Unskilled enthusiasts of a well-told yarn try to participate by telling jokes. Scripted stuff. (Almost always corny and predictable, but charming if delivered properly). Older Uncle-types are well known for it.
Supported by the same calcified sense of style and stodgy deportment that led to his lamentable comb-over, Uncle just keeps going back to the same old tried & true yucks until his very presence in a room makes young people flee and friends reach for more vino, STAT.
This delights me in an absurdist way. Uncles didn’t just wake up one morning and suddenly start telling awful jokes.
No, no. There was a time where those very same jokes were used to good effect, say back in the early Sixties when saying ‘H-E-Double Hockey Sticks’ was really pushing boundaries, and when girls with Bouffantes and flowery shifts might giggle and blush at his groaner.
I’ve always leaned more toward being a conversational Jazzman, conjuring my own context and then chucking in a few hot licks. But I always have something in my back pocket, in case I find myself at a memorial service for someone I never knew, or roped into a Rotary Club Breakfast. I found a way to deliberately torture and distress weak jokes through endless repetition — like previously unloved furniture that suddenly becomes hip again. I’m not the first one to discover this technique but I am awfully disciplined about it for a non-comedian. I call these doozies ‘Multi-Generational Jokes’ so they sound intellectual, but really I’m just farting in a bottle and bequeathing it as an artifact. Nefarious but satisfying.
I pre-load unmitigated stinkers with my own weird and twisted chuckles, until they are Russian nesting dolls of the preposterous. While they pass muster with the old gals near the Moose Lodge coffee urn, they simultaneously delight the ever loving crap out of me! My long-suffering wife feels them readying for launch and sometimes holds my arm with a death grip, in the vain hope of muting me, stopping me, cutting off circulation to that limb so I have to be emergency medevaced, mercifully changing the subject and, she hopes, causing grievous pain for at least a minute or two.
No woman has ever shown more patience; she even says she ‘gets it’. But she doesn’t get it for it cannot truly reveal itself for many, many more years.
It’s not the heat…
While among elderly ladies, saying with deep feeling, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” achieves instant universal concordance. It’s nearly as universal as ‘God Bless You’ or ‘Safe Home’. As the words glibly spool out of my mouth, I reach back in my mind to savour the time I said the very same thing while at the side of the Autobahn, next to a broken down bus, a dead hulk left forlorn a mile or two from the Czech border in an electrical storm so violent that forks of deadly lightning were touching down in our roadside pullout. We were going to fry, sure as shit! Digging deep into the emergency comedy kit I pulled out the aforementioned quip, after another billion volt spear deafeningly blew a transformer only metres away. I had broken the tension, garnered an hour worth of giggles, and now I comfortingly hitch my wagon to those distant echoes, enjoying that moment once more as I sip weak tea, sneak a second Peek Frean, and agree solemnly that the dead person lying in state ‘looks very good’.
I committed to doing the following every single time someone is with me at a cashier to witness it: Cashier: “That will be 18.99, please.” Me: (feigning horror & shock): “Dollars?” Not very funny right? Right. But funny after 22 years of dogged repetition, where your own children smell it coming and the whole grocery line-up senses them tensing for something really bad? Yup. Funny as hell.
Blackmail? Yup. Dad blackmail, totally legal and devilishly delicious.
I have a small grab bag of these stinkers, some of them so ‘inside’ that only my immediate family even can unravel their twisted, antiquated DNA. These deliberately idiotic quips are like the Nurse Logs of the Comedy Forest. From them springs greatness!
These deliberately idiotic quips are like the Nurse Logs of the Comedy Forest
My fave of these hearkens back to an ant hatch we suffered years and years ago, when the kids were little more than toddlers. My wife would attempt to control her impatience by singing to the boys, ‘Ants, Ants, Wearing Rubber Pants….At the Quarter Master’s Stores.” (A sing-along that only hoary and grizzled readers will remember).
I grabbed a hold of this nugget and have been running with it now for a quarter century. Every time my wife points out an ant in the house, every time, (I am not kidding about how psychotically committed I have become with this matter), every single time, I say the following phrase with perfect precision: “I have one question for you at this juncture. Are they, in fact, wearing rubber pants?” Every time. Reader, can you fully sense how fucked up that is?
Full disclosure here: You’ve got to be willing to suffer through years of people thinking your solar panel is installed on the north side before your fiendish plan achieves fruition, but I feel it’s worth the wait. You also must summon up the courage to say these things even when, at the time, they clang like a puck hitting the post.
You see, I refuse to allow lesser raconteurs to compile the tales of my life after I’m gone. Churchill was talking about my ant story when he said, “History will be kind to me, because I intend to write it!”
Why would I even do this? Well, here’s my reason: my children have children. I have a very strong intuition that my ridiculous wisecracks are going to live on through them, and I might even be there to see my Grandsons repeating my quips oblivious to the fact that the worst jokes imaginable have been deliberately planted in their heads like a fiendish comedy virus. There is a pretty good chance that these grandsons, when playing with their grandchildren might indeed ask that same silly ants-with-rubber-pants question, nearly a century from now. This is how the artist of today can cleverly deliver his very own homespun Trojan Horse, serene in the knowledge that he can reach out from the grave and still disrupt the tony veneer with a real stinker.
You can accuse me of many things but lack of long term planning isn’t one of them.
Genetically, I have already cursed my Grandsons with potentially wonky pancreases, Sasquatchian back hair, a body shape that can only be described as ‘somewhat hominid’, an appetite like a Klingon, and a freakish memory for trivia & apocrypha guaranteed to get them punched out in the schoolyard.
All that, and these side splitters, too. Lucky kids. ‘
Random Note Generator :: Vince R Ditrich © 2017 :: All Rights Reserved
Jean Shrimpton :: John French (photo); http://www.bluetramontana.com