Thursday, July 10, 2014


In addition to being one of the most boring people you could ever meet, I also possess a very subtle sense of humor. So subtle, nobody understands it and/or thinks it's all that funny.

The other day, my wife showed me a recipe for a Mediterranean shrimp dish made with, among other things, pearl barley. "Pearl barley?" I inquired. "Wasn't she a singer?"

To say that my wife's reaction consisted of silence would be an exaggeration. It's as though she suddenly disappeared from the couch. My reaction was to say she had no sense of humor. 

That's not true, of course. It's just that she's put up with my kind of witty repartee for about 25 years, and is now like a lifetime dog-owner who no longer notices when Fido craps in the living room -- which she would probably agree is an apt simile. 

My daughter, too, appears to have had her fill of my running commentary. I never knew it was physically possible, in fact, for eyes to roll as much as hers do without them falling out of their sockets. There was a time, however, when she thought anything out of my mouth was a scream. Over a decade ago, she subscribed to some children's magazine which always featured a "cute" photo of animals in some "funny" position. The readers were asked to send in a line of dialogue they thought appropriate. 

Now, my wife and I are often quite opposite when it comes to our approaches to humor, especially when it comes to kids. No matter the photo, her suggested caption tended to be along the lines of "Uh oh!" or "Oops!" I, on the other hand, preferred the sledgehammer approach. For instance, one photo featured a dog lying on his back in front of a table fan. My wife's caption -- along with 99% of the other kiddies and parents -- was probably, "I'm a hot dog!" Being part of the 1%, however, I wrote, in big block letters, I'M DEAD. 

You can probably guess my wife forbade me to submit it, especially under our daughter's name. Our daughter, however, though only seven years old at the time, thought it so funny that she continues to hold on to it to this day. That's a better tribute than any Mark Twain Prize that the Kennedy Center hands out.

This was around the time when my daughter made it a point to carefully examine every Toys R Us flyer that came with the Sunday paper. The Toys R Us spokesmammal, Geoffrey Giraffe, always bothered me, his goofy smile subliminally getting kids to hound their parents for a badly-made, overpriced toy manufactured in some back-alley Beijing sweatshop. Removing my pen from its scabbard, I had Geoffrey saying, "Just between you and me, I hate kids!"  Again, my daughter thought it was a hoot; so much so, I wrote a bunch of equally-rude dialogue for the kids in the same ad. It helped her become the person she is today.

Then there are times that my jokes are too hip for the room -- a nice way of saying that nobody laughs at those, either. Not because they aren't funny, I hasten to add, but because the references are either obscure, obtuse or questionable. For example, one of those aforementioned animal photos featured an elephant trying to enter a phone booth. Quick, how many of you would have understood my suggestion: "Hello, operator? I want to make a trunk call." Or take my years-long frustration of having a title without an article to go along with it: "Paris Wakes Up and Heils." Do you understand them? If so, congratulations -- you're officially part of the Nobody Else Will Have Me as a Member Club.

I take heart in comedian Norm Macdonald, who, 20 years ago, hosted Saturday Night Live's News Update segment. Macdonald, whose sense of humor is drier than the Sahara Desert after a thousand-year drought, never pandered to the audience. He admitted, in fact, that his jokes were aimed at five or six of his friends watching at home. NBC Executive Don Ohlmeyer successfully pressured Lorne Michaels to fire Macdonald because he wasn't funny. 

I should keep that in mind the next time I tell a joke to my wife.


1 comment:

Elizabeth Dobell said...

Both amused and impressed -- thinking of Thurber -- thank you!