Humor through tics


We can say that Lionel’s tics are a play on words. He takes something that he hears and transforms into something that rhymes but using words that make them funny. For example on page 180 when he’s discussing his encounter with Rockaforte and Matricardi with Tony he refuses to say their names. This is from the time that frank Minna was still alive and forbid all Minna Men to speak those names. When Tony asks Lionel to explain what he was told by the two individuals mentioning their names, Lionel responds a “Fork-it-hardly,” and “Rocket-fuck-me” (180). This made me burst out of laughter because he not only used foul language which intensified the joke but he also said it with such a serious face even “[glancing] over [his] shoulder at their stoop”  to make sure he wasn’t heard (180). Tony of course doesn’t pay much attention to it so I guess we can say that in this case, Lionel’s Tourretic self is what we can call “ the funny man” and Tony is the “straight man” not really paying attention to Lionel’s joke and just trying to move on with his questions.


On another encounter with Tony, this time through the phone, Lionel surrenders to his tics once again. Tony’s new nickname for Lionel is Daffodil and this particular words triggers his Tourettes making him shout things like “Dickety Daffodil! Dissident Crocophile! Laughable Chocodopholus!” to which Tony responds with “Ah, i heard it all before.” (156) To the reader Lionel’s tics are extremely hilarious, at least for me, but to Tony they’re just unnecessary words that Lionel can’t help but keep to himself. He’s clearly irritated by them which makes me laugh even more because Lionel may not like Tony and vice versa, but he does make him feel uncomfortable almost like he wants to laugh but shouldn’t and it’s fun to see that Lionel has that kind of affect on Tony. In the same situation, Lionel can’t stop his Tourettes and continues with ” Likable lunchphone, veritable spongefist, teenage mutant Zendo lungfish, penis Milhaus Nixon tuning fork.” (156) This Tourrectic outburst isn’t quite like the previous one. He didn’t exactly play on Tony’s words but he did talk about things that were familiar to him and that make him feel nervous. For example, the word “fork” can refer to the fork he stole from the Rockaforte and Matricardi house, which he was very nervous about. This mad me laugh because, to me, it’s just a fork so it’s kind of dumb to stress over a meaningless object, but for Lionel it’s a big deal. Another word he blurted was “Zendo” which refers to the Yorkiville Zendo, the building that  Frank Minna was in before he got murdered.

Konstantina Vanikiotis


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