We’ve convinced Baron H, our only undead blogger (we actually believe he’s unique anywhere on the internet…), to allow us to use this piece for Classically Educated. Needless to say, we enjoyed this one almost as much as we liked the one on party eras (BTW, we’re cooking up a second party era post – the Baron has been telling us stories of ancient times again)! His topic today is humor… but we won’t go with the obvious “gallows humor” theme, of course. We’re much too mature for that.
Every time I talk about humor, I’m asked whether an ancient vampire really ought to be broaching the subject. After all, there are few things less funny than a monster who eats people unapologetically.
This is simply untrue. Being alive (or undead if you prefer) for so long means that the centuries can seriously drag if you don’tmanage to find something to laugh about. In addition to this, vampires tend to be brilliant (evil, of course, but brilliant), and a lack of humor has always been the hallmark of the weak-minded and insecure. One might almost say that it is an exclusively human trait.
There are some groups – particularly militant groups in extremist causes (or, even worse, causes that are “just”) – who seem to be unable to spot the fact that they have, through the spewing of rhetoric, become caricatues of themselves. We all know who they are in today’s world, and I’m not going to turn this into a fight about specific issues, but I was extremely well-placed to watch them in earlier ages.
So, without further ado, I give you the five people (or groups) with the least sense of humor in recent history:
5) The Temperance Movement in the United States. I was already ensconced within my Park-view apartment in the years before Prohibition was enacted, so I was able to observe first hand the behavior of the members of the Temperance Movement. There is a strong temptation to say that this movement was made up of dry, dusty old bats, but – being a vampire – I have too much respect for bats.
Let’s just say that these are the old maids and parish preachers who created the template for activism in the US, and are probably responsible for keeping alive the tradition that people can only be completely right or completely wrong, and those in the wrong are to be vilified.
Despite being completely ridiculous (a free country under Islamic prohibition of alcohol?), they were completely unable to see the humor in their actions. They were clearly people who needed a drink.
4) Catherine the Great. Most of my time in Russia was spent in the years just before and during her rule. Russia is something of a humorless place at the best of times, but things got a bit extreme when Catherine was on the throne.
The main issue is that the one thing we all wanted to do is to publish an anthology of jokes about the fact that she’d deposed her own husband to gain the throne. Some of the jokes were classics, all of them were off-color, many were about the horse, and poor Peter III did not come out of them looking good (of course, he’d been killed in the deposing, but that just made it better). If Catherine had had any sense at all, she could have secured her legacy by allowing these volumes to be printed.
Or perhaps, if Peter was really that bad in bed, she should have agreed to marriage counseling.
3) Benito Mussolini. After the passing of the eighteenth amendment, I moved back to Europe, just in time to watch the ascension of fascism across the continent. While that kind of thing was natural enough among the orderly Germanic tribes, or plodding agrarian Spaniards, it simply did not work for Italians.
Italians, you see, are not fascists. They are not communists. They really don’t care about politics one way or the other. They care about wine and seafood and sun and love.
So picture poor Mussolini. Here he was with a shiny new dictatorship, trying to convince people to wear khaki shorts and march in lockstep, and here was everyone else, worrying about cars and olive oil. Not a situation designed to make him feel secure on his throne, and one that completely robbed him of any sense of humor. I don’t think he wanted to get involved in the war, but was unable to stand it when the Germans laughed at him because he didn’t have a Poland to play with.
It’s always possible, however, that he was just tired of people making fun of his pants.
2) Joseph Stalin. Same war, opposite band, and yet another Russian who had a complete inability to laugh at himself. Find an old photo of the man and look at that mustache.
Did you laugh? Of course you did. So did I. It’s impossible not to laugh at that mustache.
He sent me to Siberia for it. In winter. There were three entire Gulags filled only with men and women who’d been unable to control their mirth at the lip foliage.
Which brings us, finally, to…
This one is personal.
Torquemada is my big disappointment of the list. He had so much potential, so much to live for. Some of his methods were new to the world, of a cruelty I had never seen in all my centuries. He was my one true friend among the people on this list, and one of the few mortals I (or any vampire) could truly learn from and admire.
But just when I thought he was a force to be reckoned with, he showed an apalling lack of a sense of humor. It so happened that, after a long night of gambling for alcoholic forfeits with his undertorturers, a sinister group of hooded men who would have been excellent poker players (the hoods made it impossible to read their tells), we decided to set fire to Torquemada’s carriage, drive it around the complex and then sink it in the moat.
Anyone with an ounce of humor would, eventually have realized that it was hilarious, wouldn’t he?
Oh, well. As far as I know, I’m still considered a fugitive from the inquisition. The humor of it is that, in this case, everything they’re accusing me of – and much more – is completely true.
So, I’ll see you soon,