Monday, March 27, 2017

Taxes are Hilarious

Bryson stands out from the other authors we have read in class because he is the first person that is writing about his life as it is unfolding.  Previously, we have read Kasaipwalova, who did write about one instance where he dealt with some problems with cops at an airport, but this was only one moment in his life.  Sedaris, too, wrote about his personal experiences, but he did not generally have an overall theme for his book besides the comedy of growing up in his circumstances.  He did not progress through time in a linear manner, and his stories have been criticized for having too much exaggeration to be autobiographical. Sedaris also had a very distinct voice, sprinkled with self-deprecation.  Bryson examines his life through a different lens.  He is specifically writing for a British audience, but he addresses his life in a way that he is able to show a childlike wonder for the life he is returning to in America.  A fantastic example is his fascination with hotlines.  He writes, “You can call the company’s Floss Hotline twenty-four hours a day.  But here is the question: Why would you need to? I keep imagining some guy calling up and saying in an anxious voice, ‘OK, I’ve got the floss. Now what?’” (Bryson 35).  This is something that could only be thought of by someone with a very active imagination, but imagination is essential for Bryson’s form of comedy.  He adds interesting and unexpected comments to things that he personally finds interesting so that others will find them funny.
            The manner in which Bryson views the world also has an impact on his humor.  He is able to find a lot of entertaining aspects of the American experience because he maintains a somewhat whimsical outlook on his life.  In even the most mundane aspects of daily life, such as doing taxes, Bryson is able to find a way to inject humor into the situation.  In the case of doing taxes, he inserts small comments amidst a sea of pseudo-technical jargon.  For example, he says “Type all answers in ink with a number two lead pencil” (Bryson 172).  This is as completely contradictory statement that is written in the direct manner that official forms often utilize.  It is funny because it goes against the expectations that a reader would have for reading an official document.  However, it also plays on some of the existing expectations that people have for the activity.  Paying taxes is never fun, and it is often very confusing because of all of the densely worded directions.  Bryson makes small adjustments to make the directions funny while still maintaining the overall tone.  His humor focuses on the mundane and interjecting his own comical elements. 

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