I Miss Lewis Grizzard

Posted on September 16, 2018


Of course, I fully understand if anyone reading this column under the age of thirty or forty might exclaim, “who is Lewis Grizzard?” Perhaps this little one liner attributed to Lewis will help the memory: “Shoot low boys, –They’re Ridin’ Shetland Ponies.”

Humorists have always inhabited the American landscape. One of my favorites, Will Rogers, observed “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” So, there, I have offended half of America today by invoking Will’s sense of humor.

A homegrown Alabamian, Tallulah Bankhead, remarked that “If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.” She was into drugs, alcohol and sex, lest you moderns think you invented all three.

Other English speakers, like the great leader of his country in World War II, Winston Churchill, also had a way with words. When confronted by one famous English lady that he was disgustingly drunk, Prime Minister Churchill responded “My dear, you are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.”

I’m not sure the great wits of the past would survive in today’s world where you can offend hundreds, and thousands, and millions of sensitive souls with anything that can remotely be ascribed to sex, gender, race, religion, politics or just about any other way to categorize human behavior.

“What do two Baptists say to each other in the ABC store” Grizzard observed, “Nothing.”

Whoa there Lewis. You just offended half, or more than half, of Southern Christendom. The other half might be snickering. Which is all to say that humor used to have a market. Now it simply offends because people take themselves so very, very seriously.

And lest we pick on Southern Baptists for humor, here’s a few for your Sunday entertainment.

“For every four Episcopalians, you’re sure to find a fifth.”

How many Christians does it take to change a lightbulb?

Charismatics: Only one. Hands already in the air.

Pentecostals: Ten. One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Presbyterians: None. Lights will go on and off at predestined times.

President Trump called Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” because of how she used a scintilla of Cherokee blood to advance her career. This is not funny to her and to the legions of Americans who are loyal to the memory of American Indians, although they may never have seen one in their lives.

Grizzard no doubt could have skewered both the President and the Senator. He then would have been peremptorily fired from his newspaper job for “inappropriate” aspersions cast on two members of the noble cast of characters who direct our political world. I think of the Three Stooges as equally apt political practitioners. They were at least as entertaining as the President and the Senator are today.

Last winter I tried one bit of humor related to Thomas Jefferson, beginning with “Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and the author of the Declaration of Independence, has been banished, purged from American history.” Little did I think that so many loyal readers would take my tongue-in-cheek approach to Jefferson’s peccadillos with his black mistress, Sally Hemings, as serious. We have such a terrible record in the last few years of “fake news” that even a Lewis Grizzard might be taken seriously by modern readers.

Today Jefferson has been accused of being racially insensitive and misogyny. He had to go. How could a man who wrote “all men are created equal,” also hold slaves? And since he forgot women in his famous saying, he is a misogynist to boot. Pocahontas would have straightened him out for sure

Jefferson’s life, of course, is a lot more complicated. But don’t disturb the current crop of politicians with anything as pedestrian and boring as the facts.

I think the wit of Will Rogers inspired Grizzard.

“Congress is so strange; a man gets up to speak and says nothing, nobody listens, and then everybody disagrees.”

“We all joke about Congress, but we can’t improve on them. Have you noticed that no matter who we elect, he is just as bad as the one he replaces?”

“A Republican moves slowly. They are what we call conservatives. A conservative is a man who has plenty of money and doesn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t always have plenty of money. A Democrat is a fellow who never had any but doesn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t have some.”

Published as “Missing Lewis Grizzard,” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday Aug. 26, 2018.

Posted in: Humor