Nothing can suck the laughs out of life like watching your favourite comedy movies and shows with your children.
There are few things more honest in the world than a child. Do you want to know if an outfit is working for you? Don’t ask your parent or partner, ask your kid. If a kid tells you that you look “funny” or “ugly” or “I don’t know, lumpy?” then you better go try on some new pants.
My kids are getting older now, teen and tween, and I’m hoping to share my lifelong love of some classic comedies that aren’t about animated cars driving fast and getting emotional.
But it can be a humbling thing introducing your kids to things you truly love. You hope that they’ll love it too and you can spend the rest of your days sharing that passion together, but they may just tear it to shreds and leave you in a humbled mess.
One of my favourite bands since I was a teenager on the Prairies has been the Tragically Hip, a connection that only grew with the heartbreaking death of lead singer Gord Downie.
Anyway, my kid says the Tragically Hip are the “worst band in the world,” and when I play their songs he repeats that refrain over and over until I turn the song off. There are no free passes given on compassionate grounds.
That’s why I’ve been particularly wary of introducing my favourite comedies to my boys. There’s so much at stake, I want them to laugh and love them, but you can’t force it.
And it’s not quite the same as sharing a love for The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars or the Olympic Games – those are already such overpowering cultural phenomena that they don’t require validation.
And comedies are different. Laughs are organic, they either emerge, or they don’t. I’ve introduced a few absolute favourites to my kids, to varying results. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is, to many, one of the greatest comedies of all time. Cue the French accent: “I fart in your general direction.” Outstanding.
But I watched it with my family and sure, there were some laughs, but it was mostly my wife and I leading the charge. My kids offered the odd chuckle watching middle-aged men prance around pretending to be riding horses while banging coconuts together, but they didn’t spend the next week yelling “go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!”
There is a pretty massive generational gap there. The Holy Grail was released more than 35 years before my kids were born. By comparison, a similarly aged film from my childhood would have been Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Would I have loved watching that with my parents? No chance, you English pig dog!
My kids haven’t asked to watch Monty Python again, and I’m not sure they ever will.
I tried Spaceballs. I tried Happy Gilmore. They liked them, but nothing really got them hooked. Until … The Simpsons.
I’m delighted to report that my favourite show for decades still holds up, and now I’m reliving the good old days of communicating with my boys almost solely through quotes from The Simpsons.
Anything we love now is “superb,” said in the Fat Tony New York gangster voice.
And my kid, who actually loves using a shoehorn, will never use it again without cheerily saying “shoe goes on, shoe comes off, shoes goes on, shoe comes off.”
We’re only part way through Season 3 – you can skip one and two if you like, trust me – and my boys are loving it.
I hadn’t watched an episode in years, but here I was next to my boys, trying not to cry as Flanders comes up the escalator to see that Homer has saved Ned’s Leftorium store, after nearly ruining Ned’s Leftorium store.
My kids want to watch all the episodes with me, and I can’t wait to do just that (of course shutting it down when it gets to the weird “later years” – they’re somehow still making new episodes!).
But those classic episodes from the golden years take me back to watching The Simpsons with my friends and family. My dad even taught a university course about The Simpsons, which I think explains a lot.
Anyway, I’m relieved I’ve found the one show that bridges the generations and proves that all of my aging friends and I are not weirdos whose entire lives are built on shared memories of things that are actually painfully lame. Because I was genuinely worried for a while there.
But there’s nothing to worry about, Homer and all who love him are still cool. Kids still say cool, right?
Andy Prest is the editor of the North Shore News. His humour/lifestyle column runs biweekly.