All Groan Up

Sometimes the news of the day is so troubling, depressing, and infuriating that I just tune-out, and busy myself with other things. I know it’s probably shirking my duty as a citizen not to grab a sign and march in the streets, but after all, it is still winter.

So, I listen to music, read escapist fiction, and seek out comedy. Television comedy can be pretty good, but most of it is not much more than suggestive humor that gets cheap laughs. Not that I’m above that, but real, quality comedy comes from a well-constructed joke.

I’m fortunate to have satellite radio and the several comedy channels it offers. A lot of the jokes are about the same topics: air travel, marriage, kids, cell phones, and other predictable themes. I don’t often actually laugh at the comedians, but many of them are pretty good.

I’ve always liked jokes. The first one I made up was: “What do you do when your foot gets stuck in the mud? Call a toe truck.” I think I was five. Jokes that have plays on words, or that make you think a little are among my favorites. For example, Demitri Martin says the worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of charades. He also points out that the phrase “I’m sorry” and “I apologize” mean the same thing, unless you’re at the receiving line at a funeral home.

Woody Allen, back in the 1960’s, talked about how he and his first wife weren’t getting along very well, and they decided that they should either go on a vacation to the Bahamas, or get a divorce. They figured that the vacation would be over in two weeks, while the divorce is something they could share forever.

A couple of my favorites: A man walks into the break room at work. His friend says, “Bob, you look really tired.” Bob explains that he’d been up most of the night playing poker with his dog. “Wow! Your dog must be really smart,” says his friend. “No, not really. Every time he has a good hand he wags his tail.”

A man leaves a bar late at night, and comes across a grasshopper on the sidewalk. “Hey,” he says, “I just had a drink named after you.” The grasshopper responds, “You had a drink named Irving?”

There are a lot of jokes about bars, like the one about the horse who walks into a tavern, and the bartender says, “Say pal, why the long face?” Or, the classic: a priest, a lawyer, and a rabbi walk into a bar, and the bartender says, “What is this, some kind of a joke?”

Most people have one or two jokes they can remember, and a hundred they wish they could. I mostly remember jokes when I’m reminded of one in conversation. So, I have the annoying habit of inserting “funny” remarks without provocation. I don’t have a lot of friends.

Reader’s Digest has always maintained that Laughter is the Best Medicine, and I think they’re right. Even if it isn’t really medicinal, if you’re going to feel bad, you might as well feel good while you’re doing it. And, you might even find out why the chicken went halfway across the road. (She wanted to lay it on the line.)


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