Friday, December 15, 2006

Comedy 101: Humor in the Holidays

This is the traditional time that I float my humble version of "It's a Wonderful Life". I want to see this joke become a Holiday Classic to be repeated around fireplaces every Christmas. We all know that probably won't happen, but I was very encouraged when someone called yesterday, said he was about to tell it again, and wanted a refresher course on the wording. So here goes:

You've got to hand it to Santa Claus. How many guys can tell their wives, "I'm going out, I'm staying out all night, and I'm not coming home till I've emptied my sack"?

Actually, writing comedy during this season is a little too easy. It's often tough to sell a joke because everyone knows the old reliable subjects like the nightmare at the mall, the last-minute shopping, etc...I've noticed jokes about the Iraq Study Group have not played well with the studio audience in Los Angeles.

One topic that has real possibilities is the Reverend Ted Haggard's reprogramming to be straight. Ted was the guy who was actively preaching against the gay lifestyle while seeing a male prostitute for meth and sex. That sort of hypocrisy always goes a long way in stirring up a crowd, but the idea of a group of fellow pastors meeting to talk him out of being gay is downright hilarious. It reminded me of the group of preachers - including Jesse Jackson, active in his own personal life - who solemnly gathered to talk Bill Clinton out of being such a horny hound dog. Good luck with that!

I actually sold one joke about the Haggard counseling sessions earlier in the week, but it violated the guideline of not reinforcing stereotypes. In the joke I said I didn't think it was working because they asked him how the reprogramming was going and he said, "Fabulous!"

I try to avoid jokes that play to stereotypes, but sometimes commerce triumphs over my better judgement. I always avoid the hack riffs about gays being interior decorators or loving show tunes. However, this was still a slip over the line, although a very successful one - the crowd loved it. I rationalized by saying, "I didn't think the program was working" leaving some wiggle room. In other words, it may be working great, because straight people say "Fabulous" as well.

But I didn't feel completely good about it, so the next day, I set about to write a much nobler effort, that combined the topic with the Holidays. Why? Because it's the most wonderful time of the year, right? Okay, here goes:

"Reverend Haggard is being de-programmed from being gay but I don't think it's going too well. In fact today, the other pastors suffered a serious setback. They were talking with him about Christmas and he said he thought Santa Claus had a nice ass."

I doubt if that went on and I may never know. My power was knocked out around quarter to 11, and I missed the show. Oh well, we can make that one just for the readers of the Portland Freelancer. Merry Christmas, everyone.


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