liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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FIC: History of Humor in the 20th Century (1/1; BtVS; PG-13)

Apologies. I haven't been online that much this week. RL is kicking my ass just a little. Busy at work. Busy at home.

Right now, I'm avoiding paying my bills. I'll have to pay tomorrow.

This is a strange little Faith-centric character study I've been working on since near the end of Living History. It's just a short one-shot that takes place sometime after Water Hold Me Down, but before No Myth.

It's also completely a stand-alone, so you don't have to read anything else to read this.

I needed a break from the unrelenting Water and took another look at this one. Polished it a little, and am putting it here completely un-beta'd.

The title, which is an odd one for me, actually was the title of a history class I took in college. Now, I love history, and I love good comedy. Plus, I figured, "Gut course." (translation: Easy A) Yes, it was an easy A (for me), because, like I said, loved both subjects. Plus, how can you not love a class where you pretty much watch television shows and movies?

Yet, I probably learned more in that class than in all my other history classes combined. It's very hard to explain, but there is a pattern to the kinds of humor that become popular (black humor, screwball, domestic sitcoms, etc.) and historical patterns like the state of the economy, whether a country is at war, and whether there's a dominant illness killing a significant portion of the population.

This title is the only one that fits for this particular character study, at least to me.

And like every other essay I've ever read about what makes something funny, or why something hits the funny bone, this story is not funny. That's okay, I wasn't aiming for funny.

And when I say this story is short, I mean it's shorter than a single chapter of Water.

Now pull up a chair, and imagine that Faith is talking to you.


Title: The History of Humor in the 20th Century
Author: Lizbeth Marcs
Rating: PG-13 for language
Genre: Friendship, character study, FutureFic
Pairing: None. Faith-Xander friendship.
Warnings: Spoilers for all of BtVS, post-‘Chosen.’ Slight AU from Buffy-verse canon in that all the Scoobs went to Cleveland.

Summary: Sometimes comedy can tell you something serious.




How can you not love The Honeymooners?

Yo, I’m being fucking serious here. Gleason, man, he’s the shit. He ain’t the Great One for nothing, know what I’m saying?

I always loved this fucking show, even as a kid. I’d sit there in the bad old days before cable, messin’ around with those stupid-ass bunny ears, until I could see ol’ Ralphie-boy and his crazed, bug eyes clear. Well, maybe not so much clear as it was clearer on account of the UHF snow.

I’m tellina ya, TV Land? Godsend to us freaks who dig Ralph and Alice and Ed and…well, maybe not so much Trixie, but ya can’t love ’em all.

Anyways, me and The Honeymooners had to go on a—whaddyacallit—a hiatus. I guess that’s a good way of putting it. First there was the Slayer gig, then there was the Great Escape to California, then there was prison. Not a whole lot of opportunity to check out the same episode I’d seen a bazillion times. Even forgot how much I love this shit.

But, hey, I’m kickin’ it back in Cleveland and if there’s one good thing about staying put, it’s getting reacquainted with the friends that really count. And Ralph Kramden? He counts. He counts big time.

Trust me on that.

So, anyways, I usually plop my ass on the couch after patrol, fire-up the TiVo and check out where The Honeymooners is at. I mean, check it out, we finally convinced Tweedy and my Ex that cable was a necessity. Well, actually Cyclops took the lead in that little battle, but a few of us helped and we get ourselves a fucking TiVo to go with.

Dude. Shut up. I like this one, ’kay? It’s a goddamn classic. ‘Better Living Through TV.’ Check out the face on Gleason, man. He’s got the whole brain-freeze, deer-in-headlights-look thing down.

Usually I check it out alone ’cause no one gets how fucking awesome this shit is. I think they’re scared of the blacks and the whites. I mean, when you grow up lookin’ at the little people in color, black-and-white is just weird to see, I guess. My first memory of the boob tube was crappy, snowy, black-and-white, so watching this stuff is like comfort food for the brain.

But Cyclops has been stopping and taking in the groove. He watches a bit and when Ralphie goes off, he winces. No shit. Like Gleason’s gonna reach through the screen and poke his other eye out.

During this one bit where Ralphie’s going off about something or other—the one where Alice’s mom shows up, I think. Anyways, Gleason says the golden line. You know the one I mean, right? ‘To the moon, Alice!’

Well, Cyclops turns to me and he’s all, “I don’t get it.”

Just like that. ‘I don’t get it.’ Well, gotta give him points for admitting he doesn’t get it, which is, like, heads and shoulders above the rest of these mooks.

I’m all, “Hunh?”

So he gives this weird little wave at the tube, like he’s trying to cast one of Willow’s ‘go away’ spells and he’s, “You think it’s funny, but I’m missing the funny.”

I don’t get what to say to that ’cause I can’t figure his angle. I mean, Cyclops is supposed to be the funny one, right? Maybe just when it comes to the geek shit. Sometimes I think him and Andy talk in code. Me? I just ignore ’em until they stop talking aliens.

But anways, I do the stupid thing and try to explain it, you know, ’cause on account that the mother-in-law is driving Ralphie apeshit and Alice ain’t helping any.

Weird how his face gets when he’s trying to figure something out.

Then he spouts off some politically correct bullshit, like, “He’s threatening to hit her. You realize that, right?”

Jebeezus. Sometimes I fergit that I’m surrounded by avocado-sniffin’ Californians, if you get my drift.

So I’m like, “Yeah, but he ain’t never, got it? ’Cause he totally digs Alice’s shit and he might be yelling and hollering, but at the end of the day, he ain’t gonna land a hand on her. Ralph’d stick his head in that crappy little gas oven before that happened. He loves her and that’s that. All this shit he puts up with? It’s ’cause he figures he’s the luckiest bus driver this side of the heaven.”

I can see he ain’t convinced. He doesn’t buy it when Ralph lays down that ‘Baby, you’re the greatest’ and smooches Alice into the next episode. He doesn’t see it, which I don’t get. It’s like, all he sees is Ralph huffing and puffing and shouting and he can’t get beyond it.

So he doesn’t get it. Fine and good, right? ’Cept he more often than not plops on the couch and watches with me. He doesn’t say too much. He doesn’t really laugh. Sometimes you can hear a little laugh when life kicks Ralph in the ass, but when Gleason goes a-ranting Cyclops just shuts down and looks at me ’cause I’m practically pissing my pants.

Weird, how he looks at me.

Like he’s got a fucking right to talk. He’s all about The Addams Family. Yeah, you heard me right. The Addams Family. We’re not talking the movies. Unh-unh. We’re talking the original, accept-no-substitutes, black-and-white Gomez and Morticia.

And when Morticia goes into the fake French thing and Gomez starts doing those kisses up her arm, you can see Cyclops go all gooey. I mean, what the fuck? Yeah, it’s silly. It’s maybe pointlessly cute for, what? The first ten times? But it’s kinda useless and it gets wicked old when it’s in every single goddamn episode.

So, one day, I toss it right back at him with a, “I don’t get it.”

So he goes off about how The Addams Family is, like, the perfect family, right? They’re totally into each other and they’re totally into living life to the fullest. They’re so busy having a grand ol’ time that they don’t get how out there they are. They’re this force of nature—yeah, he actually said ‘force of nature’ so I figure he’s been hanging with Tweedy a whole lot—and nothing ain’t ever gonna change ’em. All those people who freak when they get a taste of the Addams mojo? No matter what all these people say or do, ain’t ever gonna change Gomez and Morticia.

Okay, so maybe he put a little more effort into explaining than I did with The Honeymooners, like he had the speech all prepped and ready to go just in case I cared enough to ask, which is a little fucking scary now that I think about it.

So I’m like, “Hey, you wanna happy family, you wanna check out The Brady Bunch.”

He makes this face like he’s smelled a fart. Okay, I’m with him on that ’cause happy families involving a mix-n-match? Not buying either. I mean, fuck, I ain’t never seen it happen in real life. Hell, Mommy Dearest’s loser boyfriends couldn’t handle me and that’s without them dragging their kids behind them.

But me? I ain’t backing down, see? Because he just gave me the happy family bullshit. So I just sit there not saying nothin’ to see if he’ll crack.

He finally says, “Yeah, but The Brady Bunch isn’t real.”

Oh. Right. ’Cause The Addams Family is a reality show. I musta missed the disclaimer right at the beginning.

And he’s all, “C’mon, Faith. Look at it. They’re the family everyone wants. They’re cool, but they’re so cool they don’t know it. They’re so cool that people are afraid of their coolness.”

Cool? Try goofy. And then it hits me and I feel like a fucking idiot. “They totally remind you of people around here, don’t they?” I says to him.

He gives me that look like I’ve just sprouted a second and third head.

So I do the stupid thing and try to explain it. I says to him, “I mean, Cyclops, check it out. Witches, Frankenstein, disembodied hands, and whatever the hell Cousin It is. You don’t see the connection?”

Then Morticia does that fake French thing again and Gomez, right on cue, does the kissing thing again.

Cue stupid grin from Cyclops. “You don’t get it,” he says.

He’s right. I sure don’t. Then again, I don’t get him a hundred percent neither, so I guess it figures.

Still, since he’s trying to figure out The Honeymooners, I figure I can stick around and keep him company with The Addams Family since no one gets that show neither. I mean, what the hell, right? It’s not great, but it’s not terrible. Good for a few laughs when all those prissy blondes get their panties in a wad and they can’t do shit about it because the Addams are richer than they are.

Anyways, at some point we catch some of the classic other stuff, which tends to happen when you’re channel surfing. It’s kinda funny what we actually agree on. I mean, it is funny because you figure we got nothing in common on anything, let alone the funny stuff.

Okay, take The Dick Van Dyke Show. That is some funny shit. It’s got a little of something for everybody. You got the crazy-ass workplace; you got the funny family. It’s like getting two-fer, right? And that Mary Tyler Moore from before she was Mary Tyler Moore complete with the Mary Tyler Moore ’do? She can play Dick so’s he doesn’t know if he’s coming or going. She just lays the ‘Oooooooh, Rob’ down on him and he folds.

Cyclops digs Rosie, which is…I don’t know what that is, really. You figure he’d go for the pretty, but he ain’t. He goes for the broad who sounds like she’s sucking down two packs a day. Now, don’t get me wrong. Rosie’s funny as hell, but if there was a beauty contest between her an’ a bulldog, the bulldog’d win.

I gotta admit that I get a little mean thrill outta the Bossman, specially when the Ex used to stop to check out what we’re watching when it just happened to be on back before he high-tailed it to Europe to do some quality book shopping. Three guesses which character is his fave. The first two don’t count. Here’s a hint: it’s the bald guy comedian who struts his ass in front of the camera.

A couple of times we’ve stumbled across this weird little show called Burns and Allen. Yeah, that Burns. George Burns. Mr. God himself. I think the word I’m looking for is surreal. George Burns is supposed to be this guy who’s like 100 and here he is looking maybe 40. Who knew he was ever that young?

But Cyclops is all about Gracie. He don’t say nothing, but you can see he’s fascinated. Is that the right word? Not too sure actually, but fascinated is pretty damn close.

Now I think Gracie’s a ringer from Mars or something. When she gets talking it’s all confusion and everyone’s trying to figure her out ’cause she just keeps jumping the track. She’ll be talking about one thing and right in the middle of the conversation she’ll start talking about something else. Meanwhile, everyone around her’s thinking she’s talking about the first thing and wackiness happens.

I’m explaining it all retarded, but that’s about the only way I explain it.

But Cyclops, man, he totally follows where she’s going. I’m always, “Wha?” But he’s always explaining it to me and he’s always fucking dead on.

I tease him a little about it, which is funny ’cause I never thought ‘Xander’ and ‘tease’ would ever be in the same sentence after…well, you know. Which only goes to show you, right?

Anyways, I tease him about it. Just tell him that Gracie’s another dumb blonde in a long line of dumb blondes. She’s like, the Chosen One of Dipshits.

“Oh, no, no,” he says, “she’s the smartest one in the room.”

“How do ya figure that?” says I.

Cyclops warms right up to that question and says, “She knows exactly what she’s talking about and everyone’s trying to keep up. She’s not dumb at all. She’s a genius.”

Comic genius, maybe, but she’s basically playing at being a 10-watt bulb in a 60-watt light socket.

This one time we’re watching and I’m tryin’ to figure out what the fuck she’s doin’. I mean, she’s been nabbed by the mob, not entirely sure why there, and she’s talking right out of her ass. I’m all, “Are you fucking kidding me? No one’s that dumb.” So, it’s like no wonder why the dude’s confused. It’s like she thinks she’s a guest for a tea party, like it’s never crossed her pea brain that she’s been kidnapped. And…


Sorry. Just got it.

Okay, it was kinda funny.

Anyways, they let her go because she’s scrambled their brains and they don’t know if down’s up or what. I mean, she just walks outta there all clueless that they were holding her hostage and they’re so bamboozled they let her go and opt for Plan B, which seems to involve kidnapping someone else.

But anyways, Cyclops just loses it. I’m all, “Yo! Cyclops! Breathe! It was funny, but it ain’t that funny.”

I just got two words for ya: Poor George. No wonder why he spends half an episode talking to the audience. No shit. He’ll just look at the camera and just talk about the plot so far. I don’t know why it cracks my shit up, but it does. I think it’s the way he says it, all matter-of-fact and that’s-the-way-it-is. Like it’s just normal to talk to a television camera about his wack-a-loon wife and shit he should have no clue about.

So Cyclops says right outta the blue, “When I grow up, I want to be George Burns.”

The first thing that goes through my head is that there ain’t no way that’s gonna happen because Cyclops’ll probably be dead loooooong before he hits 100. But I don’t say that. See? I know when to keep my trap shut. Instead I say, “I thought you wanted to be Gomez.”

Cyclops thinks about that a bit and comes up with one of his patented weak quips with a, “Can I be the illegitimate love child of Gomez and George?”

“Not unless they start changing the biology,” I tell him.

He gives me that grin and admits that I got a point.

“So, which one would you be? And no wussing,” I push. Then I get distracted ’cause I’m pretty sure I just saw Ronnie-I-used-to-be-the-President-of-the-U.S.-of-A.-Regan clocking one of the kidnappers.

“George,” Cyclops says.

“Hunh?” I ask, on account of the fact that I got a little distracted on trying to figure out whether or not I just saw me an ex-president on an ancient sitcom filmed before a live studio audience.

“Because George is possible,” Cyclops says. “I could be George. If I was someone else and not me, I mean.”

“Like if you was the bastard son of George and Gomez?” I ask.

He shrugs and suddenly finds the carpet all interesting.

I just don’t get him. I really don’t.

More and more there’s a crowd around on the channel surfing nights. You just happen to hit a slow night.

It’s like this game, you know?

We land on this station or that, sniffing out those old shows that ain’t the way they make ’em anymore. Always blows my mind on how things are totally different. I mean, shit, some of this stuff was shown on T.V. for the first time during Tweedy’s lifetime. Hell with that, some of this shit was shown for the first time in my lifetime.

I mean, I vaguely remember crap like cassette tapes and the Walkman, but I ain’t owned one since I before I got the big yell-up to Slayerhood. It’s just fuckin’ weird to see this stuff in these shows like it’s the top of the trash heap.

Got only one thing to say to that: Ain’t no way they’ve ever seen my kick-ass cell phone.

Which kinda goes without sayin’, since now is now and then was then.

Forget it. That was just a stupid thing to say.

But there’s other mind-blowin’ things to consider, things you think wouldn’t never change, but did somehow.

Okay, take the actors, right? Seems to me the actors on all these old laugh-fests look older than what you’d expect. We’re talkin’ crow’s feet, lines on the faces, the whole nine-yards. And these are the leading guys, not the wacky neighbors.

Take Lucy, queen of I Love Lucy. Does she look 18 to you? Fuck, no. Then again, I can’t picture no 18 year-old with a boob job pullin’ off that bit where Lucy gets this job workin’ in a chocolate factory and she can’t keep up with the line so she starts shoving shit in her mouth to hide the fact that she’s in way over head.

You know that scene, right? No? C’mon. You know what I’m talkin’ ’bout, right? Don’t make me come over there and kick your scrawny ass.

Okay, forget the chocolate thing. How ’bout that Desi, hunh? I’d smack any guy who talked like that to me.

“God, why doesn’t she shove him in front of a bus?” Cyclops asked this one time while Desi made some piss-poor excuse on why Lucy can’t join him and his buds at the club.

See? Cyclops hates him, too.

I mean, Lucy’s got more talent in her fuckin’ pinky than Desi’s got in his entire body, so you’d think he’d be all over that action. Plus, you can never underestimate the good in screwing backstage after the band takes the final bow at the club. So I figure Desi’s got some ass on the side that he don’t want wifey-poo to find out about.

Unh, not that they’d show that kind of real-life shit in that black-and-white world. I’m just guessin’ here.

Okay, here’s an observational thing that won’t make me look like I’ve bought a one-way ticket to Dweebville on Andy’s short bus. Take the “hot chicks.”

No. I mean it. Think about it.

The women actually have fuckin’ tits and ass.

When was the last time you saw real tits and ass on a chick on the tube who wasn’t the butt of fat jokes? Seriously. Gimme one name.

I mean, check it out. TV Land has a total hard-on for Three’s Company. There’s ol’ Chrissy, right? The blonde bimbo bombshell. She ain’t what I’d call fat, but stand her next to, I dunno, the cast of Friends—another stop in the channel surfing game—and she looks like a baby hippo.

Then again, I look like a fucking baby hippo next to the cast of Friends.

But that Chrissy. I mean, her tits are real. You can tell because they bounce along with her. It’s hypnotic. Those t-shirts don’t help neither.

I mean, did they keep that set frigid or what? You can even check out her nips in some shots.

I mean, hell, our limited male contingent (barring Andy-boy) think she’s hot. Cyclops drools, which, hey, good on him for not fearing to show that the dick still works. The Ex back when he was around would get this peaceful-like grin on his face when Chrissy jiggled her way across the set. Tweedy blushes his ass off and mumbles how the English version was so much better than the jiggle-fest it ain’t even funny, not that Tweedy’s eyes ain’t glued to the screen when Chrissy’s doin’ jumpin’ jacks, right?

Still, it’s mindless fun. Unless you ask B. Jack just skeeves her out somethin’ fierce. And Cyclops and Willow are always makin’ killer robot jokes if B’s in the room during Three’s Company.

I ain’t gonna ask.

Nope. Don’t wanna know.

Unh-unh. It’s just a stupid Scooby in-joke. Members-only bullshit.

Besides, Cyclops will tell me what that’s about when I ask him on patrol tomorrow night.

Not that I plan on askin’.

I’m just sayin’ if I ask, that’s all.

Stop lookin’ at me like that.

Anyways, people ’round the Mother House have started coughin’ up some DVDs to go with the random channel jumpin’. Not as much fun as finding a late-night thing, but can be interesting.

Like, how’s about some classic Looney Tunes. Heh. I don’t remember thinkin’ that Tweety was a little sadist when I’d catch these as a kid, but that yellow bird ain’t no bird. Demon, maybe, but no bird.

Just the same, though, there’s still some shit in those cartoons that’d make you cringe your ass off. Like, how they draw people that ain’t lily white. Okay, not sayin’ the Elmer is a looker, but beats some of the portraits of people in Africa. I mean, I ain’t exactly what you’d call a conductor on the PC train, but I just fuckin’ cringe when I see it. If the Ex was in the room, I wanted to hide under the couch.

But still, in six minutes flat, you’re on to the next toon and all is forgiven when Bugs beats the bad guys one more time, Daffy pitches an epic tantrum, and the Coyote kicks his own ass.

This one set one of the girls got for Christmas, Sledge Hammer. Now that shit was just weird with a capital weird, know what I’m sayin’? Funny as all hell. We kept goin’ round for days sayin’, “Trust me, I know what I’m doing,” complete with the deep voices and swagger.

Although Cyclops sure didn’t appreciate it when we said it while he was tryin’ to unclog the sink and got a face full of sludge when he accidentally broke a pipe and had to call in a plumber on a Sunday.

I mean, we was diggin’ the show until the last five minutes of the last episode on the last DVD in the set when Sledge decides to disarm a nuclear bomb.

Of course it goes off.

Of course the city turns into a crater.

Cue the crickets chirping.

I suppose it’s one of those things that’s funny until it happens to you.

So, now Sledge is on the unspoken banned list. Which is kinda too bad. The rest of it was stupid funny. Maybe I’ll watch it again when I stop havin’ that nightmare about missing the bus ride outta Sunndale with me chasing after the bus and the town fallin’ down ’round my ears.

I figure that’ll happen 50 years from now. If I live that long.

Sledge Hammer aside, there’s something, I dunno, comforting about it all. I mean, I used to imagine havin’ that happy kinda life of strollin’ in from some rich bitch job where I stood around all day and flashed the bling and plopping my ass down in front of the tube to watch me some mindless sitcom. Sometimes it’d be just me chillin’ in my crib, but sometimes I’d be surrounded by people who’d be watchin’ and laughin’ along with me.

Okay, so I don’t got me a rich bitch job, and I don’t got me no bling. And the crib ain’t so much mine as it is ‘ours.’ And sometimes I just wanna chill alone and I’ve got people crowding my ass on the couch.

But sometimes it’s kinda nice to have people watchin’ and laughin’ along with me, even if they don’t always get what they’re laughin’ at.

Hunh. Yeah. Guess it is funny how it sometimes works out.

And I mean funny in both senses of the word.

So, anyways, this thing the other night. Yeah. I know it sounds like hairy shit, but just another day at the office.

I’m bein’ serious here. You wanna join Team Slay, you gotta get used to it. Stakin’ vamps? Another day at the office. Trying to avert an apocalypse? Holiday shopping season on account that you’re busy, but you know it’ll cool down if you survive the fireworks. Fighting during an apocalypse? Now that’s a classic hairy situation.

See the difference?

You will.

Anyways, me ’n Cyclops were takin’ out some of the newbies, y’know? Givin’ them the $10 tour of some dicey neighborhood. These were girls we picked up post-SunnyD, so they ain’t seen much in the way of Slayin’.

Of course we run into a pack of bumpy uglies who’ve got this ‘my buddy’s hurt, can you help me stop the bleeding’ schtick. I mean, Jesus people! Offer to whip out the cell and call an ambulance. Do not follow a stranger into a dark fucking alley so you can help. No common sense, I swear to god.

Anyways, we gotta go in, ’cause you just can’t turn your back on people getting murdered. I mean, you can, but you don’t wanna be goin’ down that pickin’ and chosin’ road like you get to decide who lives and dies, right?

Just trust me on that.

So, Cyclops has the crossbow ready—he’s gotten pretty good at hiding that thing under this long coat he has. Looks like he’s got a hunchback, but what can ya do? And I go in with stakes out. We keep the newbies back and tell ’em to just watch.

So, bing-bam-boom. Cyclops nails three in short order and I smack around the other three. Instant dust shower.

Maybe not so instant, but we got them before they got someone else.

So, there’s the girls all ‘ooohing’ and ‘ahhhing’ over the awesome that is us. Cyclops takes a little bow and I do a little victory dance.

Yeah. I know. I was showin’ off.

So, anyways, we decide we’ll just continue the tour, but keep our eyes peeled because maybe the local vamps are bein’ frisky. Make no mistake, what our little group was doin’ risky. Vamps got a pretty keen sense of self-preservation and they know better than to pull a scam in a public place with us in town.

Says to me they’re gettin’ desperate. This could be a good or bad thing. We’ll see.

So, where was I? Oh, yeah.

We walk out of the alley and I trip over some shit. Grace in the flesh, that’s me. Way to blow my cool performance in front of the newbies.

So I stumble a bit because I wasn’t paying attention and Cylops reaches out and grabs me before I go facedown on the pavement and mess my hair. I kinda pull away ’cause he took me by surprise. I mean, that was fast catch, y’know? Cyclops is usually the klutz, but it was a smooth move on his part.

Anyways, he just gives me a nod like it’s all cool and lets me go.

I don’t know why I did it, but I held out my arm and tossed some bad Morticia French at him with an, “Enchante.”

The smile on his face just came outta nowhere. Not one of those grins of his, but one of those full-on, light-up-the-face, someone’s-home-and-heard-you smiles that you could get addicted to seeing if you let it get to you.

He grabs hold of my limp hand hangin’ out there and for a second I think he’s gonna pull a goofy Gomez on me.


“Baby,” he gruffs up his voice like he’s channeling the Great One himself, “you’re the greatest.”






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