Thursday, April 15, 2010

10 Jokes That Failed Miserably

I toss off zingers and one-liners as often as a guy with Tourette's will shout "Mohammed pees Brine Shrimp!" in line at the bank. Thing is, like anyone trying to be funny, some of them work and some of them don't. But some attempts at humor
transcend bombing and move straight into comedy hell. It's more than not getting a laugh; it's having everyone present hate you simultaneously while the unrelenting silence is like a potato peeler thrust through a kidney.

The following are true-life examples of smartassery gone horribly awry.

1)I'm in 10th grade, and the private, Christian school I'm attending is having some sort of outdoor activity. I just happen to find a perfect circle of barbed wire lying on the ground. "Hey coach!" I shout, "The new Christian Academy baseball caps
are in!" It did not get a single laugh. It did get me harsh, cold stares and a trip to the principal's office.

2) Most of my family is extremely religious. One year I go home for Christmas and find my mother has baked a birthday cake for Jesus, candles and all.

"I messed it up, though," she said. "It was supposed to say 'Happy Birthday, Jesus" but I made a mistake and wrote 'Merry Christmas, Jesus'"

"Oh well," I said, "at least you didn't write 'Happy Easter, Jesus'"

3) A woman I worked with was pregnant. I came in one day and was told by another co-worker, solemnly, that she'd lost the baby.

"Did they look underneath the couch cushions?" I asked.

4) A woman brought into the workplace some kind of country-down-home-charm craft piece of shit that looked like a small child standing in the corner. Because nothing screams family values like a child being punished. From the front it was nothing, but wedged into a corner for a second you might mistake it for a real child. She was trying to sell them. I took one of the things, wrapped an orange industrial extension cord around it's neck and hung it from the drop ceiling in her office with a sign around its neck reading 'Depression Kills.' To me, merry office hijinx. To the powers that be: Grounds for formal disciplinary action.

The write-up I had to sign read like this: "Mr. Puddelwinks did knowingly and without remorse placed an effigy of a small child in a noose in a co-worker's office, with a sign around it's neck alledging that depression brought it to this untimely end. The lifeless body of the child, swaying in the workplace, is highly inappropriate."

"Who wrote this?" I asked upon reading it, "Stephen King?"

"Well I couldn't just say it was a doll," said the Program Director, who I won't name outright but his initials are Paul Spencer, "otherwise people might think it was, you know, a Barbie or something."

"You mean a doll?" I asked.


"Like what you might call what it was I actually hung as opposed to a real person?"

"Look. What if Marilyn had seen that? Three of her kids have been killed."

"Yes. Owing to sickle-cell anemia and gang warfare. I doubt they were dressed in overalls, a straw hat and polyester blends depicting sheep jumping over a fence."

"The point is that the doll looked like a child."

"Only from behind," I said. "Unless you're concerned Father Emke might have seen it."

"Are you going to sign this are are we going to fire you?"

I signed it.

5) I had moved from a secluded life in a small town to the sprawling, overwhelming metropolis that is Columbus, Ohio. On a friend's advice I started hanging out in the OSU Gay Alliance office (some years before the allegedly downtrodden masses realized renaming such organizations 'Gay-Straight' Alliances could multiply their numbers tenfold.) I watched a militant lesbian painting a sign and it was the first time I'd ever seen the particular spelling, 'Womyn'.

"Why are you spelling it that way?" I asked, honestly puzzled.

"Because this shows that we are seperate from men; completely different in every respect."

"Then why do you get so pissy when we call you cunts?"

6) My mother, after a few years of acting erratic, had finally been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. My extended family and I were gathered together and I thought I'd lighten the mood with a little joke. My friend Paul tells me that every story I've ever told him starting with this concept has ended in disaster.

"So this guy goes to the doctor," I said. "And the doctor says, I have bad news for you. You have both cancer and Alzheimer's..."

At this point my mother cracked up like it was the funniest thing in the world and that in itself was the punch line. I don't think it was the disease. Since childhood, she never understood actual riddles and would supply her own answer instead of waiting for the zinger. She knew she was always right about everything, so a need for further information never entered the picture. "Why did the chicken cross the road?" the six-year-old me would ask. "It wanted some cracked corn" she would reply, then leave the room, having satisfied herself with the answer.

So, to me, her cackling at the set-up was no big surprise. At the same time, handing her a fork and some food could be parlayed into an evening's entertainment. But it was a good joke and I was determined to finish.

"You have both cancer and Alzheimer's, the doctor says," I repeated, trying to maintain the pace.

"And the guy says, well, at least I don't have cancer!"

Not even a smile. From anyone. Except of course, from Mother.

7) My friend Glen had been so ravaged by HIV that he had to use a cane. Even so, he wanted things to be like they used to be and go out and about like we used to. A trip to a favorite restaurant found him wheezing and hobbling like an old man of ninety. I held the door open for him.

"AIDS before beauty," I said.

His boyfriend shot me a look making it clear he'd like to punch his fist through my windpipe.

8) When I was eight or nine, I took swimming lessons at the YMCA. After class I would explore the building and found the very spooky basement where the furnace engines blazed, giving off an eerie light and making dancing shadows. It was so
creepy, I had to get one of my swimming lesson classmates to come down there with me and see it. I snuck up behind him and suddely jabbed him in the sides. He let out a yelp and jumped sideways, crashing through a stack of plate glass leaned against the wall and slashing him to ribbons. They carted him away in an ambulance before my parents came to pick me up.

9) I told my mother I was gay. She told me she would have rather I'd been born dead. I checked up on this a few years later, just to see if it was something she said in anger. Nope, the verdict still held. Then she said, " I KNEW you've been stealing my panty hose!" a nutjob accusation coming way out of left field.

"That's transvestism, not homosexuality," I said. "Get your perversions straight." I thought it was a funny line but she stopped eating, most likely trying to guilt me into being someone else, and lost so much weight she became borderline anorexic.

10) I put a razor blade against my wrist and said, "Well, at least I didn't die in vein!" Then I realized there was no one around to hear it since I've alienated everyone I've ever cared about. I dropped the blade in the sink and went on in to

"I never had the nerve to make the final cut"--Roger Waters


  1. I loved them all, but four and five are my favorites.

  2. tough to pick a favorite really.

  3. I have repeated number five multiple times and it ALWAYS gets a laugh. I always thought it happened at the Ohio State Fair and the best part was her lunging after you. Am I remembering this wrong?

  4. ChaCha PuddlewinksApril 15, 2010 at 11:18 PM

    Yep. It was in a little room at OSU. Four people had to pull her off me. Good thing; she was a big-boned girl and could have mopped the floor with my scrawny ass.

  5. "AIDS before beauty."

    The proper responce is :

    "Pearls before swine."

    ;-) Todd