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What Do You Call...? by Ray Printer Friendly

I was at work the other day, and had dealings with a man who is generally not funny. I’ve found in life that there are way too many people that fit this criteria, and it’s really too bad. I’m sure you can be a contributing member of society if you aren’t funny, but it’s still no fun to talk to you.

I’m not sure this guy understands that he isn’t funny—at all—because he does make…well, I guess you could call them jokes, if you were really hard up. To do so seems like a disgusting use of overstatement, but for the sake of brevity, it’s what we’ll settle for, okay?

He does get credit for at least trying, by the way. Too many people don’t even attempt humor, and I find these people despicable. I realize that there is a time in life to be serious—I haven’t really found myself in that kind of situation just yet, but I’m sure it’s out there—but that time shouldn’t be the majority. The majority of life, in my opinion, should be spent laughing.

Because laughter is really up there on the “best things in the world” list. On my particular list, I have it just above “Skittles” and just below “one of those orgasms where you forget your name for a little while.”

I’m talking about real laughter, of course—none of that faked-to-be-polite shit, or that boy-am-I-ever-nervous-and-laughing-at-everything nonsense. I’m talking about the real goods—tears are pouring down your face, your side is cramping up, you’re about lose control of your bladder. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve been driving a car and almost killed several people by laughing—tears blocking my vision, I can’t see where I’m going, can’t properly steer the vehicle, and it never occurs to pull over, because half of what’s funny is the complete lack of self-control. Thankfully, it has only ever happened on the back roads of Oklahoma and Texas.

Anyways, back to this guy. Not funny, but at least he tries. So the other day, I’m walking through the building where he works—where I go to order parts—and he’s back there cutting up a bunch of pool poles. Like those long-ass metal poles that you attach a net to when you want to clean the leaves out of your pool, you know? He’s cutting a bunch of those up—probably because they’re broken, and he has to cut them in half to ship them back to the manufacturer—and he looks up at me as I walk by and goes, “Wanna buy some poles? Half off!”

Not the most hilarious thing in the world, but I still laughed. Kind of because I found it clever and funny, but also because I was so proud of the guy for making a halfway decent joke.

My laughing at his joke had some downsides, though. One of them being that he kept making the same joke every time I saw him again that day: “Hey, we still have those poles back there—half off!” and “You sure you don’t want some of those poles? Half off!”

Funny the first time because of the spontaneity and quickness of wit. After that, just tired. Obligatory chuckle? Sure.

One time when I was in high school, there was this kid that was always making jokes that weren’t funny. Believe it or not, I was kind of a selfish dickhead back in the day. I know, I know—it seems amazing that I could ever be anything other than the patient, caring, self-sacrificing hero that you’ve all come to know and love. But it’s true—I felt that I had better things to do with my time than waste it humoring people I considered idiots. Little did I know that I would be spending the next ten years of my life and counting doing just that.

So there was this kid, he would make a joke, and when nobody laughed, he would repeat it over and over, until someone did the polite just-to-shut-him-up laugh. And one day, he was standing there, repeating whatever statement he thought was funny, and I turned around and told him, “Dude, it’s not because we don’t hear you—it’s because you aren’t funny. At all. Ever. Stop it.”

The look of hurt on his face was one of the funniest things he ever did.

But later, I started feeling really bad about it. And by later, I mean like five years, when I was sort of trying out the whole “being decent human being” thing. (It didn’t really take, by the way.)

These days, I try to conceal my disdain. So I smiled politely as this guy told me the half-off joke over and over, and hoped that he would forget about when he slept that night.

He did, but I was not home free. Because my laughter encouraged him. It was like giving a scrap of meat to a hungry puppy. He goes out of his way to tell me his jokes or wacky anecdotes now. If you’ve spent any time with children, you’ve probably learned about the stage they go through when they learn about knock-knock jokes.

It’s this bizarre little stage where they tell you knock-knock jokes pretty much constantly, and the jokes never make any sense. “Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?”


“Chair, who?”

“Chair on your head, HahAhhahaHahaAhaha!”

“Holy shit, are you okay?”

“Mom said you aren’t supposed to say those words around me anymore.”

“She says I shouldn’t give you cigarettes, either, but I don’t see you complaining about that.”

This guy is kind of like that, but his jokes don’t have the non sequitur cuteness of a child’s knock-knock.

Today: “Hey, what do you call a blond skeleton in the back of the closet?”

“I don’t know—what?” I asked, ignoring my first impulse to tell him that I call her Sharon, and that she would still be alive today if she hadn’t made such a big deal about my exposed genitalia that time at the strip club.

“Winner!” He exclaimed, “Of the 1972 hide and seek games!”



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