My mom is German. She was born in Germany and then my grandparents immigrated to Canada in the fifties with three kids (would have two more in Canada).

When my mom was a teenager, my grandfather would force the family to watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus with him. But it wasn’t because he enjoyed it, it was that he was trying to figure it out.

The show was very popular, and people in his workplace would talk about it. I suppose he was trying to assimilate into the culture a bit, or just figure out these Anglo sons of bitches that kept making fun of him in ways he couldn’t understand.

So, the family would watch an episode, and then my grandfather would attempt to deconstruct it to figure out why it was funny.

He was always wrong. His square-headed German aristocratic brain was incapable of getting it.

Now, his kids did understand it, but couldn’t attempt to explain it to him. First of all, how are you going to explain English absurdism to a WWII era German? Secondly, he was such an authoritarian, he wouldn’t have allowed any of his kids to usurp his authority in that way.

So they would all snicker away while he ponderously analyzed why some goofy nonsense was funny.

Years later, my dad bought my grandfather that gag gift book, “100 Years of German Humor,” that was just a bunch of blank pages.

Papa (my grandfather) didn’t get it.

“Ya, vas is zis? Ze pages, zey are all blank. Zis is a faulty printing! A joke? Nein! Das is nict gut!”

He got really incensed not at the nature of the joke, but at the wanton waste of paper.

He went on to use the gift as a notebook, filling it up with his weird, old-fashioned German handwriting. Designs for contraptions we was planning; lists; and general reminders to himself.

German humor, indeed.

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