Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
HUMOR IS A SERIOUS BUSINESS
I enjoy writing this weekly column for the local newspaper, and I’m very grateful that on the day I offered my services to the Republican-American, the editorial staff had just returned from a six-martini lunch. Sometimes the best opportunities in life are the result of someone else’s severely impaired judgment.
This column gives me the chance to share my opinions with strangers in such a way that they don’t flee from me screaming, as occasionally happens at bus stops, in supermarket checkout lines, and during Confession with my parish priest. (I suppose it’s possible for someone to run away screaming from a newspaper column, but it’s much more convenient instead to flip to the Sports page—although during baseball season the news about the Red Sox won’t help much.)
Writing for the paper also has been a blessing for my family, except, possibly, for the part where I chronicle every embarrassing detail of their lives—real or imagined—for all of western Connecticut each week. But I know they are very happy I have this new outlet for my views and observations, as it’s been awhile since I’ve heard anyone say, “Oh please, Dad, not again. We’ve already heard the story about the New Hampshire vacation—seven-hundred times!”
The positive comments I receive from neighbors and friends are very rewarding, too. For example, after Mass a few weeks ago, a sweet little old lady came up to me and said, “I saw your column in the paper yesterday. I didn’t realize that you’re so, umm…weird.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” I replied humbly. “It’s just a special gift I’ve been blessed with.”
However, there is a downside to being recognized around the world as a comedy genius—and I understand Robin Williams has dealt with this problem in the past by abusing drugs.
There is also a downside to writing a humor column in the Saturday edition of a regional newspaper (estimated readership of my column, not counting immediate family members: seven). People approach me and say, “Hey, I saw your article in the paper. Say something funny.”
“Well, actually, I, uh, I don’t—”
“C’mon!” they demand. “Say something funny!”
Unfortunately, there’s a big difference between saying something funny—being comical and entertaining in person—and writing something funny—being comical and entertaining by copying and pasting someone else’s clever words from an Internet site.
If I had any stand-up comedy skills at all, I’d be using them. Compared to writing for a newspaper, stand-up comedians get more recognition, more money, more opportunities to star in lame sitcoms which get cancelled after three episodes, and most of all, it doesn’t matter if you can’t spell.
I realized years ago that if I wanted to be funny, writing was my only hope. In high school my favorite TV show was “M*A*S*H,” and my favorite character was Hawkeye. One evening during the commercials, I said to my brother, “Man, how does Hawkeye come up with those one-liners so fast?”
He stared at me for a moment and said, “By memorizing the lines the writers wrote for him, that’s how.”
“Huh?” I replied, offering further proof that quick-witted comebacks were not my calling in life.
“Whattaya think, he just makes it up on the spot?” my brother said. “They write it, they rewrite it, they practice, they rehearse, and finally, after countless hours of hard work, they make it look spontaneous and effortless.”
Ah ha, so that’s the secret. When writing something funny, you can work on it as long as you want to make it look spontaneous, and as hard as you want to make it look effortless.
With that in mind, let me offer a spontaneous and effortless joke: There once was a rabbi who walked into a deli. No wait, I think he walked into a bar. Yeah, that’s it. And the rabbi was carrying a pig under his arm, or was it a duck? Umm, so, he said to the bartender— Oh wait, it wasn’t a rabbi, it was a priest. Yeah, that’s it. So the priest says to the bartender… Umm, you know what? I screwed up the punch line. Let me get back to you next week with that joke.
Well, anyway, I hope to continue writing this column for many years to come, or at least until either the editorial staff sobers up or the Miami Herald stops posting Dave Barry’s column on the Internet.
|Home||Current Faith||Current Funnies||Faith Archive||Funnies Archive||Contact Bill|