Lately I've been thinking about Abraham Lincoln's sense of humor. Everyone who knew him well commented on his story-telling ability. In fact, many of his friends recorded his jokes and stories, but much of the humor got lost in translation. "His stories may be literally retold," wrote fellow circuit-riding lawyer Henry Clay Whitney, "every word, period and comma, but the real humor perished with Lincoln" because "he provoked as much laughter by the grotesque expression of his homely face as by the abstract fun of his stories."
Whitney's point is well-taken. Oftentimes I don't see the humor in many of Lincoln's jokes. WHile good humor is often timeless, it is true that nearly two centuries separate us from Lincoln. That may account for some of the problem. Moreover, Lincoln's humor seems dependant on the situation. So many of his jokes began with, "That reminds me of the time..." The present conversation often reminded Lincoln of a pertinent joke; in other words, to see the humor "you just had to be there."
I was particularly pleased to see this announcement in the Santa Paula Times. It seems a professional story-teller is going to recreate some of Lincoln's finest yarns:
Several popular stories about Abraham Lincoln will be told by storyteller Jim Woodard during the Presidents’ Day program at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley on Monday, February 18. The program will include true and legendary stories about the famed 16th president, ranging from Lincoln’s boyhood adventures while living in his one-room log cabin to his experiences as president during the Civil War.
Woodard, a Ventura resident, will present two storytelling programs – beginning at 11 a.m. on the Library’s Courtyard Stage, and at 1 p.m. in the Presidential Learning Center. Other special Presidents’ Day activities, keyed to the interest of all ages, are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Woodard has been the resident storyteller at the Ronald Reagan Library since 1995. He received the George Washington Award for Excellence in Public Communications from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge for his historic and patriotic storytelling programs.
For more information about the programs, call Woodard at 658-6697, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. or information about other Presidents’ Day activities at the Ronald Reagan Library, phone 800-410-8354. The library is located at 40 Presidential Dr. in Simi Valley.
If anyone attends the event, send me an email and let me know how it went.