened car keys. We bounced around and screamed and ran outside to find his brand new white Ford F150, parked and wrapped in a huge red bow, right next to an 1812 Chevy Cavalier wrapped in the same ribbon.
Now I know I’m an ingrate, but wheels were just not nearly as important to me at the time as what was riding on them. And what was riding on them needed significant body work. It smelled like ferret cigarettes, and its bucket seats were so low that I had to sit on two Little Rock phone books to see out of the windshield. And after driving it for about 45 minutes, it would wear its bless-its-little-heart out and stall at stop signs or stop lights. Then it had to rest for about an hour before it would start again. In my small town, I was a roadside regular, waving at my classmates in their fully functioning, air conditioned Ford Probes and Ford Splashes. I had to grit my teeth and fly through intersections without stopping if I ever wanted to make it home. (Strong posture, big smile, “Look! Boobs!”) And out of this experience, the tiniest bit of character began to blossom.
But when I wasn’t working on my character, I ran around with my cousin Kerri. She had a Ford Probe, but her dad had a brand new red Corvette. And this is what we took to cruise 10th street over and over and over again for hours. We were both excellent at sitting and looking pretty, so that’s what we did. Tinted windows be damned! We just rolled them down, put on our sunglasses and turned the heat up because Arkansas winter nights can be cold, but we had to be seen by boys! And then we played music that could not have been more appropriate, or educational even, for two little white girls from Arkansas: “Take off your G-string drawers, bitch eat your Wheaties, cause I don’t pause. What are you laughing at, ain’t a damn thing funny. Bitch betta have my money!" We were awesome.
Oh, the shame.
Oh, oh. The shame.
And I am parent to two girls.
So, back to the funny thing I said. As we cruised in the Corvette listening to our favored and worn tape of gangster rap, we always had our feelers out for boys. That day, there was a boy driving around who Kerri said looked just like “Marky Mark.” There was also a Jeep out that day, though it looked more like a clown car, with about ten boys piled in it. They looked ridiculous squished on top of one another, and the Jeep was old, and they were leering at us.
So around and around we all went, Kerri and I both salivating for the moment when we would cross paths with Marky Mark, so we could act haughty and nonchalant and give a cool head-nod of acknowledgement. Then came the leering clown car, then Marky Mark, leering clown car, Marky Mark. “There’s Marky Mark, again, there’s Marky Mark again,” said Kerri. And then I said … wait for it … drum roll please …. “And here comes the FUNKY BUNCH!” Ba-dum-bump. Ta Dah!
I apologize, I know that first of all, you have to be familiar with the music group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch to get that clever little joke of mine, but secondly, it’s funny in the non-funniest way possible. I’m sure it would have been quickly forgotten if I had ever said anything funny prior to this event. Kerri laughed and was surprised, and said, “That is the first funny thing you’ve ever said.”
It was momentous. I think it was all that stress and shame from pageantry or Coach McCrosky or breaking down all over town that rolled itself out as humor. I had learned to laugh at things that I couldn’t exactly control … like knowing for sure who won the Civil War or trying to be sexy while broken down on the side of the road next to an 1812 Chevy Cavalier wrestling with phone books. I should set my sights and my future on hitching a ride with the Funky Bunch. I, too, was so Funky Bunch. Hell. I'm still Funky Bunch!
Here's Kerri ... sitting pretty (and acting like she doesn't listen to AMG)!