Saturday, March 15, 2008

"The Ultimate Showdown"

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Humor Is a Delicate Art

In college, I took a required Psychology course and opted to write about the psychology of humor. I thought it would be entertaining to research and entertaining to read. It earned me an A-, but it was neither.

This weekend, while I was caring for our nine-year-old twin nephews during their parents' 20th wedding anniversary celebration trip, the boys showed me some of their favorite YouTube clips, which were mostly only semi-funny to me. When I returned to the land of adults, Pat's and my home, I read two articles about comedians: one in "The New York Times," featuring a book about stand-up comedians of the '70s and another in Vanity Fair, about funny comediennes of today.

My hopes, always, were high, that I'd find such articles entertaining, and yet I never did. I ought to have learned my lesson in college, when I wrote that Psych. paper. Writing and reading about humor were relatively boring.

The articles did remind me that I craved being inspired to laugh, and even to produce laughter, routinely, and was fortunate to have my own, local laughter generator in Pat.

The Minds of Nine-year-old, Twin Boys

For the boys, Sam and Max, nothing could be funnier than "The Ultimate Showdown."

On Friday afternoon, just before I stopped working for the day, we visited Active World, a virtual world; not too long into our visit, my mother phoned to tell me that her physical rehab roommate had had to be hospitalized. Meanwhile, the boys took my avatar, with my real name associated with it, into a business meeting to which I had not been invited!

Which generation needed more attention at that moment? Clearly, the boys won. I felt crazy that my avatar, dressed as Athena, and labeled, "Sarah Siegel," ended up in a genuine business meeting that was being conducted in Active World. Oy!

It felt like I had opened an incorrect conference-room door, but then instead of excusing myself and shutting it, wandered around for awhile among the businesspeople. And though it was the twins and not me, who roved my avatar around the room, I was accountable. I wondered if the participants copied down my name, and if I'd be in trouble. I was so embarrassed that I didn't even pause to see the topic of the meeting, or any of the people's names. Once I realized what was happening, I just shut it down.

The boys were contrite. What a wild time we had with one another; only several minutes later that afternoon:

"Don't you leave this house!" I called to Sam, who had decided he wanted to wear his brother's jacket for our walk to the park, though his brother didn't want him to.

Sam opened the door and walked out.

"Get back in this house immediately!"

He came back in, yanked off the jacket and kicked his heel backwards, nailing Max's shin. I gave him a five-minute time-out, saying, "It's five to 5. We're going to sit here for five minutes and at 5 o'clock, you're going to decide whether or not to apologize to your brother."

At 5 pm, when Sam apologized, Max replied, "I don't accept your apology because you're just going to do it again."

At dinner, I said, "My sisters never hit me. What is it about you two?"

"It's a twin-brother thing. We do this all the time," said Sam.

"Yeah, we hate each other to a certain extent," said Max.

"And do you also love each other to a certain extent?" I asked.

Both nodded without looking up from their food.


John Martin said...

Hello Sarah. Your posting reminded me of this "entertaining" act of an episode of This American Life about: Sean O'Connor and Nick Maritato are professional comedians, and their job usually involves saying things that kids aren't supposed to hear. But last summer they got booked on a tour of kids' summer camps. TAL producer Jane Feltes tells us what happened. (18 minutes)

If you're intrigued, it can be listened to online from here. Click on the "Full Episode" icon below the picture. (Aside: Though the story is good, I think the Prologue (5 mins) is quite entertaining as well! If you have an extra five minutes, listen to it, too, instead of fast forward ing to the first act.)

Sarah Siegel said...

The prologue and Act One, about the comedians, performing for kids, both were sobering.

It's hard to hear the actual thoughts of kids, rather than living in denial about how it's going.

Their older sister, who's 15 on the 17th, managed to negotiate with her parents by phone to be gone on Friday and Saturday night, sleeping over at two different friends' homes. She gave my sister the mothers' cell numbers to confirm that she was really staying at each home, but still, I was anxious.

Recently, I wrote elsewhere that I did not have empathy for parents, not having had kids myself, but as of this weekend, I gained a bit.

It was awful to worry about my niece's safety and it was dreadful to be a disciplinarian, rather than simply being their fun, sometimes cool aunt.

John Martin said...

Glad you took a listen. I like your descriptive word: sobering.

I'll probably never ask my nephew again, "How's school?"


Sarah Siegel said...

It's hard to treat them like nine-year-olds when they still love their Webkinz and still love being sung to at bedtime, and yet they say they have their father's permission to watch YouTube videos like "Ultimate Showdown...."

It's like they're three and 15 alternately. It also doesn't help that they're super-tall...and then I forget that they're just nine...until one grabs the other's jacket....

BroInLaw G said...

Oy. As the dad usually responsible for shepherding Max and Sam through their day, it's quite enlightening to read your version of the story I've lived through so many times. Much more amusing when I'm not dealing with it myself.

Sarah Siegel said...

Glad to have entertained you a bit. You earned the break, certainly, and it was character-building for me!

Actually, a week later, I'm feeling tender about the experience. We played Hide & Seek in the house and believe it or not, at first, in my hiding-place under the dining room table, I eluded them.