Pixel Tracker

Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 2:35 pm | A Few Clouds 61º


Paul Burri: What’s So Funny?

The power of 'No' will keep them laughing

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.

I laughed.

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.
— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer, guerrilla marketer and iconoclast. He is available to local organizations for speaking engagements and to local businesses for business consulting and/or mentoring. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous Paul Burri columns. Follow Paul Burri on Twitter: @BronxPaul.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >