The following story is true, only the events have been changed to protect me from lawsuits, brickbats, and evil curses. Names are real however, and nobody is innocent, particularly me.
I recently came across an opinion piece in a prominent state newspaper with the provocative heading, “Why isn’t Connecticut funnier?” Imagine my surprise and anger to find that it was written by a self-described humorist, from a neighboring state no less. I shall not dignify either the state or the writer by mentioning names. Take my word for it, neither are as funny as Connecticut, and when’s the last time you ever heard me lie or exaggerate? But I cannot in good conscience sit here without defending the state I’m in. (That would be Connecticut, not any of the more worrisome states I’m often accused of being in.) It is never funny to attack a state in this manner. And it certainly should never be done without first checking to see if it is armed.
Let me say this at the outset, Connecticut has been well-armed with funny people ever since those nutty colonialists laughed themselves silly listening to newcomers trying to pronounce the name they had just given their new state. Later on came Jonathan Edwards, East Windsor native and fiery revivalist preacher who was also possibly one of the first Puritans to look closely at themselves, and to understand God’s sense of humor. Even from God’s perspective it must have seemed like Jonathan came right out of Comedy Central with the way he could drop such prayers as, “God, stamp eternity on my eyeballs!” And isn’t humor all about perspective anyway? Take Nathan Hale of Coventry, who, while standing in front of a decidedly hostile audience, got off a zinger in “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” That one must have had the Tories rolling in the aisles long after they hung him.
Now most reasonable people agree that the Civil War was not a funny time. No states were at their best then. But even the estimable and usually deadly serious John Brown of Torrington had his moments. Like most Connecticutters? Connectictians? Connecticutites? John could bring the funny when needed most, as when he came through for Connecticut with his unforgettable quip, “The United States is a place where the men govern, but the women rule.” This rib tickler undoubtedly had every woman from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to the current members of NOW in hysterics as they struggled for women’s rights that weren’t dictated by men.
Jumping ahead, who can ever forget that the funniest U.S. President, George W. Bush, was born right here in New Haven. Comedians everywhere have always been envious of his material, and books have been filled with such classics as “I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully,” and “Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?” It’s almost a shame he was limited to a two-term engagement, as he seemed to be just finding his comedic groove. And while we’re in the political humor arena, otherwise known as the Major Leagues of Comedy, what about Roger Stone of Norwalk? The man not only looks like he walked straight out of a 1950s comic strip, but every time he opens his mouth, he adds laughable reinforcement to that hilarious observation from P.T. Barnum of Bethel that “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
I could go on. But for a state that’s generally viewed as merely a highway bathroom stop between New York City and Boston, I’d say we got the last laugh after we closed them. And I must disagree with the writer’s denigration of the Nutmeg State moniker. To me, it’s pure comic genius, likely thought up by the same person who had the idea of calling our State Animal the sperm whale. Just thinking about all the tourists who come here looking for tropical nutmeg trees and sperm whales is enough to make me laugh for days. Just thinking about tourists in Connecticut at all gives me quite a chuckle too.
I thought it was really hitting below the belt though to criticize the shape of Connecticut, in particular the little stubby foot that sticks into New York, as the writer says, like it’s trying to sneak onto the big stage. This little New York joke is all wrong. That stubby foot is Greenwich, and it’s where Connecticut puts its wealthiest residents, who also happen to be the most in need of humor, so that they’ll have something to laugh at. We’re considerate that way, and don’t believe that karmic laws should stand in the way of one’s equal rights to humor. To prove I’m not biased, I’ll leave it to readers to judge which state motto is funniest, New York’s “Excelsior,” or Connecticut’s “Qui Transtulit Sustinet.” Personally, I think ours is three times funnier, and I don’t even know Latin.
In conclusion, I’m quite certain the evidence shows that we have the highest humor density of all the states. I’ll mention a few funny people here just to make my case that we are well-armed indeed, and not afraid to fight back.
- Mike Reiss, Bristol: Writer and producer of “The Simpsons”
- Norman Lear, New Haven: Creator of “All in the Family” and other sitcom classics
- Seth MacFarlane, Kent: Writer and creator of “Family Guy,” and many more shows and movies that have been called hysterical, among other words
- Colin McEnroe, Hartford: Radio host and author of “Swimming Chickens”
- Regina Barreca, (Brooklyn, NY, but she wasn’t funny until she moved to Connecticut): Author of “They Used to Call Me Snow White, but I Drifted”
- Mark Twain, (OK, so he wasn’t born in Connecticut either, and in fact has been dead for many years, unless those reports of his death really are greatly exaggerated. But he also called Connecticut home. I won’t mention the other things he called it.)