The recent testimonies before Congress have been reminding me of something for weeks and I just figured out what that is. I call it 90-degree humor; the kind of joke that starts out in one direction, then takes a sudden left turn, leaving you fallen-over laughing.
For instance: “If you were to line up every fish from every body of water in a straight line, head-to-tail, head-to-tail, you would never get that smell off your hands.”
I greatly appreciate the use of audio, visual, and broadcast technologies that give the nation a front row seat in the Congressional and Senatorial hearings. We get to watch the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue up close and vulnerable before a power greater than their offices.
Answers from these presumptively upright and honorable professionals addressing Congress under oath should instill pride and confidence in every attentive American. Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, told Congress that prosecution of the press “is not something that I’ve ever been involved in, heard of or would think would be a wise policy.”
Several years ago, I enjoyed the professional pleasure of working on a three-month project at Cape Canaveral. One weekend, my wife and I decided to pay a visit to Aunt Betty who was living about 40 miles to the south of the Cape. Aunt Betty was a natural at 90-degree humor, much like Attorney General Holder. Aunt Betty gave me the following directions to her house, “Go to the river and turn right. Then look for Barefoot Bay Drive.” I asked her which river and she kept insisting it was “THE river.” OK, assuming that I find the correct river, I asked Aunt Betty which way I would turn onto Barefoot Bay Drive. Her response was, “Don’t turn left.” When I asked her if that meant that I should turn right, she answered, “Of course. If you turn left, you will drive into the river.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gifted us with her most memorable phrase, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” This was in response to questions about the deaths of employees under her watch in Benghazi, Libya. It reminds me somehow of the rest of Aunt Betty’s driving directions. She said, “Once you are on Barefoot Bay Drive, take a left, then another left, then a right, then a left, then a right and another right. You will see a house with blue awnings. That one is not mine.” Somehow, we found our way to Aunt Betty’s house before the sun went down.
Commissioner of the IRS, Doug Shulman, spent a sweaty six hours before Congress performing the testimony two-step like no one before him. When asked by Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) what he was doing during his 118 visits to the White House, Shulman answered (under oath), “The Easter Egg Roll.”
Aunt Betty lived well into her eighties and we miss her incidental humor. But that particular gene has been discovered to be dominant in our six-year-old granddaughter, Molly. A couple of weeks ago, her grandmother (my wife) instructed Molly to stop throwing a blunt toy around out of fear that she would strike her little sister or brother. Molly complied for about three minutes and then resumed the throwing. My wife executed the classic line, “What did I just tell you?” Molly’s response was, “I know. But this part of my head is telling me to throw it.”
In late March, Molly gave me a paper bunny that she made at Easter. After thanking her, I asked her what the letters “EKD” meant that were handwritten on the bunny’s body. Molly responded, “I didn’t know how to spell your name.”
In a six year old, or an eighty year old, 90-degree humor is charming and adorable. In the Attorney General, Secretary of State, or Commissioner of Internal Revenue – yeah, not so much.