Time got away from me one night and I failed to turn on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Somewhere around 11:05, my cockatiel, Pete, started cackling. He made a new sound, unlike his attention-seeking squawk, and nothing close to his song whistle or speaking voice. It didn’t take long to recognize that he was mocking my laugh – the sound he usually hears during that hour. I thanked him for reminding me and turned on the television. Sometimes, since then, he laughs with me while I watch the shows. Usually, though, on the nights they are not on or if I forget to turn them on, he starts laughing around 11 and carries on until midnight.
Recently, I turned on the 10 a.m. reruns of these two shows while my grandchildren were here to see if I could get him to laugh for them. Pete wasn’t so much in the mood but I nearly doubled over laughing. The two older children rolled their eyes and dumped humoring me on the seven-year-old. She forced a pained smile once and then gave me the you must be kidding glare.
“You don’t think this is funny?” I asked.
“This is not funny.” She answered in a tone that left no room for doubt.
“It’s satire,” I told her. “Do you know what satire is?”
She gnawed on her lip, decided it was not a trick question, and shook her head.
For a second or two I thought she might be too young. But this child was born with wit and is extremely intelligent (I’m her Gramma, you must believe me) so I decided to give it a shot. I told her satire is making fun of things, literally. You take a terrible situation and make it fun. That way, people will laugh while they become more aware of the terrible situation. It beats crying and is often more effective because somewhere in the middle of the laughter, reality socks you in the gut and you don’t forget.
She looked amused with that explanation but I could tell I didn’t totally have her yet. “The thing about satire is that you have to be both intelligent and well-informed.” That did it, and I was impressed that she knew the difference.
I nodded. “No problem. You are both.”
“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” she said. “This is not funny.”
I caught her up the topic. Pointed out how the man on television told us a fact and then exaggerated it until we had to laugh. She totally got the next segment and laughed with me. (Don’t know about Pete since I focused on Tatum.)
When the shows were over, I asked if she would like to try some satire. She was unsure at first so I asked her to think of something in her life that is horrible and use that. It didn’t take long for her to come back with, “My brother hit me.”
I returned the you must be kidding glare.
“My brother hit me hard.”
“My brother hit me hard and made me bleed and my teeth fell out and I fell down.”
She got it. She really got it. Look out world; all birds will be laughing soon. At least the ones who are smart and well-informed.