No Laughing Matter

by Joseph Grant

In the entire world, there was never quite as serious a man as Bernard Strange; if someone at work told a joke, he wouldn’t crack a smile or even be polite enough to say “That’s not funny," he would just dryly mutter: “That’s not material.” As he found nothing funny, because his life was a serious business and one time when he was introduced to a new co-worker, the new arrival mistakenly called him “Bernie” and was sternly corrected by Bernard as he tried to control his blood pressure with a tight-lipped: “It’s Bernard and only Bernard, if you please.” Work was his preoccupation, salvation and his recreation without the need of vacation or a costly wife and family and his perfect attendance record for the last twenty years awed management and horrified his co-workers alike. During his annual job reviews throughout the years, his temperament was described conversely as: “Mr. Strange refuses to take vacation, even when enforced and this worries me,” to the personality of “Hitler with a hangover;" his accounting work was esteemed and flawless and would have been celebrated and framed in the department if not for his dull and negative personality. Fond of pithy quotations from famous accountants throughout history and defending his lack of humor and humility with a “He who laughs last, last best” as his personal mantra, Bernard Strange was ironically struck with a rather peculiar affliction; a mental disorder affecting one 1% of the population: he woke one morning to find himself with acute reverse depression as his psychologist phrased it, and whether it was in a meeting, at a funeral, during a religious service, a serious conversation or on a subway train, Mr. Strange would erupt into a loud, uncontrollable fit of laughter, annoying, alienating or frightening those around him, given the particular circumstance. Such erratic behavior eventually caused him to be fired, tossed from movie theaters and banned from many personally beloved public places and institutions as his once serious façade of the world now in shambles, many saw him as an imbecile at best an escaped lunatic at worst, until it was finally and exceedingly self-evident: the joke was on him.


Joseph Grant, whose full catalog is here, is the first featured author in our "Six Sixes" series.