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The art of joking

GAYS MILLS - The funniest people I know don’t just tell jokes. Oh, they tell jokes alright, but they also make funny side comments, casually toss off hilarious bon mots, create snappy comebacks, throw in a few imitations, exaggerated reactions and in general crack wise. You know the type - the class clowns, shrewd observers of life who grow up to be Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, or the funniest person you know, the life of the party.

Many people I know feel intimidated by joke telling. They seem to think that they are not very good at it. And, like that old saying goes, ‘If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.’ I think Henry Ford said that. Or was it Will Rogers?  It doesn’t matter. There’s a lot of wisdom tied up in that old chestnut, if you’ll pardon me while I slice and dice a perfectly good metaphor.

One thing I know about joke telling is this: never start out by saying, “Here’s a real funny joke.” Variation: “You’re going to love this one.” Just start right in and the let the listeners be the judges. 

Another no-no, don’t say “I can’t tell this very funny joke real well but here goes,” or words to that effect. The people you are telling the story to will normally help you by laughing with you. They want you to be funny. If they don’t, maybe they are the wrong people to be telling the story to. 

A true friend would probably say something like: “We’re not laughing with you, we’re laughing at you.”

Periodically, someone may look to you for some humor. Let’s say there’s a lull in the talk and it’s time to shift gears, conversation-wise. Go ahead, say it. Perhaps you recently told a “bomb” of a joke (can I say that in 2018?) and people remember that and want to remind you of your embarrassment.  When they say, “Say something funny, (your name here)” remember, a good safe answer is always “rutabaga,” one of the funniest words in the English language.

A lot of people claim that they don’t know any jokes or can’t remember jokes. Here’s the way it seems to work with me: I hear a joke and that reminds me of another, related joke and the data base is activated and the jokes start coming. For example, the mere mention of the word “rattlesnake” reminds me of a great joke that I can’t tell here but the punch line goes; “The doctor says you’re going to die, Joe!”

All this about funny stuff almost demands a sample. Here’s a really funny joke, you’re gonna love it. Ooops! A man decides to run for public office. He likes to tell Norwegian jokes and he knows all of them. His manager/handler tells him, “You have to stop with the Norskie jokes.  You’ll offend people and lose votes.” 

The candidate “discovers” an ancient tribe mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible called the Hittites. He figures this long lost clan should be a safe target for his humor, which is an important part of his campaign “shtick” and indeed his personality. At his first speaking engagement after his enlightenment, he begins with, “There were these two Hittites, Ole and Lena.”

Speaking of trucks, a Wisconsin farmer met a Texas rancher and they naturally started to compare the relative sizes of their “spreads.”  

The Texan bragged “My place is so big it takes most of the morning just to drive across it.”  

The Wisconsin man replied, “Yeah, I had a truck like that once.”