I always wanted to be funny.
When I was a small child, I would do my best to entertain my mother. It was more than just a job or a hobby or anything like that. It was who I was meant to be. Since then, it has taken on its own form.
The oldest memory I have of trying to entertain my mother was when I was three. I would intentionally put on silly outfits and make silly faces. She would say things like "If you keep doing that your face is going to freeze like that" or my favorite: "You're funny..." long pause as I beam from ear to ear "...but looks aren't everything..."
I would tell jokes and be silly as a defense mechanism. I always wanted to be funny.
As far back as I can remember, I was always a sad boy. I knew I was sad much before the world knew. The first time I remember feeling sad was when my parents divorced when I was five. I would stay up late to watch TV. Laughing is my escape. Telling jokes is my escape. Watching silly movies is an escape.
In my teenage years, the sadness got much worse. I blame pubic hormones. I blame my inability to fit in with any social groups. I sheltered myself. I never hung out with people outside of school. I did whatever I could to avoid social interactions. I would stay in my room and watch Adam Sandler movies until the VHS cassette was broken. I knew every word to every Andrew Dice Clay nursery rhyme. I rented every comedy at Blockbuster (and Tommy K's, a local Connecticut video store). I would do anything to laugh and make others laugh.
When I was a teenager my mother started her descent that ultimately led to her dying. She was constantly sick with mysterious ailments. I mean, they weren't mysterious as much as I didn't care to hear her out. I wanted comedy to fix the problem. It was my defense mechanism.
I would sit by her bed and tell her jokes. She would tell me jokes back. Here favorite? Why did Dr. Pepper come in cans and bottles?
Mothers shouldn't tell jokes like this.
Dr. Pepper came in cans and bottles because his wife died.
My mother had a dark sense of humor. It's where I got half of my humor. We'll talk about the dad jokes half of my humor later.
When I was 16, my mother was lying in bed. Jokes weren't working. She wasn't smiling or reacting, except to ask me to get her ice to eat. She liked eating ice, which, I still have no idea why. I ran to the kitchen, took too long to get her ice. She screamed "RONNY! Where are you?"
When I came back, I wasn't Ronny anymore. I bought lingerie because I thought it'd be hysterical to do a drag routine. It lasted about 20 seconds, but felt like an eternity. My mother was mortified. She demanded I never do that again. I was very confused by why my excessively liberal mother was so against something so funny. I was mortified that my mother was so mortified. But mostly I was mortified because my defense mechanism failed. I failed to make the situation better with laughter.
I spent the next bunch of years more closed off. I took to playing guitar in my bedroom, writing silly songs that very few people have ever heard. I wrote jokes that only the trash can have read. I did whatever I could to feel less sad.
My mother died on Thanksgiving day of 2005. There was nothing funny about it. That didn't stop me from making Dead Mom jokes. Twelve years later, I still tell Dead Mom jokes because it's something that she would do, too.
If nothing else, it's all just a defense mechanism. I always wanted to be funny.