My mom’s friend Kathy turns to me and says, “Did you really go to the student dentist, or did you make that up?” She was referring to a column I wrote here a few weeks ago.
She was incredulous. She assumed I was exaggerating.
I responded with, “One hundred percent true.” But then I hesitated, “I may exaggerate here or there, but it’s 98 percent true, with some artistic license.”
I gave myself some journalistic wiggle room because I strive to tell the whole truth, but sometimes I tell a story “the way I remember it,” which isn’t exactly the cold, hard facts.
I did go to the student dentist, and I did say things to him that I said I said in the column. A few weeks later, my student dentist remarked “Mike always cracks me up.” I didn’t tell him that I was a comedian or that I wrote a humor column for this fine newspaper, because I didn’t want him to know I probably could afford to go to a real dentist.
Back to Kathy: She said, “I don’t know if I could possibly let people know all of my business like that.”
I realized I am in the business of letting people know my business. Comedians and columnists reveal intimate details of their lives for sport and pleasure. I tell the stories I tell because I assume people can relate to them. I tell them because I want to share the pain and turn it into something other than pain. The funniest stories start out like a horror story that morphs into comedy. People with dentophobia (fear of dentists) were particularly frightened by my adventures at the Pitt Dental School.
Carol Burnett once said, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” It may be a small tragedy, but we can find the humor in it.
I don’t share stories from in the bedroom, mainly because nothing has happened in there in a long time. I also don’t share stories from the bathroom, except that time I mistook the Preparation H for toothpaste. Though I realized it before it went in my mouth, I did squeeze it out on to my toothbrush. The smell of shark oil, a major ingredient in Preparation H, lingered on my toothbrush for days. I had to buy a new one.
Comedians from Bill Cosby to Kathy Griffin all reveal very personal stories. They have told millions of people some intimate stuff, albeit the funniest version of their intimate stories, but intimate stories nonetheless. As a group, comedians over-share.
I don’t just tell a server in my favorite restaurant I’m having salad instead of soup. I tell the server WHY I’m having the salad instead of the soup. I tell them why I like French dressing instead of ranch (I don’t like white food, especially creamy white foods like ranch dressing and mayonnaise).
I will continue to over-share, as long as people continue to laugh. Making people laugh is way more important to me than being modest.