Remembering Irish humor

Published 9:46 am Wednesday, March 16, 2016

St. Patrick’s Day couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

With all the nuttiness going on in the presidential election — with the country more divided than it has been in years — we all could better ourselves by embracing the Irish spirit.

Some of the name-calling taking place reminds me of the time Pat and Mike visited an airport bar after a long flight.

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“We’d like two whiskey sours,” said Pat to the bartender.

“Sorry,” said the bartender, “but airport regulations forbid us from serving mixed drinks.”

“Who does the bartender think he is?” said an annoyed Pat to Mike. “I ought to punch him in the nose for referring to us as ‘micks.’”

It’s my great fortune to be a fellow of Irish descent. I share my good fortune with a quarter of all Americans, who can trace their heritage to the rolling, green hills of Ireland.

I remember Sunday afternoons on the back porch as my father and my Uncle Mike enjoyed a couple of Pabst Blue Ribbons and celebrated their Irish heritage by swapping self-deprecating Irish jokes.

With so many people choosing to not participate in the workforce, this one resonates:

St. Patrick walks into a pub. Donovan, McNally and Finnegan see St. Patrick and each buys him a beer. Before leaving, St. Patrick shakes Donovan’s hand. Donovan says, “My arthritis! St. Patrick, your touch has cured it!” St. Patrick shakes McNally’s hand, and McNally says, “My blind right eye! St. Patrick, you’ve cured it!” St. Patrick goes to shake Finnegan’s hand. Finnegan shouts, “Get away from me, St. Patrick. I’m on disability!”

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders promises to not only raise taxes on the wealthy, but on everyone — which will turn some otherwise fine citizens into tax avoiders. That reminds me of the time an IRS auditor paid a visit to Father O’Malley:

“Father, do you know a Jack McGinness?” asked the auditor.

“Aye,” said Father O’Malley. “He’s one of ‘me’ parishioners.”

“Did he donate $10,000 to the church?” said the auditor.

“He will,” said Father O’Malley.

I know that I’m not really “Irish,” but an American through and through. Still, in my family we celebrate the best of the Irish spirit. Being Irish means to laugh easily, never to take yourself too seriously, to be cautious of getting stuck in the narrowness of your own point of view — fine attributes that are in short supply in our country this election cycle.

We need to loosen up and relax if we really want to resolve the daunting challenges our country is facing. Which reminds me of the one about McAlister, who went to the pub one Saturday night and ordered three pints, then sipped each pint until all three were gone.

“Why don’t you just order a pitcher?” asked the bartender.

“You see,” said McAlister, “I’ve got two brothers, one in America and one in Australia. We made a vow that every Saturday night at 7 p.m., we would drink together. Right now, they are sipping three pints to pay homage to their two brothers.”

For several months, McAlister continued his tradition. But one Saturday he ordered only two pints.

“Blessed Jesus,” said the bartender, “did one of your poor brothers die?”

“The brothers are fine,” said McAlister. “But I gave up drinking for Lent.”

British academic and joke theorist Christie Davies says a good joke can help clarify and express complex feelings. A good joke can cut to the heart of the matter better than any speech or law or government policy.

These days, with all the nuttiness and disagreement going on, couldn’t we all profit by embracing the Irish sense of humor?