On the Periphery

Things change. Life throws us curves and changeups. It's good to have a place to vent.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I cannot tell a joke to save my life. In fact, no one in my family can--we are missing the gene that regulates the ability to set up and tell specific jokes. We invariably forget to give some vital detail, or mix up or telegraph the punchline. Or we forget everything but the punchline, or even the punchline itself! My mother, especially was famous for going on and on, painfully trying to reconstruct a joke's narrative, while we stood there, like gapers at an accident, appalled by the horror but unable to look away. Unfortunately, my husband's family also lacks this gene, and we have passed the ignoble trait on to our sons. And, as like attracts like, I'm afraid my daughter-in-law is cut from the same cloth. My future grandchildren are doomed.

But that's not to say we're not funny people--when we get together, we crack each other up. Constantly. We all have very sharp, yet very warped senses of humor, and our general conversation is filled with witticisms, puns, and hilarious retorts, all punctuated by raucous laughter.

Why is it so hard to tell a plain, ordinary joke? I have studied, taught, and participated in drama my entire life, and I understand the principles for effective joke-telling. I have directed comedies where I am able to pinpoint the timing and inflection necessary in funny lines and can instruct actors how to maximize their impact, yet I myself cannot tell a joke without sounding like my mind is oatmeal.

My great-uncle was a vaudeville comedian, telling jokes on the same circuit as his friend, Jack Benny. Benny once suggested to Uncle Ned that as a comedian, he was a great insurance salesman. He took the hint and left the stage behind. And he was a great insurance salesman. He made his clients laugh, he made his friends laugh, he made his family laugh, just by being who he was: a funny guy who couldn't tell a joke.


Anonymous Mira said...

You write very well.

5:26 PM  

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