Laughing is my avowed treatment for stress. It also makes you feel good. But I’m not good at telling jokes. I can never remember them. I tried writing them down and carrying them around in my wallet, but that’s not spontaneous enough, and believe it or not, I would still screw up the punch line.
One of my favorite jokes goes like this: Do you know how to catch a polar bear? Well, you cut a hole in the ice and line the edge with peas. When the polar bear stops to take a pea, you kick him in the ice hole.
I’m sorry, but I can’t keep a straight face when I tell that joke. I laugh harder than anyone that hears me tell it, of course, because I think it’s hilarious. There are better jokes, I’m sure, but there are two things I like about this one. One, I can always remember it and two, well………., okay only one thing. Sometimes when I tell this joke in a “tough” room, I’m the only one that’s laughing, but that’s okay, because I think it’s funny.
Sometimes, I can remember the whole entire joke and forget the punch line, or remember the punch line and not how to get to it. I have books and books of jokes, and quotes, and witticisms, but I can’t remember any of them without looking them up. And it’s not an age thing either. If I had a line in a play, I wouldn’t be able to remember it, even if it was just one line. I would need off-stage prompting or cue cards.
I’m amazed by actors that memorize entire scripts and then repeat lines verbatim, even ad-libbing some of the dialogue to fit the character. Or even actors that do scenes without scripts, like “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Me, flash cards…..without them I would be reading most of my lines looking at my hands because that is where the dialogue would be written.
It’s interesting to watch Presidents and other public speakers pretend that they are reciting a speech from memory when they are actually reading it from a high-tech teleprompter being projected on what appears to be bullet-proof panels on either side of the podium. Abraham Lincoln probably didn’t read the Gettysburg Address from the envelope he wrote it on, but I’ll bet he kept his notes close by, like in his hand.
I used to carry a joke around in my wallet (besides the lack of actual money that you won’t find in my wallet, which is, indeed, a joke) about a chain of events concerning a fly, a fish, a fisherman, a bear, a cat, and a cheese sandwich. I could never remember it to tell it, and I thought it was hilarious. By carrying it around in my wallet, I could at least participate during “Happy Hour” joke telling. Goes something like this, and you’ve probably heard it before, or maybe not:
One day at a fishing hole on the river, there was a fly buzzing over the water.
A fish swam by and saw the fly, and thought to itself, “If that fly drops six inches, I’ll be able to jump high enough to get it and finally have some dinner.”
A fisherman sitting on the bank saw the fly and thought, “If that fly drops six inches, and a fish jumps for it, I’ll snag the fish with my net and finally catch something.”
The fisherman had a half of a cheese sandwich left and started to eat it.
Behind the fisherman, hiding behind a tree, was a bear. The bear thought, “If that fly drops six inches, and that fish jumps to get it, that fisherman will grab his net, snag it, then I’ll snatch it from him and finally get some dinner.”
Next to the fisherman, hiding in a bush, was a field mouse. The mouse thought, “If that fly drops six inches, and a fish jumps for it, that fisherman will drop his cheese sandwich so he can grab the net and I’ll get me some cheese.” The mouse didn’t see the bear.
A cat was behind the field mouse watching the scene, and the cat thought, “If that fly drops six inches and the fish jumps for it, and the fisherman drops his sandwich to get his net, and the mouse goes for the cheese, I’ll sneak up on that mouse and catch him.” The cat didn’t see the bear either.
Sure enough, the fly dropped six inches, the fisherman dropped his sandwich to get the net, the fish jumped and he snagged it, and the mouse ran to get the cheese. The bear ran down the hill to steal the fish. The cat pounced on the mouse, but missed, lost its balance, rolled down the bank and ended up in the river.
The moral of the story is: Wait for it. When the fly drops six inches, the ….well it’s something about the cat falling into the river. You figure it out. By the way, I’m not carrying it in my wallet anymore. I found it on the internet.
I’ve struggled with this joke-telling-memory-problem for years. I’m jealous of all those people that can just roll them off their tongues, and the crowd laughs, and I say, “I’ve got to remember that one.” But I never do. I like to think I have wit, I guess it’s just not quick.
My brother is a quick wit. He once said of my two divorces from the same woman that at least my x-wife was a good housekeeper. “She kept the house both times,” he chuckled. I think he writes his own material.
I just heard this one the other day. “My friend just slept with his third cousin. He was real upset about it. I told him if it upset him so much he should stop counting them.”
Have you ever come up with your own joke? I haven’t. I can say with some certainty that I have never written a joke. I would guess that joke writers obviously exist, but they must be the most plagiarized writers in the world. Have you ever heard of a joke writer suing someone for using their jokes at a happy hour? Maybe there’s some strange copyright on a joke or something. But then maybe it’s because a lot of jokes run on the same base structure.
There are a lot of golf jokes, and sexist jokes, and blonde jokes, and Aggie jokes, and racist jokes and genie jokes. Everyone’s heard and told a genie joke, I guess it’s easy to relate to what you would wish for if given the opportunity, and how naturally it would get screwed up by how you asked the genie to grant the wish.
Guys and gals who write jokes for a living have to be some special breed of person. First you have to come up with the funny story. Then you have to hope that everyone else thinks it’s funny. Some subjects are just easy to put in a joke, like farts, and sex, and minorities, and gee, whatever other “funny” material there is. A fart by and of itself can get a lot of laughs regardless of the room without saying a word. Works really well in church, but you usually can’t take credit for it.
The internet has increased joke-telling efficiency. I get emailed an average of 6.35 jokes per day. Most of them aren’t that funny, but the ones you think are funny will get forwarded, and the best part is you don’t have to remember the joke, but you’re still basically telling it.
So a while back my wife and I are watching a movie called “Leatherheads.” Not important except that the football field in this 1925 spoof of the beginnings of professional football had advertisements around the stands for candy bars and things. There was Oh Henry, and Baby Ruth, and Beechnut Cigarettes, and my wife was reading them out loud. The next thing I know my wife turns to me and sing songs, “Oh Henry, call Dr. Pepper, I’m having a Baby Ruth.” I thought I was going to die.
One of the best laughs I ever had was lying in bed one night, both of us having trouble going to sleep and I said, nonchalantly, “Honey, you want some snew?”
“What’s snew?” she asked.
“Nothing, what’s snew with you?” We couldn’t stop laughing.
I guess I’m not ready to give up my day job. Oh wait, I already did.