Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Sunday Oregonian: Jokes and the Global Bounce

One of the fun parts about writing jokes is watching them bounce around afterwards. I'm up watching the Ryder Cup at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning in the Fall of 2006, and this will no doubt lead to some jokes tomorrow, especially if something crazy happens. Unfortunately, at this point, a U.S. victory seems like a crazy notion. You know what? If I were the U.S. Ryder Cup captain I'd ditch the teamwork stuff, the meetings and sing-alongs, and all that us-against-them jive. I'd set up a structure where the U.S. players are staying at separate hotels just like on the tour. Then pit them against each other and offer a huge endorsement deal to the U.S. player who does best. It might be a generational thing, but our golfers are psychologically better at being individuals. It feels all wrong to think of them as teammates. Just a theory.

I have had golf jokes that were broadcast and then bounced around for a while. When Greg Norman blew a major and was hugged by Nick Faldo, I wrote that he didn't need a hug - he needed the Heimlich maneuver. That was repeated by a guest the next day on the Imus in the Morning Show.

Usually the bounce lasts a week, often printed in newspapers like the Oregonian on that Sunday. Some even end up in a low-level orbit in lists of the Political Jokes of the Year and the like. This is all good. Every now and then a joke I've written will become sort of a standard, reappearing in a slightly altered form again and again. This is true of the joke about total eclipses where Dick Cheney says, "See, I told you we couldn't rely on solar energy." That's shown up several different times, not coincidentally right after an eclipse.

I've even written a special Christmas joke that I've actively tried to make into a Holiday Classic. You know - my version of "It's a Wonderful Life":
You've got to hand it to Santa Claus. How many guys can tell their wives, "I'm going out all night and I'm not coming home till I've emptied my sack"? Perhaps you can share that one when your families gather this year.

By now you might be wondering if it will be Christmas before I get to my point. Okay, here it is. In the Sunday Oregonian's Opinion section on this September 24th, one of my jokes shows up again. I've scanned it above. That Senate Report was in the papers back on September 8th. I sent my joke in that same day. I did have one on that night ("Donald Rumsfeld’s shoulder surgery was a success, and he should start patting himself on the back again by tomorrow.") but it wasn't till the following week that the joke in question went on. I'd give you an exact date, but let's just say it was before the 15th. Then it bounced around the newspaper services and returns back to Portland, all these weeks later, apparently after a stop at Time Magazine.

The jokes are broadcast originally in over 70 countries. Then they show up in newspapers around the world. I've seen them on the Reuters international website - especially during a presidential campaign. So they leave my humble basement office and return like a salmon to spawn and die in the Sunday Oregonian. Usually it takes around a week. This joke is still going upriver 16 days after I wrote it. So as jokes go, this is a strong salmon. Who knows? It may even last as one of the definitive jokes on the Iraq War.

Darn. Colin Montgomery just won his match. While he'll choke as an individual, he's a great Ryder Cup member. Besides, he has the best man breasts this side of Bill Purcells. Sorry about that. I just get tired of watching these Europeans acting gracious in victory. Oh well, it could have been worse. It could have been the U.S. Men's basketball team losing to Greece.


At 6:15 PM, Blogger LaurelhurstDad said...

So tell us why a joke you wrote, and was told by Leno, gets credited to Time Magazine?

I know Time publishes funny cartoons and lines each week, but they credit them to the original 'teller' (or the one who bought them, like Leno). Do you lose all right to them once you sell them? No roalities? No residuals? That must hurt, especially in the ego department.

At 7:36 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

I don't know if it was really credited to anyone in the public's mind. Certainly, Leno and Carson talked openly about having writers.
And it doesn't hurt in the ego department. I might even get that Time Magazine, if that's where it is. Besides, when you have your own cable access show, anymore of an ego trip could be dangerous.


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