Down East 2013 ©
Like Robert Bryan and the late Marshall Dodge, creators of the immortal Bert & I records, I went to Yale. Unlike them, I actually happen to be a Mainer. This was a source of amusement to some of my classmates. I remember being thoroughly ribbed when I wore a pair of Bean boots into the Yale Commons dining hall. Had I been wearing them as an affectation I might have gotten away with the fashion faux pas, but I was wearing hunting shoes because it was raining. In retrospect I wish I’d had one of Marshall Dodge’s droll quips to throw back at my tormentors.
Dodge and Bryan recognized that the primary attribute of Maine humor is the way it punctures pomposity. As Rob Sneddon explains this month in “How Funny Is Maine?” (page 60), in the typical Bert & I story the condescending city slicker gets his comeuppance from the deadpan Down Easter. The fact that Dodge and Bryan were themselves city slickers rubbed some Mainers the wrong way fifty years ago — and it still rubs Maine native Edgar Allen Beem the wrong way (page 78). But as a person of Franco-American descent, I happen to think their skit “Gagnon Champion Moose Caller” is pretty darn funny, even with the Inspector Clouseau accents. Humorist Tim Sample has it right when he says, “The most dangerous thing you can do in a difficult situation is to take yourself too seriously.”
Speaking of life lessons, this issue also features an offbeat tutorial by historian Colin Woodard, author of The Lobster Coast. His highly opinionated list of “25 Things Every Mainer Should Know” begins on page 64. Personally, I would argue that every Mainer should also know a decent Down East joke. I recently encountered an oldie but a goody in the unlikeliest of places. Watching the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, I was taken aback when the screenwriters appropriated one of our quintessential Maine gags:
PARTY GUEST: “Have you lived your whole life here?”
ALFRED (BRUCE WAYNE’S BUTLER): “Not yet.”
The line got a big laugh in the Thomaston Flagship Cinemas, but I wonder how it played in Peoria. I’m guessing pretty well. Dodge and Bryan proved long ago that Maine humor does indeed get there from here.
Editor in Chief