www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Endorsement for Schultz -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Against the wind -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Do blacks need favors? -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Vote Huelskamp out -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Open meetings -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Leadership change needed -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Vote for Huelskamp -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Protecting unborn children -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Learning experience valuable -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

False equivalence -7/23/2014, 8:07 AM

Measles' scary comeback -7/23/2014, 1:27 PM

The 'big data' deal -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

GOP can't get out of its own way -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

War only will add to Middle East problems -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Avoiding taxes -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Take the win in Iran -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

The high court's high-handedness -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

Up in arms in the Capitol -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Firefighters weigh in on pay raise -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Backpacks for Kids -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Our unwillingness to defend ourselves -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

Remembering a man who championed freedom -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

GOP split -7/17/2014, 8:38 AM

New Kansas senator -7/17/2014, 8:37 AM

Who'll build the roads? -7/17/2014, 8:37 AM

Reagan: In or out? -7/16/2014, 2:45 PM

'Unbroken' WWII vet more than a hero -7/16/2014, 2:44 PM

Savor the fruits of your labor -7/16/2014, 2:44 PM

Erasing candidate's standards -7/15/2014, 11:36 AM

Returning to Trail Wood -7/15/2014, 10:13 AM

Leaving some in 'suspense' -7/15/2014, 10:13 AM

Strangers in a remarkable land -7/14/2014, 9:11 AM

Courageous or spineless? Our actions decide -7/14/2014, 9:11 AM

Ambition: An unlikely gift to Kansas voters -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Beyond the outrage -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Water watch -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Scenic outlooks -7/11/2014, 9:18 AM

China's research trumps teaching -7/11/2014, 9:17 AM

Important slow news -7/10/2014, 9:42 AM

We've got a promise to keep -7/10/2014, 9:33 AM

The white combine calls -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Vote for family values -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Politicians making a mockery of my faith -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Missing tribute -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Rural students deserve 21st Century education -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

The education table dance -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

A new virus -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

Government as God -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

EPA affecting others -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

'Narrow' decision from the narrow-minded -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

The tax trap -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Rulings produce 'First Amendment fireworks' -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Firefighter salaries -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Economic freedom -7/4/2014, 11:54 AM

Protecting our independence -7/4/2014, 11:54 AM

Dan Johnson, 1936-2014 -7/3/2014, 7:12 AM

New Iraq offensive backfires -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

Setting things straight -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

'Crapitalism' -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

Feeding peace throughout the world -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Half way is still only half way -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Sherow a better choice -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Fireworks, part II -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Reality show made in Topeka -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

The justices and their cellphones -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

LOB defeated -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

Tragedy explored in 'Broken Heart Land' -6/30/2014, 9:14 AM

Mexico City: The adventure continues -6/30/2014, 9:14 AM

Even our youngest Americans are citizens -6/29/2014, 12:58 PM

Ban on fireworks -6/29/2014, 12:58 PM

It's time to teach active citizenship -6/29/2014, 12:57 PM

The education establishment's success -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Piecework professors -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Marriage for all -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Prairie chicken madness -6/26/2014, 4:17 PM

Omission control -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

Equal in the eyes of the law -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

Help wanted -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

The old red barn -6/25/2014, 9:19 AM

Beware the unimaginable -6/25/2014, 9:19 AM

Early critic of school testing was right -6/24/2014, 8:53 AM

Finding something 'different' in Topeka -6/24/2014, 8:53 AM

Shopping small -6/24/2014, 8:53 AM

Into the classroom -6/23/2014, 8:55 AM

Wow! And thanks to you -6/23/2014, 8:55 AM

Fireworks double-standard -6/23/2014, 8:55 AM

Glass half full -6/22/2014, 5:57 PM

Brownback's experiment wallops taxpayers -6/22/2014, 5:56 PM

Examining the importance of 'where' we speak -6/22/2014, 5:56 PM

Slavery reparations -6/20/2014, 8:33 AM

'Help me plagiarize' -6/20/2014, 8:33 AM

Thank a farmer -6/20/2014, 8:33 AM

Here comes tomorrow -6/19/2014, 8:43 AM

Why Americans dislike soccer -6/19/2014, 8:43 AM

Switching to teaching -6/18/2014, 4:32 PM

Clinic closing good -6/17/2014, 9:59 AM

Other avenues -6/17/2014, 9:59 AM

Land grabs -6/17/2014, 9:59 AM

Lending a helping hand -6/17/2014, 9:59 AM

Mariel revisited -6/17/2014, 9:59 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

St. Patrick's Day -- The value of Irish humor

Published on -3/16/2014, 5:44 PM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

With the world in such a tizzy these days -- with so many people ready to shout and argue and poke each other in the eyes -- I can't think of a better time to embrace the Irish spirit.

It's my great good fortune to be a fellow of Irish descent. I share my good fortune with a quarter of all Americans, who also can trace their heritage to the rolling, green hills of Ireland.

As a lad, I remember my father sitting on the back porch on Sundays. Uncle Mike sometimes would visit for a couple of beers, and few things gave the two more pleasure than swapping Irish jokes.

Such as the one about the fellow who was touring the Irish countryside. Hungry, he stopped at a farm and asked for refreshment. The lady of the house served him a bowl of soup. There was a pig in the house that kept running up to the fellow.

"That is the friendliest pig I ever did meet," he said to the woman.

"He's not friendly at all," said the woman. "That's his bowl you're using."

I know that I'm not really "Irish," but an American through and through. I know, too, that I'm also of German descent, and, though my father refuses to accept it, my great-grandmother on his side turned out not to be Irish, but 100 percent French.

Still, in my family we celebrate what it means to be Irish. Being Irish means to laugh easily, never to take yourself too seriously, to be cautious of getting stuck in the narrowness of your own point of view.

Which reminds me of the one about the German spy who is sent to Ireland during World War II. The German is instructed to meet an Irish spy named Murphy and confirm Murphy's identity by saying, "The weather could change by Tuesday."

After the German parachutes into Ireland, he sets off for town. Along the way, he asks a farmer where he might find a man named Murphy.

"Well, sir, it all depends on which Murphy," says the farmer. "We have Murphy the doctor, Murphy the postal carrier, Murphy the stone mason and Murphy the teacher. As a matter of fact, I, too, am Murphy, Murphy the farmer." The German gets an idea.

"The weather could change by Tuesday," he says.

"Aye," says the farmer, "you'll be wanting Murphy the spy."

James Thurber, one of my favorite humorists, said the wheels of humor are set in motion by the damp hand of melancholy. Aristotle wrote comedy and tragedy are close cousins. The Irish long have known humor and laughter are our chief weapons for combating sadness and pain.

Which reminds me of the time a young Irishman tells his mother he's in love. Just for fun, he brings home three girls and asks his mother to guess which of the three he has chosen to be his bride.

After his mother interviews all three, she says, "Your fiancée is the one in the middle."

"That's amazing, ma. How did you know?"

"Because I don't like her."

British academic and joke theorist Christy Davies said a good joke can help clarify and express complex feelings. A good joke can cut to the heart of the matter better than any speech or law or government policy.

If only everyone held such a point of view. These days, with all the conflict and disagreement going on, we surely could profit from a better sense of humor.

Which reminds me of the time Pat explained to Mike why his valiant effort to scale Mount Everest fell short.

"I would have made it to the top," says Pat, "had I not run out of scaffolding."

Tom Purcell, author of "Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. This column is an excerpt from the book.

purcell@caglecartoons.com.

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos