It's Time to Lighten Up, Washington

Erin Jackson proves you don't have to depend on political punch lines to get a laugh.
Erin Jackson proves you don't have to depend on political punch lines to get a laugh. (By Roy Cox)
Friday, August 1, 2008; Page WE14

Ever noticed other riders' unhappy faces on the Metro? How about during the drive into the office on the Beltway? (We always rank high on those "cities with road rage" studies, after all.)

We are people of a powerful city, and with that power comes great responsibility. Suit-and-tie-in-the-middle-of-summer responsibility. Which means one thing.

We aren't really all that amusing.

Lawrence Mintz, a retired humor professor from the University of Maryland, says that "funny is in the eye of the beholder." What he means is maybe Washingtonians don't laugh much because we fear that the easily offended public is always watching. (Remember when Vice President Cheney made a crack about inbreeding in West Virginia? Not good.)

So maybe Washingtonians don't find their daily commute, responsibility or West Virginians comical. But maybe we need to loosen up a bit.

"One thing that is fascinating about humor is every culture has humor," says Mintz, 65, who studied humor for 40 years. (Yes, even in the D.C. area you can find someone who has made humor an academic pursuit). "Even the Soviet Union had circuses and clowns."

So maybe there is hope for us yet. We can start at the annual dccomedyfest, Thursday through Aug. 9, where comedic talent from across the country, as well as some well-known locals, fill our uptight city with three days of laughter.

And how do these funny people think they are going to get this serious town to chuckle? We asked, they answered, and some of their replies might make you crack a smile, even while you're stuck on the Red Line.

-- Amy Orndorff

© 2008 The Washington Post Company