Sunday, April 02, 2006

Why I Enjoy the Sunday Oregonian...No, Really

One of my favorite parts of the Sunday Oregonian is the Clip and Click section where they reprint some of the late-night talk show jokes. Dozens of times I have seen one of mine in there, and it’s like watching a salmon return home after a long trip out in the ocean. Less often the jokes will appear in the editorial section, and that’s even more fun. I really enjoyed the times when I had a column in the Tribune and some political humor in the Oregonian. Oh, the things I’ve done for this town! I also suspect this is from the so-called "Cut and Paste" school of journalism - in other words, these jokes are probably in a lot of newspapaers, in a lot of different versions of the TV Click.
Alas, this morning’s “Quips and Qutoes” - which sounds like a boutique - didn’t have any of mine, but there was enough there to buttress two of my favorite points about comedy writing:
1. The Lenny Bruce Factor versus Reader’s Digest. Every joke lands somewhere on this scale, and I get tired of hearing complaints that Leno is soft and Letterman is more hip. When I started out, I would listen to both every night, and I used to write in notebooks the dozens of times they had essentially the same joke. I also noticed that Leno has tons more material than Dave, and while the overall effect of the entire monologue, might trend one way on the Lenny Bruce scale – Leno usually had a couple that were hipper than the competition. Take Leno’s joke in this morning’s Oregonian: “Yesterday, President Bush gave a big speech about immigration reform. Is President Bush the best person to be talking about entering another country illegally?” That is not a Reader’s Digest joke. That is more of a Lenny Bruce joke.
2. I’ve always been amused when comedians think they received a joke directly from God. It’s a sign that they’re not that adept at writing material.
This past week, I almost included a reminder to run my eclipse joke again. It has been on 2 or 3 times: There was a total eclipse today and Dick Cheney said, “See, I told you we couldn’t rely on solar power.” The wording changes slightly, but that has been called back for years - a salmon returning from the ocean should be so lucky. Here’s one of Letterman’s from this week: “There was a total eclipse of the sun today. President Bush said the eclipse proves the unreliability of solar power.” I like my wording better. Do I wonder for a second if some other writer heard it and submitted it again? Maybe for a second. Do I think Letterman’s excellent writers could have thought it up on their own? Definitely. Does it bother me in the least? No.
We are comedy writers. This is the business we have chosen.


At 12:03 AM, Blogger Jack Bog said...

Some just get better with age:

"Man, it was hot here in ______ today." "How... hot... was it?"

"It's Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year's, and here I am still writing 5766 on my checks."

At 7:56 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Those New Year's ones also work great on China:
It's the Year of the Horse in China and here I'm still writing the Year of the Pig on my checks.

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