You Blithering Idiot
“Is it the cheese? Is it too thick?” My father asked across the table to his eldest brother, as he chuckled to himself.
I was on the couch in the living room. I turned around and kneeled so I could peer directly into the kitchen, and catch this exchange. My uncle sat at the table eating the pizza we ordered, and he appeared to be choking.
My father asked the obvious, “Are you choking? Why aren’t you answering?” All the while poor uncle Rick flailed around, red faced, and pointed several times to his neck.
My head whipped back and forth not knowing where to look or what to do, so I stayed put. I was hysterically laughing now, as my dad kept repeating the same things. After what felt like forever and one last “too thick?” my uncle coughed and the cheese flew out of his mouth, and onto the table as he gasped for air. He started screaming obscenities at my father, as him and I were now in tears laughing.
There is a slight possibility I peed myself, but that’s neither here nor there.
As an outsider you’re probably thinking, holy shit what monsters! Let me tell you, this is very on brand for the Broch family. We are a squad of hecklers, and express our emotions by being awful to one another. We wouldn’t have actually let him choke and die, I don’t think.
My “white side,” as I like to call them, are not the most emotional people. We don’t hug, we aren’t gushing over one another, we most certainly don’t kiss on the mouth (I’m talking to you Hispanic grandparents).
In fact, when I say “I love you” to my Dad it is the most awkward of exchanges. Not because I don’t love him, just because it wasn’t something we said when I was growing up. It almost feels sarcastic in a way. Which in actuality makes sense due to our family dynamic, as comedy runs in our blood.
It takes thick skin, and quick wit to be around comics. For this reason it was almost impossible to bully me when I was younger, and or one up me in a comedic exchange. My nickname as a child was Dipshit (thanks Gramps), and I was constantly called a blithering idiot by my Dad.
I was far from an idiot, but this was our translation of silly goose or something similar. I came to use these names as terms of endearment. The more I make fun of you, the more I like you.
I was exposed to a plethora of work by Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Carrey at a young age. I studied how they interacted with others, and took note of their ability to transform a room with a simple phrase or statement. Two very different comedians, with a common goal of producing a laugh through the art of perception.
Jerry reminded me of my Dad, with his ability to turn a very normal situation into a hilarious story. My father was one of 6 kids, 3 girls and 3 boys. As one of the youngest of the Brady Bunch Michigan Edition, he was an entertainer. He possessed good looks and charm, and people wanted to listen to what he had to say.
He was an excellent liar, and would even trick his older siblings into doing his chores for him. If I had 5 other siblings I may have to keep myself sane by teasing and pranking them every chance I could as well. He was much smaller than his older brothers, so he had to figure out creative ways to make them miserable. Without being able to use force, he had to be cunning and witty.
He created suspense up to something so calmly, before pulling out all the stops and theatrics for the “meat” of the tale. This shot the believability score straight up. Often his stories weren’t even that interesting, but it was the way he embellished and acted them out that made them so unforgettable.
As an adult he is one of the most impatient and irritable people I have ever met. He uses his annoyance as a tool for laughter. Somehow a trip to Meijer to get my requested special list of foods, could quickly translate to an adventure through the depths of hell upon his arrival home. I can see him huffing and puffing now, preparing to launch into his experience with “Well I’ll tell ya what…”
He passed down his bad luck to yours truly, and for this I am grateful and also spiteful. To this day whenever something strange happens to me, I relish in the fact that I get to transform the occurrence into a great story. Comedians have a gift of finding whatever is off or strange about something, and speak to it in a way that doesn’t just sound like they are complaining. My dad was always upset about something or someone, and I quite enjoyed laughing at his misfortunes.
One of my favorite activities when I was a kid was to annoy the living hell out of him, and watch him get angry. I would purposely do things he hated, and then pretend I wasn’t aware he hated them. I recently told him of how I would ram the shopping cart at his heels at the grocery store, and then innocently say I wasn’t looking where I was going.
He was less than pleased, but I still think it’s a knee slapper. There is something funny about people getting hurt, even if you know it sucks for them.
In comparison, Jim Carrey reminded me of my Grandpa. He went by Dick, which is the last nickname one should choose (let’s just stick with Rick, alright Richard?) I wasn’t aware at the time of why it was a ridiculous nickname, but I knew for some odd reason it seemed to fit him quite perfectly.
He was a tall man, with permanently redish skin from hours in the sun, and years of a beer glued to his hand. He had a large gut, big enough for me to sit on as a baby. He never lost his blondish hair, which he combed over or covered with a trucker hat. I loved to play with his comb over, and push it in the opposite direction until it stood straight up on end.
He walked with a limp as he had a bad foot, and to this day I have no idea how the foot came to be this way. He once told me it was shot in a police accident, but I knew he was never an officer. He told me he got gangrene in the war, but I knew he was never in the service. He told me a shark mangled it, but I wasn’t sure if he had ever swam in the ocean. His stories were so intricate, they were hard not to believe. This must be where my dad got it from.
He had a special chair and ottoman he propped his bad foot up on to rest, and I was very possessive of this chair. If any of my cousins sat in it, I yelled at them to get out as it was “Gramp’s Throne.” He was the only one who could sit there.
When I was little, I found him to be such a silly guy. I always felt a slap happy euphoria the days I was fortunate enough to spend with him. The comedians of his past had variety shows, and that’s exactly what everyday with him felt like. He was a different character every hour, and I couldn’t get enough. He taught me that you didn’t have to be just one person, that I could have multifaceted personalities. That is was ok to simply just be me, no matter what that meant.
On our Sunday gatherings at the lake house I studied my family, and learned how to read a room. Each member had their own specialty, something that was sure to get a chuckle or two. Similar to Jim Carrey, my Gramps had a voice of singsong rhythms and cadences. He would sing the alphabet to us, and I would bust out laughing at the delivery. He often made up his own songs, or tweaked nursery rhymes to become more funny or twisted.
Whenever we went anywhere together, he had a way of making everyone love him. Even when genuinely insulting someone, they thought he was kidding. A trait he so kindly passed down to me, along with many others. I was a doting student absorbing any information I could from my favorite teacher. Although his life was cut short, I still feel his spirit every time I’m not taking myself too seriously. To this day when I visit the lake house I see him in his chair, and having anyone else sit in it feels wrong.
I wondered at what point in my life did these two men become so influential? I was surprised to find the roots trace all the way back to elementary school.
In first grade I attended Catholic school. We were given a sheet of favorites to fill out. The idea was to get to know one another based on our childish likes, without the knowledge that these “favs” would change on a weekly basis. I’ve never despised an outfit more than the uniform I was forced to wear, and best believe navy was not listed as my favorite color. It was unclear why I attended this place, as from what I could tell none of the men in my family believed in this man of mystery “God.”
My Grandpa did all he could to stay out of the church, and my Dad on numerous occasions exclaimed that he couldn’t be real for various reasons. “If there was a God, why would he…?” His reasoning sounded logical enough. It was pretty apparent Catholic school was not a good fit, now let’s see if my favorites give us any clues.
- Favorite Color: Blue (but what about all that navy talk? Navy is an embarrassment to all the other blue shades, and should be disowned)
- Favorite Game: Hide and Go Seek (which my grandpa would play with me, but purposely not come find me)
- Favorite Show: The Simpsons
- Favorite Movie: Dumb & Dumber (these two my mother was not jazzed about)
- Favorite Sport: Swimming (specifically with my grandpa at the lake)
- Favorite Song: Cat Scratch Fever (my dad constantly played)
- Favorite Book: Where the Sidewalk Ends (my gramps and I used to write poems together)
- Favorite Animal: A Manatee (my grandpa gave me a stuffed one, & we even cut off it’s whiskers so he didn’t scratch me when I snuggled him)
- Favorite Food: Tacos or my grandpa’s Scrambled Eggs (definitely not grandma’s)
As they say, “the proof is in the pudding.” Which by the way, I need a tangent on this before moving on. Does anyone really know what the fuck is in the pudding we eat? I have lived alone for over 10 years, and I have not one clue what the hell pudding actually is. All I know is that it comes in a box, it’s cheap as all hell, white people put it in fruit salads often, and Southern people call one another it.
Now that we have established I’m not sure what proof comes from any pudding, this list is very telling. It’s an important time of growth in a child’s life, and says a lot about who they will be. From the jump I was considered somewhat of a “tomboy,” due to resisting many gender roles of a little girl. The people I looked up to, and wanted to be like were primarily men. In the early 90s the women’s empowerment movement wasn’t very strong, and the roles I saw women taking were not necessarily ones I desired.
Within my favorites you can see a sense of adventure, humor beyond my years, and an interest in art. I didn’t love things for their popularity, or because I felt I had to. I loved them because I felt they were a part of me, and helped me express my individuality.
I dreamed of being an entertainer, making a lot of money, and leaving my mark on the world. I didn’t dream of being a wife and a mom, and or having a husband who could provide all of these things I longed for. In many ways I’m fortunate that I was inspired by these men, or I may not be at the place I am today.
I believe comedy transcends age, gender, race, and every other thing that makes humans different from one another. Every generation has diverse experiences, but it’s the familiarity with a situation that makes jokes funny to you or I. The relatability and the frustrations that we commonly share bring us together.
Something as simple as not knowing what the hell is in pudding may be funny to you, or perhaps you read that and wanted me to stop rambling. I’m still crossing my fingers you can tell me the magical parts of that powder.
This sense of humor will most likely always be a part of my families DNA. Someday I would like to be the originator of the “Mom Joke.” Generally Mom’s aren’t as corny as Dad’s, and tend to be more inventive. I find it only natural these jokes should exist. No, “Your Momma” jokes don’t count, and prove we really should be nicer to our Momma’s.
In the past 10 years or so, the flicker of mischief has gone a bit from my Father’s eyes. It may be due to my age, perhaps it was easier to banter with a younger me. Maybe he’s more settled in life, and happiness has stifled the material. Comedians are generally known as the most unsettled and depressed people within their art form.
I live across the country now, so I’d say our relationship has become a business of keeping in touch. If nothing else, I hope the knowledge of how influential and comedic his personality was to me, sparks the match to light his fire. Ever since he read this chapter, I notice he tries to incorporate a bit of humor back into our convos. Someday I picture him with my precocious child, showing them the ropes of comedy as his father did for me.
My father and grandfather exuded confidence and always appeared to be unapologetically themselves. It goes without saying that this attitude is much harder to achieve as a woman, without being perceived in a negative way. I’m hoping someday the stigma of “acting like a man” won’t exist, and we can break barriers to become gender neutral.
As an adult, I realize what I perceived of my father figures then, is very different from how I perceive them now. I know my dad has sorrow, grief, and insecurities just as we all do. I know my gramps went through the stress of raising such a large family, and the pain of the cancer that eventually took his life. We have the light of comedy to pull us out of any darkness. Without it, I don’t know where my anxiety or depression would have taken me.
I deflect questions about what’s actually going on in my head with humor. I make light of situations that are keeping me up at night ridden with anxiety. I change the subject if I don’t want to comment on it. I don’t want to bring you down with my issues.
Sober K. can lock it in, but drunk K. can not. I often wonder why so many comedians have drinking and substance abuse problems? Is it an attempt at being real, and not hiding behind a punch line? While intoxicated my inhibitions are down, and sometimes it’s easier for me to share. After twisting my memories into funny stories I can look back, and laugh at them. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My method of expression is never going to be “ladylike,” and I’m not here to baby anyone’s feelings. I’m a tell it like it is, make a joke out of my pain kind of human. My intentions are good, even if my words sound harsh to some.
My greatest hope is that with every story I tell, or pun I deliver, I am able to put some joy back into someone’s life or day. These tales are my legacy, and the feeling people get when surrounded by me are all apart of my journey. If you’re lucky enough to be seen by me in the highest of regards, someday I may just call you a blithering idiot.