It seems only fitting that my column for the last month of the year will be ... my last column.
That’s right, folks. This is it—the Grand Finale, the Long Goodbye, the Last Hurrah. My editors tell me I’ve been occupying this space for 15 years, which proves how fast time flies. To me it seems like only 14. And what wonderful editors they have been, letting me write in my own style, never making me “do it their way,” patiently extending my deadlines, and only asking for revisions when it was absolutely necessary to prevent a multimillion-dollar lawsuit from putting them out of business.
They even gave me a raise beyond my already generous compensation. When I asked why, they said, “You look like you need it.” No argument there.
I have to give special mention to the fact-checkers. Take it from me—if you read it in this column, you can take it to the bank. I thought as a humorist I could just make stuff up. Who cares if it’s accurate as long as it’s funny? They care. I say Isaac Newton was born on January 3, 1643, and they say no, he was actually born three minutes after midnight, making the correct date January 4.
I quote Charles de Gaulle as saying, “How can anyone govern a nation which has 246 different kinds of cheese?” ... and they say his exact words were “that has,” not “which has.” I can’t even get smart and ask them to name the 246 French cheeses, because they would. So my hat goes off to the fact-checkers for making me appear to be what I have never been—knowledgeable.
And to my readers—many, many thanks for the emails letting me know something I wrote made you smile. You even said there was often real truth in my humor, which I take as the highest possible compliment. It’s nice to know that every once in a while I stumbled blindly into accuracy.
Of course, not everyone was amused and they, too, let me know it. It would be easy for me to retort that some people just have no sense of humor, but that would be unkind and perhaps not even true. If someone doesn’t laugh at my jokes it’s because I have failed them. I’m sure they do have a sense of humor and I missed it, and for that I apologize. I will say that calling me “about as funny as a case of shingles” might have been a tad harsh—but funny. If I’m mad at anything, it’s that—a reader being funnier than me.
To my readers—many, many thanks for the emails letting me know something I wrote made you smile.
Wanting to write the best farewell column I could, I consulted those of distinguished writers who have done the same—Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, the late Michael Gerson of The Washington Post—but they were serious people writing about serious things. I can be serious, too, but you wouldn’t want to read it, not unless you think Dostoyevsky’s House of the Dead is a laugh riot. Hence, I’ve chosen humor, as much for myself as for you, to lift my own spirits in the process of, hopefully, lifting yours. And, as the American playwright Neil Simon said when asked what it was like to write comedy, “I get to laugh first.”
I’ve learned some things along the way. For one, writing 750 words is a lot harder than writing 7,500 words. With the latter, all you have to do is type; with the former, you have to think. I don’t think well, as attested to by the many people who have said to me, “What were you thinking?!” I’ve learned that you can be funny when you don’t feel funny. As I’ve mentioned, my editors are kind and patient people, but I knew if I missed a deadline they would kill me—with kindness: “We’re not angry, John, we’re just ... disappointed.” I’ll take a firing squad over that any day. And I’ve learned that if a magazine like the Toastmaster is willing to put up with me for 15 years, maybe I’m not completely nuts after all. I owe them more than I can say. (That was serious.)
So to my editors and to you, my readers, I say, along with James Joyce, muchibus thankibus for the memories and God bless you one and all. (Joyce did say that, fact-checkers. Look it up.)
John Cadley is a former advertising copywriter, freelance writer, and musician living in Fayetteville, New York. Learn more at www.cadleys.com.