Gary Larson was a famous American cartoonist from Tacoma, Washington. He had his “hay day” in the 1990s. He created The Far Side, a funny single-panel cartoon series. Much to my chagrin, the series ended with Larson’s retirement on January 1, 1995. He was snarky, clever, and funny.
I have had a love affair with snark for decades. We are playmates, bed-fellows, comrades-in-arms. Sometimes my mouth gets ahead of its traffic filter. It’s humor with a side of sarcasm. I am not talking about the vulgar, crass, bitchiness of the burn, for the sake of a burn, but the light, quick verbal dart of real snarkiness. Most snarky comments are witty, although snark can sometimes be mistaken for rudeness or arrogance.
According to an article written by Robert Chin for Smithsonian.com, “For the past 20 years, researchers from linguists to psychologists to neurologists have been studying our ability to perceive snarky remarks and gaining new insights into how the mind works. Studies have shown that exposure to sarcasm enhances creative problem solving, for instance. Children understand and use sarcasm by the time they get to kindergarten. An inability to understand sarcasm may be an early warning sign of brain disease.”
My daughter has a knack for snark. She is skilled in the art of the “deadpan” face. She works in the land of customer service and for the sake of her job, has mastered the “delay and under the breathe technique.” As she grins and waives the client out of the door, under her breath, she whispers. “I see common sense is not a flower that grew in your garden, Mrs. Jones.” She’ll tell you it’s not a criticism, just an observation. She also makes fun of her less than perfect foot by telling people (with a completely straight face) that she has “toepolio.” People think she is serious and consider themselves introduced to a real medical malady. She doesn’t correct the perception.
Heather Land is the new reigning mistress of snarkiness. She has lit up Instagram and Facebook with her straight face, Snapchat filter and shrewd considerations of the life around her. She is hysterical, muttering her exasperations under her breath. I tip my hat to her. She has turned snarkiness into an art form worthy of following.
Snarkiness makes us laugh. We all know laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells, those infection-fighting antibodies, improving our resistance to disease. It also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being. It lowers blood pressure, gives your abs a work out (my abs have not gotten the memo) and improves cardio-health. It can even temporarily relieve pain and Lord knows we could all use some of that.
Having a snarky view of the world makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning when it seems to have its pants on fire. It allows us to bear other people’s stupidity without becoming bitter. After all, popular culture can be ridiculous. This is who is funding the Kardashian empire. They are the reason we have instructions on shampoo bottles.
It also allows us to consider our own foibles and poke fun at our ourselves. Most of my favorite snarky one-liners are slightly anti-social and self-deprecating, mostly because I am kind of anti-social and self-deprecating.
Victor Borge once wrote, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” Laughing is communal, engaging and intimate. Seriously, who doesn’t like a good laugh? Don’t you think it’s time we lighten up? I do too. C’mon, let’s have a laugh together. We can exchange witty banter and snarky jabs over a piece of cake.