Send in the Clowns

A comic says funny things. A comedian says things funny.

There's a big difference.

An electrician walks into a Starbucks and orders three triple espressos. After swilling his drinks the man bellows, "These fuckers are hot!"

Rattled by the customer's crassness the barista sheepishly replies, "That'll be $17.25, sir."

"Seventeen goddamn dollars—" the electrician screams, "I'm shocked!"

"Well, sir—I'm supposed to charge you double, but you seem to have a really short fuse."

"That's nothing, kid—you should see me when I'm wired."

Whenever I hear, "You're funny—you should be a comedian," it makes me uncomfortable and self-conscious, the way a chubby fellow might feel if you said, "You're fat—you should be a chef."

One has nothing to do with the other. Dullards who think otherwise should be made to stare at the reflection of their own slack-jawed maw until they realize it.

Did you hear about the shoplifter who got caught stealing tampons red-handed? She got off, but her lawyer had to pull some strings…

I promise not to quit my day job.

Buddy Hackett delivered the funniest line I've ever witnessed by a professional. In the middle of his bawdy nightclub act, an uptight woman in the first row seemed visibly disgusted by his ribald humor. After asking his audience for their patience, the man best known for his role in the Disney family classic "The Love Bug" tells the lady some harmless one-liners as if she were the only person in the room. After getting a couple chuckles, Mr. Hackett asked the lady if she'd like to hear one more. "Yes," she said demurely, to which Buddy responded with a set-up for which no punch line was required:

"Two queers are fucking an alligator in a boat…"

Buddy's audience exploded with laughter. Thirty years later, I still get a rise just thinking about it. I guess you had to be there.

In high-school German I learned the word for Buddy's bon mot:


Not surprisingly, the English language doesn't have a a single word of its own to describe the joy one takes in witnessing the misery or misfortune of others. However, Schadenfreude isn't simply laughing at the person who slips on the banana peel; it's being the dick who eats the banana. My road to happiness is littered with more banana peels than I'm proud to admit.

Guy Grand, the protagonist in Terry Southern's novella "The Magic Christian," considered his tricks on society a way to "make it hot" for people. I'm not the only guy who likes to make it hot for people. Many one of the funniest people I know—and a majority of the kindest and most generous—practice Schadenfreude every day.

"Yeah—funny as a crutch," some might say.

For some of us, funny is the crutch.


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