I had an older cousin, Arnold, who had a strange power over me. He could say almost anything and it would make me laugh. Understand, he was a pretty funny guy. At one time, when he and friend were in their twenties, they drove to Hollywood from New York City thinking they could become comedy writers. But it didn’t work out and they didn’t think that was so funny.
But I digress.
One day I was in a car with Arnold and his brother and Arnold said something that made me laugh. His brother didn’t get the joke and he said to me, “What was so funny about that?” Before I could answer, Arnold said, “Oh I can make Paul laugh at anything. Want to see me make him laugh?” And with that he held up one finger.
Then Arnold said, “Want to see me make him laugh twice as hard?” And he held up two fingers.
I thought it was twice as funny.
Growing up, I always thought that because it was such a sterile, negative word, the epitome of humor would be a joke that had the one-word punch line of “No.” I was about 13 when I started writing down every joke that I thought was funny. I kept that up for years. By now my joke collection is so big it isn’t even funny.
Anyway, I was watching Johnny Carson’s show one night and he happened to be interviewing his bandleader, Doc Severinson. Johnny said to Doc, “I’m having a party over at my place next Saturday night. Would you like to come?”
Doc answered, “So you ask a guy who works for you a question like that on national television? What do you think I’m going to say? No?”
The audience laughed and when the laughter died down, Johnny said, “So you’ll come?”
And Doc answered, “No.”
Johnny fell on the floor.
Ta-dah! No for a punchline.
It’s important to keep a straight face when you tell a joke because if no one laughs, you can pretend that you didn’t think it was funny either. Just saying ...
A few years ago I had a slight accident at work and tore my Achilles tendon. Then two years after that I tore the other one. Because they are both weak now my balance is not as good as it was, so I started using a cane. Occasionally someone will ask me about the cane.
I say, “I get pretty unsteady when I drink too much.”
They never ask me again.