Human beings love stories. The human mind manufactures them for us every night: they’re called dreams. But that’s not enough for us. We read stories in books, magazines, online, and in the papers every day. We watch stories unfold in the movies, on television, while riding on a train or on an airplane, or just going to the store. And when we’re not reading stories or watching stories our minds go right back to the manufacturing plant and we “think” stories. Sorting out the day’s events, deciding how to spend our money, wondering where to go on vacation or what we might do next Saturday afternoon — these are all little short stories. Stories are a part of our lives every single day.
You wake up in the morning and think about what your day will be like, how you should dress, what you need to do. You’re writing the story of your day ahead. You sit up all night waiting for your daughter to get home from an evening out with her friends and your mind writes scenarios, some good, and some maybe not so good. You can’t help yourself, you write stories in your head. The human brain requires stories, I guess. And it seems to be out of our conscious control.
Stories are all around us. Sitting in a restaurant we look around and make up stories of the people we see in there – this couple just walking in are on their honeymoon, that woman in the corner all alone has just escaped from an asylum, those two guys in the booth are rock musician wannabes, the guy sitting at the counter thinks he’s George Clooney. Wonder what stories people are making up about us?
Humans gravitate to other humans based on their “stories.” We meet new people and want to find out all about them. The people who have just moved in next door, the new hire in the office, the students in your new class at school — what are their stories? Who are these people? You start going out with a new girl and you want to find out her back-story, where she came from, what she likes, what she thinks about. The stories behind the people we meet influence our opinions of them.
We vote for politicians based on the stories they tell us about themselves and the stories others tell about them. Are they married? What are their views on social issues? Foreign policy? Are they liberal, moderate, or conservative? What is their voting record? What have they accomplished? What is their overview on America? In what direction will they take the country? The story of their lives up to this point gives us a pretty good idea of what we can expect from them going forward.
All of human history is nothing else but stories after all. That is literally what history is … his story. Storytellers have always been valuable and the really good storytellers are priceless. Storytellers give us the perspective and tradition of humankind. And when the stories happen to be of the funny type, it’s even better.
One of the all time best storytellers was a man called Myron Cohen. Myron was a stand-up comedian who never did one-liners, he didn’t tell jokes, he told stories, really funny stories. I remember watching him on TV in the fifties and sixties on The Ed Sullivan Show. He’d have my dad in stitches. Of course there were other comics who told funny stories, but none of them could put them over the way Myron Cohen did.
Much of Myron Cohen’s charm had to do with his gentle, low-key demeanor. Never mugging or engaging in sound effects or props, Cohen simply stood on stage telling his stories in a quiet, soft-spoken voice. Although he did many accents, his stories usually involved Jewish people and his Yiddish dialect was hysterical. One of his famous Jewish dialect “stories” is as follows:
“The U.S. Census Bureau is conducting an actuarial survey on the Lower East Side. The gentleman from Washington knocks on a door, the door opens, and there stands this nice little Jewish man in his 80’s. He says, ‘Sir, we understand you’ve lived here for many years. What is the death rate in this area?’ The man thinks for a moment and replies, ‘Vell, in mine opinion… don’t hold me to dis, but in mine opinion… I’m pretty sure it’s one to a person.’”