Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Learned Laughter

What Did You Learn About Funny from Your Family?

© 2015 by Joyce Mason

What hanging out with my funny Mom felt like.

I thought we’d close Humor Month with a reflection on what you’ve learned about funny from your family.

In addition to a humor style suggested by your natal chart, your parents’ funny bones influence yours profoundly. It’s like your natal chart is your laughter DNA, but your parents’ charts (and those of siblings or other live-in relatives) constitute your humor environment. Even though you come from the same family, you may be wired differently for funny. It might have been easy or difficult to develop your true sense of humor, depending on how your humor signature fits theirs. There are aspects of your “home humor” that you might want to keep—others that you may be happy to trash. For instance, in one branch of my family (luckily not immediate), snarky and rather mean-spirited humor is a mainstay. I’d trash that in a heartbeat.

But first, I recommend forgetting the astrology of it all and just taking a journey back in time to your family’s overall humor style and the most hilarious moments that stand out in your memory. There’s a reason for starting on Earth before tapping the sky. We often get too much into our heads during Astro-analysis. It’s much easier to count on our visceral memories to hand us the highlights. Then we can look at where our family humor lies astrologically and what parts of it are keepers or tossers. I’ll model the exercise to show what I mean.

One of the most sterling qualities my mom possessed was her ability to laugh at herself. She taught me not to take myself too seriously. Later, when I found my birth mother, I realized that learning to laugh at myself is something I would have never experienced in my biological family. My birth mom took herself way too seriously, and she rarely lightened up to see the ironies in her behavior and the funniest aspects of her foibles.

My mom taught me how to laugh at myself. My dad taught me timing and how to insert dry wit into just the right pause in a conversation.

My dad, on the other hand, had a sense of timing that was just uncanny. He used it to insert his dry-wit comments into a conversation into just the right pause. Sometimes he was so funny; I still laugh out loud at some of his most memorable comedic moments. His humor was as understated as my mom’s was exaggerated.

Mom Humor. There were other hallmarks of my parents’ humor. My mom was deaf in one ear and refused to wear her hearing aid. Therefore, she heard things in a very original way. The result was non-stop malapropisms. If you’re old enough to know my references, think Norm Crosby or Archie Bunker. She misconstrued her words because she was repeating them the way she heard them—garbled.

One of my faves was when we were on vacation in Wisconsin, back in the days of roadside burn barrels at rest stops. After our picnic lunch, she told my dad to throw the garbage in that “insinuator.” She thought I went to university on a college “canvas” and that my cousin took up “scoop diving.” When aggravated with my niece’s pediatrician, Mom declared, These damn doctors take their oats under false pretenses. I wondered if they also took their hay.

It ran in her family. My Aunt Ginny, mom’s sister, thought the stream that ran through town was a “cricket” and that the great dancer’s name was Fred Aster. Uncle Finny, Mom’s brother, wanted a Buke and a bunk in Skoke. (Translation: a Buick and a bungalow in Skokie, a suburb of Chicago.) He still talked 50 years later like he just got off the boat from Italy.

When pearls of this original lingo dropped into the conversation, they often caused paroxysms of laughter. Mom would laugh with us, not wanting to miss the fun and not getting insulted that we found her “off” words amusing. It was hopeless to tell her the correct pronunciation of the word she was trying to approximate. It would just come out with a new twist next time. The King became a phenomenon when my sisters and I were broaching our early teens. Mom thought his name was Elvie, and she was always telling us to turn down the rock ‘n’ roll—but she called it bing, bang, boom.

Mom usually overreacted to things. Hard telling what to blame for that. Plenty of planets in Scorpio, an Aries Moon and being 100% Italian are all contenders. It was so easy to get a rise out of her; it’s a good thing she could take a joke and laugh at herself. Teenage friends of the family were forever pranking her. My favorite family mischief was blowing up a picture of her into a poster. She was wearing a huge sombrero, playing her nephew’s guitar, hiked on her knee resting on a footstool, after she had sniffed a cork and was quite tipsy. (That’s all it took.) We pinned it to the sheers on Christmas Eve. After all the presents were opened, we had the “unveiling.” We drew the outer curtains open, and I can still remember how she jumped back and hollered, “Where the hell did you get that thing! How did you make it so big?” Within seconds she was laughing with everyone else, getting the audience perspective on her Kodak moment. She was priceless.

One of my earliest memories of Mom Meets Malapropism is not one I recall consciously but via a story she told countless times during my life. Both my parents were gismo junkies. If some new do-dad promised to make life easier, they were first in line to get one. Naturally, our family was an early owner of one of the original black-and-white televisions. When flipping through the three grainy channels that existed in the late 1940s, I apparently saw “How-Do-Ya-Doody” and got so excited; I stood on my head. I was about a year and a half old. Considering that back then “doody” was a euphemism for #2 (maybe still?), I think we’re back to my last post, Looking for Laughs in Your Natal Jupiter, and one of the least desirable expressions of my Jupiter in Scorpio.

Dad Humor.  I’ll share two stories from Dad’s Greatest Lines, and I think you’ll get the whole picture. Aunt Ginny was a very large-busted woman who would strike a movie starlet pose, shoulders back and chest popping, every time someone mentioned an interesting (or especially available) man. She was a divorcee on the hunt who had a special interest in doctors.

Some handsome man came up at the dinner table one weekend, and Ginny said, “Oh, yeah?” begging to hear more. Her kneejerk, bra-size inflating gesture was more pronounced than usual. After two beats, Dad said, “You’d better be careful, Ginny. If one of those gets loose; it’ll kill us all.”

Then there was the time as adults that our entire family was into tropical fish. We were at my brother Don’s apartment, waiting for him to put the finishing touches on getting ready so we could all go out to dinner. Mom was scrutinizing his fish tank. She noticed more than one plecostomus and several other ground-eater fish. In her typical dramatic tone, as though the thought was truly offensive, she said to my dad (as if he should do something about it), “Why does he have so many catfish?”

Two beats. “One does floors; the others do windows.”

Parental Jupiters and Other Astro Stuff.  I suspect Mom’s ability to laugh at herself is a product of her Jupiter in Sag trine North Node in Aries. She also had Aries Moon (wide trine). If learning about Self was part of her mission this time ‘round (1912-1980), having Jupiter stoking that continuously would surely result in a good sense of humor about herself.

Dad’s Jupiter was in Scorpio, conjunct my Chiron by less than a degree. (The chart interactions between me and my adoptive parents are uncanny, starting with Dad’s Venus within seconds of my Sun.) Certainly, the Aunt Ginny improv was Scorpionic humor at its best—and the aquarium joke proves he knew, intuitively, that he had his humorous in a water sign.

What made mom malaprop is up for grabs from an astrological perspective, but I tend to think it has something to do with the out-of-sign trine of Neptune to her Moon (26 Cancer to 1 Aries). Neptune confuses, and if she couldn’t hear well, she was feeling her way through a lot of conversations. No wonder they sometimes came out like someone trying to talk underwater—while scoop diving.

Parent-Child Humor Mix. Obviously, I developed a sense of humor much like my dad’s since we share the same Jupiter sign. We also both have planets in Virgo (Sun for me, Venus and Mercury for him). That tends to sharpen wordplay, words being the medium Virgo loves. Lastly, he’s got a lot of Saturn aspects and I have Cap Moon. There’s the tune-in to timing. I resonated to his humor for all kinds of astrological reasons. He was a lovable double Leo that a Saturn square subdued but did not conquer. He still managed to be the King of Hearts, despite being surrounded by women—even female pets. His rule was subtle and there’d be no missing his solar and lunar warmth.

I’ve never been as naturally adept as my mom at laughing at myself (genetics there from birth mom?), though I get better at it with every passing year. The lightness of Marymom’s Sag humorous gave me something to strive for to counterbalance my Jupiter in Scorpio that can go dark easily. The fact that the hallmark of Mom’s humor involved words—I wouldn’t call it wordplay, more like wordkill—endeared her to me. I often say I became a writer to protect the words she mangled.

Your Turn.  As I’m sure you can see, this exercise is really entertaining and can tell you a lot about your family’s sense of humor and how you fit into the dynamic of it—or don’t. Like everything in life, becoming our authentic self is still the most important yet most difficult thing we can do. This goes for your sense of humor, too.

As a finishing touch to this conversation, think about a catchphrase you’d use—a few words—to describe your unique brand of humor. I’ve been using mine for some time to describe my writing, but it also applies to my humorous. I call my trademark depth insights with humor.


Photo Credit: © Matthew Cole -


I had no intention of writing two new articles this month in the middle of our Radical Reposts. There are few things I love more than humor, and it surprises me that I always have something more to say about it. I’ll always make time for laugh therapy.

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