Friday, February 24, 2012

If You Can't Laugh at Yourself...

If you can't laugh at your own mistakes, do you really have any justification for enjoying the folly of others? The ability to see the humor in our own embarrassment is a skill that many of us in this self-conscious, vulnerable, defensive world lack.

But comedians, actors, politicians, and renaissance men of all variety have been perfecting this blend of humility and confidence for years. Where it may be crass and inappropriate to belittle the failings of the folks we interact with on a daily basis, there is no harm in displaying our own weaknesses, failings, and ridiculousness for all to see and publicly besmirch. It takes a real man (or woman) to laugh at their own faults and failings.

Here are a few icons of our time who have perfected the art of self-ridicule. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comment section.

William Shatner

This man has migrated from the heartthrob Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise on Star Trek to the Priceline Negotiator and beat poetry virtuoso. He realizes that his name is synonymous with ridiculous in many circles, and he has fun with it.

From his role on Boston Legal to his performance on Miss Congeniality, Shatner has embraced the silliness of Shatner.

William Shatner teaches us to not take ourselves too seriously, going where few celebrity icon's have gone before.

Chuck Norris

Yes, I'm going there. The man who began as a student of Bruce Lee and met his acting debut in The Way of the Dragon then became a household name with films such as Delta Force and the horribly written television series Walker: Texas Ranger (which I watched religiously as a child).

Then, somewhere around the turn of the century, Chuck Norris' notoriety as an actor in cheaply produced entertainment flicks reached demigod status and he became the most popular subject of ironic jokes since the chicken approached the proverbial road.

"In the eyes of a Ranger, the unsuspecting stranger had better know the truth of wrong from right. 'Cause the eyes of a ranger are upon you - any wrong you do he's gonna see. When you're in Texas, look behind you, 'cause that's where the ranger's gonna be."

Betty White

This naive Golden Girl has of late shirked her good girl facade for a more brazen, life-loving persona. Betty White was on the big screen before the troops were home from World War II, and has been working the television ever since. Recently, she's decided that, with a wink and a nod to that doe-eyed optimism of her former stereo-type, the way she wanted to be known by her fans was a more down and dirty, human version of herself. By appearing in Snickers commercials and reality TV spots, Betty White has shown a side of herself that America assumed had gone dormant long ago.

Henry Winkler

As the Fonzie - the Motorcycles riding, leather wearing tough guy, we all laughed at Winkler's antics against the backdrop of the Happy Days 1950's Diner. But as goofy as that sit-com was, The Fonze was always genuine. Then Henry Winkler bounced around TV and film, playing permutations of himself or Arthur Fonzarelli for the last few decades. A perfect example is the vapidly bizarre Barry Zuckerkorn on Arrested Development.

Anyone who can poke fun at himself as much as Winkler without "jumping the shark" is certainly a man to be respected. Anyone who can retain such beautifully sculpted hair for over forty years has to be admired.

These are just a few folks who have overcome the fallibility of their own pasts, made fun of the sub-par productions they've been a part of, and had a good laugh with their fans.

Realizing the humor in our own failures is the first step to overcoming those failures. If you scroll back through my essays on this blog, the most enjoyable will likely be the ones in which I was the butt of the joke - and I am perfectly content with that.

Laugh at yourself. Allow others to laugh at you. Then move on.


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