“Why can’t you be serious?” I hear that all the time — from bosses, co-workers, landlords, relatives, my own children — and it’s like a dagger through my heart. You see, the fact is, I simply am not capable of being serious; there’s a reason for it, and it’s not my fault.
When I was young, I was constantly being told, “You can’t be serious!” Parents, teachers, bus drivers, barbers, store clerks — you name it, adults of every description — no matter where I went and what I said, they all told me I couldn’t be serious. It didn’t seem fair, really. A kid wants, even needs, to be serious, at least once in a while, even a kid like I was. But, for some reason I’ve never been able to discover, I’d been singled out and forbidden to be serious, a prohibition about which I was continually reminded.
I was an obedient young fellow, too, if, perhaps, a little literal. If I couldn’t be serious, then I wouldn’t be. No questions asked. Mine was not the reason why.
Thus began my lifelong commitment to lack of seriousness, and my crusade to identify and offer constructive criticism to those who suffer from the opposite problem: hyperseriousness.
In grade school and high school, I drew caricatures and wrote silly stories to poke fun at teachers and classmates who took themselves too seriously.
In college, I wrote a satire in the style of Dryden and Swift to poke fun at an English professor who took herself too seriously (and was rewarded with my first and only D).
In my twenties, I created a boardgame to poke fun at public utility officials who take themselves too seriously (Hike), founded a Mardi Gras krewe to poke fun at local officials and celebrities who take themselves too seriously (Platefaces), launched a comic strip to poke fun at Louisiana politicians who take themselves too seriously (“Paid For By”), founded a club to poke fun at admen who take themselves too seriously (The Bad Club), published a book of cartoons to poke fun at tourists who take themselves too seriously (Only in New Orleans), and published a spoof of weight-loss regimens to poke fun at dieters who take themselves too seriously (“The Dukman Diets”).
In my thirties and forties, I published hundreds of essays, articles, and limericks poking fun at politicians, pollsters, bureaucrats, judges, educators, sociologists, sexologists, environmentalists, activists, journalists, artists, and others who take themselves too seriously.
Looking back, I think maybe all those other people should have been told that they couldn’t be serious. But no, the commission went to me. And so, the crusade continues. I don’t mind, either. It’s lots of fun, seriously.