Monday, February 16, 2009

Oh Henry, Call Dr. Pepper, I'm Gonna Have a Baby Ruth

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 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.

I can’t remember jokes very well. 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 to write stuff down. Sometimes, if I write it down immediately I can remember it for awhile. 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 queue 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. 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, because I could never remember it to tell it, and I thought it was hilarious. Goes something like this, and you’ve probably heard it before:

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: When the fly drops six inches, the ….well it’s something about the cat falling into the river. You figure it out.

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.”

Here’s a popular joke genre, the genie joke:

A woman was walking along a beach when she stumbled upon what looked like a genie’s lamp. She picked it up, rubbed it on the side, and sure enough a genie appeared.

The amazed woman asked if she got three wishes.

The genie said he was sorry, but due to the current economy, the layoffs, and downsizing and low wages in third-world countries, and the lack of US car sales, and fierce genie competition he could only offer her one wish.

“So what’ll it be?” the genie said.

The woman didn’t hesitate.

“If I only get one wish, then I want peace in the Middle East. See this map? I want these countries to stop fighting with each other. I want all the US soldiers to come home.”

The genie looked at the map and said. “Lady! These countries have been at war with each other for thousands of years. I’m good, but not THAT good! I don’t think peace is possible in this region. It can’t be done. You’ll have to make another wish.”

The woman thought for a minute, and then said, “Well, I’ve never been able to find the right man. You know one that’s considerate and fun, likes to cook and helps with the housecleaning, is good in bed and gets along with my family, doesn’t watch sports all the time, and is faithful. That’s what I’ll wish for, a good mate.”

(I’m sure you know where this is going.)

The genie let out a long sigh and said, “Okay, let me see that fucking map again.”

When I lived in New Mexico we had Española jokes. They were like, Aggie jokes, or Pollock jokes, or whatever. They went like this:

Why can’t they have a living manger scene at Christmas in Española? Because they can’t find a virgin and three wise men. A camel they can find.

Or, what do you call a guy in Española in a three-piece suit? The defendant.

Or, even worse, in Española they think four-on-the-floor is a double date. You get the idea.

One of my favorites is, the Española football team was going to Albuquerque to play Albuquerque High. They saw a sign on the highway that said “Albuquerque Left” so they went home.

Okay, it’s a groaner, but I think it’s funny. I’ve got nothing against people that live in Española, a small community northeast of Santa Fe, but for some reason they’ve become the butt of jokes. I don’t even know anyone from there. But you could insert any person, group, place or nationality in the place of Española.

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 and well, like this……

A man seeking a job as a sheriff’s deputy in a border town was being interviewed. The Sergeant doing the interview says, “Your qualifications all look great, but we have to give you an attitude suitability test. We can’t accept you until you take that test.”

The Sergeant slides a service revolver on the desk towards the candidate and says, “Take this pistol, go out and shoot six illegal aliens, six meth dealers, six Muslim extremists, and a rabbit.”

“Why the rabbit,” the candidate says.

“Great attitude,” the Sergeant replies, “When can you start?”

There are a lot of golf jokes, and sexist jokes, and blonde jokes, and Aggie jokes, and racist jokes like that one above, and like I said, 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.

Here’s my all-time favorite joke. It was told to a group at an Italian restaurant, which was fitting because of it’s subject. The joke teller was a David Lettermen clone. Literally, and his delivery was just as good. He was an Assistant Credit Manager for Delta Faucet though, not a stand-up comic. Here’s how it goes, the short version:

Mario and Luigi were at the bar having a few drinks and the subject turned to women’s breasts, as it often does, and then specifically to Mario’s wife’s breasts.

“Imma tellan ya,” Luigi finally says, “I woulda giva you fifty-a bucks to see-a yer wife’sa tits.”

Well Mario gets a little bent out of shape about Luigi’s confession, “I doughna thinka you shoulda be talkin’ abouta my wife’sa titsa like-a that,” he says. “I’mma gonna kicka yer ass!”

Needless to say, the party breaks up and Mario goes home to his wife.

“Yer notta gonna believa whatta Luigi a-said,” he tells her. “He saidda he woulda give-a fifty-a bucks to see-a yer tits.”

Mario’s wife tells him that maybe that’s not such a bad idea. They could use the money. Luigi, after all is a friend, not like its some stranger looking at her bare breasts. So she convinces Mario to go back and tell Luigi that it’s a deal.

So Mario goes back to the bar and finds Luigi and takes him home. His wife bares her breasts and (here’s where the joke gets visual) Luigi takes them in each of his hands and fondles them and says, “I doughna know!”

Then he does it again (the joke teller cups his hands out in front of him and slightly twists from side to side) and says, “I doughna know!”

Finally Mario can’t stand it anymore. “Whatta ya meana you doughna know?! Whatsa wronga witha my wife’sa tits?!”

“I doughna knowa where I’mma gonna getta fifty-a bucks!”

Yeah, well I think it’s hilarious.

So last night 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 says, “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?” I guess I’m not ready to give up my day job.

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