Yesterday, I noticed a backpack for sale on the glass display case at the Goodwill Store. The clerk hadn’t paid much attention to it until I mentioned that a local business logo was printed on the thing. So his curiosity was sparked and he picked it up. The backpack appeared to contain something heavy. The clerk said, “I wonder what’s in this?” He unzipped the backpack and discovered a complete picnic kit.
Another customer who observed the interaction actually groaned. I smiled at the clerk and said, “A sure sign of getting older is the spontaneous use of bad, dad jokes.”
I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older, I tell fewer risqué jokes but drop in more spontaneous puns and groaners. The humor of Mark Twain seems more relevant now than when I was young. One of my favorite “Twainisms” is, “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”
Another favorite is baseball legend Yogi Berra, one of his zingers about death is typical, “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours.”
My dad told a lot of bad dad jokes. We rarely laughed at them because we didn’t understand the points of them, so the punch lines either didn’t make sense or they were just very lame. He also laughed loudly at his own jokes–which didn’t help at all. In fact, dad often laughed so hard at his own jokes that he would lose his breath and begin gasping and choking. This was quite horrifying to witness.
Another aspect of dad’s joke-telling was that he often felt the need to explain why his joke was funny. He learned too late that if you need to explain a joke, it doesn’t make the joke funny. A big part of a joke is timing. When you have to explain the humor, the timing is way off. If one of my groaners fails to generate even a chuckle, I don’t try to explain it, I just let it die a peaceful death.
Even serious, dry people like Bertrand Russell have some sort of humor they enjoy. Russell once wrote, “Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim.” This is not a knee-slapper, but it does make me grin.
My old radio station used to air the “Doctor Demento Show” on Thursday nights. The “good doctor” played novelty songs containing bizarre, often morbid subject matter. One night I received a telephone call from one of the local funeral homes. The director requested Doctor Demento’s mailing address so he could request a song. The caller told me that everyone at the funeral home looked forward to hearing the show each week. It made their work easier and the night go by more quickly.
On a similar, insider note, Stephen Fry mentions that one of his cousins was a casualty surgeon in New York City. The surgeon and his colleagues have a morbid one-word nickname for motorcyclists: donors.
Some of the better one-liners have come from writers. Truman Capote famously said, “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.” Oscar Wilde wrote, “Life is far too important a thing to ever talk seriously about.” Mark Twain said one of my all-time favorites: “When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.”
By the way, today is “Lighten Up and Let Loose Day”. I hope you enjoy celebrating it in the way you enjoy most.