Sometimes comedy can be found in the most unexpected places. We all know if you’re looking for laughs nowadays, network TV sitcoms are the least likely source of humor. On the other hand, tuning into cable news shows to watch various pundits pontificate about how great either The Unlikeable Liar or The Nasty Narcissist will be as president is downright hilarious. (I am, of course, employing the “laugh to keep from crying” technique regarding this year’s election.)
I recently discovered some roll-on-the-floor comedy in a very surprising place: my junk mail. The other day I received my semi-monthly appeal for donations from Bucknell University, the college I graduated from. (Where I learned not to end a sentence with a preposition.)
Using conservative estimates, my alma mater (Latin, meaning “all-night keg party”) has spent at least $30,000 over the last three-and-a-half decades asking me to donate $500. Sometimes the fund-raising letter is from the university at large: “We urgently need your financial support to mail out another round of fund-raising letters! Won’t you please help?” Yes, I’ll help, if you first assure me the money will be used to hire a math professor who can explain to the fund-raising office that 30,000 is a slightly larger number than 500.
Other times the appeal is from the athletic department: “Bucknell is on the verge of becoming a national powerhouse in football! Won’t you please help?” Yes, I’ll help, if you first assure me the entire Ohio State University football team wants to transfer to Lewisburg, PA, and the Admissions Department has dropped all academic requirements.
And occasionally, such as with the most recent letter, the request for money is from my fraternity. I opened this letter and began to read: “Dear Brother Dunn: Remember your days at Bucknell when you joined Sigma Chi — the leadership opportunities, working with others, the spirit of community service?”
A half hour later, after I got up off the floor and changed my pants, I composed myself enough to read that sentence again. “Remember your days at Bucknell when you joined Sigma Chi…” Well, actually I DON’T remember those days, since the main reason I joined that particular fraternity was because they gave me beer 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“…the leadership opportunities, working with others, the spirit of community service?” Now, I suppose there are some college fraternities somewhere which emphasize leadership and community service (like on the planet Remulak), but when I went to school, the sole reason fraternities existed was to sidestep the legal drinking age of 21.
Back when I was in college, the movie “Animal House” hit the theaters. Having read in the newspaper that it was a comical exaggeration of fraternity life, our entire membership descended upon the Lewisburg Theater to check it out. (A day the locals affectionately refer to as “The Riot of ‘78”).
We were thoroughly unimpressed. The movie wasn’t an exaggeration. It looked like one of our more tame Tuesday night parties.
The fund-raising letter concluded with yet another comical question. “P.S. Would you be who and where you are today without the affiliation of Sigma Chi?”
Hmm, the witness protection program notwithstanding, I suspect I’d still be who I am regardless of any college affiliation. But who can really say WHERE I’d be today if I had never joined that fraternity? I might have actually studied and received good grades. I might have even entered a real profession after graduation. Whoa, I’m glad things didn’t turn out THAT way.
When I finally stopped chuckling, I grabbed my checkbook and sent a donation. I also included a small note: “Keep up the good work. The world needs more comedy/fiction writing.”