I’m not gonna lie, being boring has got to be one of my biggest fears. Let’s face facts, I’m not a terrific dancer, I’m not gorgeous (although I do have a full head of thick wavy hair), I don’t know what a lot of the words mean that my friends use and, in the words of my wife, I’m a “terrible speller”. But I’m pretty good to have at a party. Even if I’m talking shit about you to you, I can do it in a way that is at least interesting. Even when I’m *dead wrong*, which is often, I can be pretty funny.

But in the last couple of years, my mindset has shifted. I used to actually exist in a kind of lounge entertainer vibe. If I was doing something critical, there was a certain casual attitude that might be like Sammy Davis Jr. putting on his bow tie. Sure, it needed to be tied correctly, but any second we will have moved into the “hanging out, drinking scotch, cracking jokes and singing songs” sensibility. And who knows, maybe the tie comes undone and hangs around my neck.

Not so any more. I’m hopelessly on message. Ever since we started planning the wedding, October or so of 2003, I’ve been taking my shit pretty seriously. The wedding had to be exactly right, and actually it turned out pretty good. Then I pressed really hard on getting Lucretia booked. Total failure. Then I spent seven or eight months solid hammering out Fleet Week. Still waiting on that. And now it’s this house. In between all that, I recorded a bunch of music and did some shows.

So now I’m really nervous that I’ve gotten unfunny. And the thing is, if I’m getting really good at hanging drywall and building centerpieces, but I’ve lost my sense of humor, then my friends are gonna dump me. There are guys who hang out at delis that are really good at drywall. I wanna keep being one of those scotch nursing jerks who cracks wise.

My good friend Dani once asked me to explain my sense of humor, to explain how humor works in total to him. It isn’t that he’s humorless at all, it’s just that he won’t understand some jokes, and others he will grab hold of and laugh at for an hour, so it’s a delicate operation explaining it to him. I didn’t have notes prepared or anything, and I write these blogs with no editting, so bear with me, I’ll try to explain it the way I did to him.

1. Specificity

You walk in from the outside and it’s cold. The standard joke is to say “it is as cold as…” and then insert something. This is where you get to be funny. A Witch’s Teat was born of someone clever in 1712 in the far north east, where they had witches and knew how cold their teats were. I don’t even know what a regular teat is, so I don’t like this joke.

You choose your joke based on the group. If it’s a mixed group and you don’t know everyone very well, or if you do and they’re a little uptight, you can go with “an eskimo’s nose” or, somewhat more obtuse, “a dog’s nose”. If you walk in and say, “It’s as cold as a dog’s nose” people will laugh and then look at you strange and you say, “When a dog sneaks up behind you and you feel his cold nose on your bare arm? My *whole body* feels like that…”

Now, I generally go for the most obscene I can when possible. “…a dead hooker” would be a good one. But remember the specificity. Even funnier is “It is as cold as a dead hooker’s empty hip flask outside” barely makes sense but everyone will laugh. To recap, “Cold as someone’s nose” isn’t funny, but insert “dog” or “eskimo” and it becomes funny, and if you add “dead” before either, it’s hilarious.

2. Words

This is a bit of a grey area. Sometimes the specificity is enough, but the word choice can really improve a bon mot. There are certain words that are funny all by themselves. Rutabaga. Duodenum. Ass-end. Eskimo. It’s nice to get a bunch of these words and have them at hand for use in daily conersation. “I was so sick last night” isn’t funny, it’s a medical condition. But “I was so sick last night, I felt like someone was tap-dancing on my stomach” is a little bit funny. However, “I was so sick last night, I thought lilliputians were doing “Chorus Line” on my duodenum”, suddenly it doesn’t matter that you were pooping blood, everyone is laughing.

These things have to have contextual fluidity, though. You can’t say, “It’s as cold as a dead hookers rutabaga.” People will be forced to ask, “Do most hookers have their own rutabaga?”

Actually that’s funny as shit. Which leads me to…

3. Surreality

If you can steer backwards, you can use surreality to your comic advantage. You have to set it up so someone asks the clarifying question. The most obvious type of this joke is the “Deez Nuts” variety, where you ask someone “Be careful of that rope.” and hope like hell they ask “what rope?” at which point, you rejoinder with, “the rope you are swinging on like Tarzan before you hit smack into DEEZ NUTS!”

It’s a terrible joke. I can’t stop making it, and it always makes me laugh. There is a whole lexicon of “your mamma” jokes that fit this pattern.

Better, though, is the lead off that sets up an actual joke. If you can get one of your friends to ask the question “Do most hookers have their own rutabaga”, then, in a way, you’ve already won. But if you answer “it’s ten dollars more if you bring your own.” they will start laughing. Then you can continue with, “they want to make sure the quality and size is just so. They’re very picky about rutabagas. (pause) Eggplants too.”

See, we don’t even know what the hell we’re talking about. Someone will eventually make the banana joke, or some other suitably phallic fruit or vegetable, which will kill the joke because you’ve come back around to a literal food-in-the-vagina joke, which is not really all that funny. Once you’ve entered the world of the surreal, it’s good to just give it lots of gas and take your hands off the steering wheel.

These were the three things off the top of my head to help my friend Dani. In action, it goes like this.

There is terrible traffic on the way to a party. You come in to the party making your excuses.

“The traffic was completely backed up. I guess everyone was coming to this party!”
“Traffic was terrible. They don’t call it rush hour for nothing!”
“I’ve been staring at break lights for half an hour, which must be why I’m seeing red!”

Etcetera, you get the idea. Totally literal, totally obvious, totally without charm.

“The guy in front of me, it turns out, supports our troops to the tune of six magnetic ribbons”
“On the way here, I got to listen to all of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and how often can you do that?”
“It was perfect, I had enough time to get *this* arm tanned, then the sun moved and got my face nice and brown and then came down through the other window, and I got *the other* arm tanned. Traffic is really why I’m so gorgeous.”

“If you leave any space at all in front of you, some jack-booted spastic football fan will caroom in front of you.”
“Every car jumps forward only to screech to a halt, like a bulltoad mounting his mate…”
“Sorry I’m late. Apparently, today was geriatric jallopy day on the interstate.”

“It took me an hour to get here, but I just curled up in the back seat and took a nap.” (works only if you’re the only one in your car)
“Traffic going the other way was fine, so next time, I’m gonna start here and we’ll have the party at my house.”
“It was like the tortoise and the hare, except instead of the hare taking a nap and the tortoise winning, both of them were driving in cars really slowly with thousands of their tortoise and hare friends.”

All right. I pray that I can be at least a little bit funny as the years go on. I’ll try to remember these rules, and if I don’t, feel free to reprimand me. Right in DEEZ NUTS!