The Fine Art of the Penis Joke
I remember it like it was yesterday. Okay, it was yesterday, or more like last night as my big-time, late-night TV client was wrapping up his monologue. The last joke didn't go over, and he even told the crowd he had planned to end with that. Since it hadn't done well, he would try another. That's when he brought out one of my jokes and surprisingly, the place went crazy. I spend most of my time writing political humor - humor that often gets medium laughter because of its more serious topics, and it's mostly placed towards the front end of the monologue. So what did I write that was used as the big finish, receiving what was certainly in the top 50 reactions to any of my one-liners ever? Simple - a penis joke.
This is where Austin Powers would do a few silly plays on words: "I hope you don't get big-headed about it. The joke started out limp but it did rise to the occasion. Get it, Vanessa? Rise to the occasion." "Austin, you're incorrigible." "Oh behave, baby."
One of the best penis jokes ever was unintentional: Dan Quayle - another Republican intellectual giant - actually wrote a book called "Standing Firm". Wow, didn't anybody say, "Er, Dan, your title sounds like a porno movie." What an idiot. God, I miss him.
The reason I stick to the main news stories of the day is partly because you know what those are. Once you drift into the celebrity stuff, you can still sort of tell. For example, Willie Nelson reinvented the Mile High Club this week. Hmm, I might send that one in. See how they just fall out, people? I'm not in this because it's hard work. But speaking of hard, let's get back to the penis joke:
The final tier of late-night comedy is the wacky news: Ordinary people acting crazy. Unfortunately, with 6.5 billion people, there is so much of it, picking what topic is in play, is nearly impossible. That is unless it belongs in a special category: Wacky News Gold. When a Chinese man gets the first penis transplant - as happened this week - you are going to hear about it on the late-night talk shows. Trust me. There is only one higher level of wacky news - call it Wacky News Platinum - in which the crazy behavior also happens to involve a celebrity. Years ago, when a giant lizard bit Sharon Stone's husband on the foot, that was Wacky News Platinum. The offending beast was a Komodo Dragon so you had an A-list movie star and an A-list lizard.
I've even predicted a population level in which there will be so many celebrities that wacky news access will no longer be available unless you're famous. How much craziness is there in the world right now? There is now a wacky sex story every 3 weeks out of China in which the guy is actually named Wang. That's the numbers we're facing, people. This penis transplant story mentions no names, and maybe that's why.
The thing about the man involved here is that the penis was removed again a couple of weeks later, and the paper said it was for psychological reasons. I've heard transplant recipients get images of the other person's life. Were you aware of that? Someone I know got a kidney transplant and the doctors warned him that could happen. Isn't that a trip? But anyway, the Chinese guy's penis is now back off and my joke was, "That's going to make for a tough life. I mean without a penis, how's a man supposed to think?"
There are several reasons why that joke got a big laugh. First the talk show host had primed the crowd that this was the big climax, so to speak, and second it seemed like he was going to say something more crude and sexual, so it was the sudden last-second turn. Third, it's stereotypical and hurtful about men, which is completely allowed and, frankly, deserved. Let's be clear though: We men think with our minds. It's just that every now and then our penises override the decisions.
So it's back to work. Another day of political humor - humor about the great news stories of the week. I must disregard this lowbrow stuff - this easy way out - and write some comedy that would make my parents proud. It's too bad really, but I shouldn't complain. I did get to write during the Clinton administration. That's when you could write about the biggest political news stories of the day and it was still a penis joke.