Wednesday, August 11, 2010

91. How To Be Funny

So I am driving Tall home from his swim lesson. Short is on a playdate with one of his friends, so this is a rare sliver of one-on-one time for me and Tall. I am asking him about his day and the details are spilling forth. It is nice to see this chatty fun side of him emerge in his brother’s brief absence.

“Oh, and guess what, Mom? Pal told me some funny new jokes today! Do you want to hear them?”

“Sure!” I am basking in the moment. I think it is so cool that he has a sense of humor and can tell jokes.

“Okay, great. So I have two new jokes to tell you. How do you make an elephant float?”

“Umm, how?”

No, Mom!” he hisses, “You’re not supposed to say THAT. You’re supposed to say, ‘I don’t know’. Try again.”

“Oh, I mean, I don’t know.”

“With lots of root-beer! Get it? Ha, ha, ha, hee, hee, ha, ha!”

He is cracking himself up. I think the joke is sweet and I smile. Then Tall elaborates, in case Mommy is too stupid to get it after all and is only laughing to be polite:

“Do you REALLY understand, Mom? The elephant has to drink all that root-beer so he can be a float like in one of those big parades on TV.”


Now it is my turn to explain the joke.

“No, Tall, what they mean is a root-beer float, like a drink. You know—a dessert? Like a milkshake?” (It occurs to me that in my hyper-vigilant crusade against excessive sugar and desserts, I might never have exposed him to the simple pleasures of a root-beer float. We are an ice-cream family, for sure, but we tend to avoid sodas. Oops.) “And I guess the elephant would be the ice-cream. They don’t mean like in a parade. That’s not what float means in this instance.”


Silence. I have popped his (joke) bubble, or at least his float.

“It’s okay, Tall, I still think it was funny, though! Please tell me your other joke. Didn’t you say you had two jokes?” I try to inject the former lightness back into our interaction.

“Yeah, I know you will like this one! All right, so this cowboy has a horse but how does he get there?” He is breathless and I can tell he’s eager to deliver his punch-line.

“Get where though?”

“MOMMMM! That’s not part of the joke!” Now he is beginning to pout. I see him in the rear-view mirror as he crosses his arms over his chest.

“Tall, I just don’t understand, get where exactly?” I say quietly.

“You are SUPPOSED to say, ‘How?’ Stop messing up my jokes!”

Apparently, I am heckling my own son.

I sigh, partially upset with myself. I need to stop micro-managing everything. He is six. Let him tell a joke, MOV.

“Okay, how?”

“Because the horse’s name is Friday! Get it? Ah ha, ha, ha, ho, hee, hee, ha!”

He laughs giant peals of laughter. I laugh because he is laughing. We drive a few more streets. I am so puzzled. I know Tall’s friend Pal to be extremely funny. That kid can tell a joke. I am quite aware that some important piece of the joke puzzle has gone missing.

“Tall, can I give you a tiny little thing that would make your joke funnier?” I offer cautiously. I know: I just can’t help myself.

“What do you mean? Did you not get that joke, either, Mom? Does someone have to explain the joke to you?” he says it sincerely, like you might say to someone who speaks very poor English but is trying their best: do you want me to translate?

“Just listen, Tall. What you could say is: ‘The rodeo is only open on the week-ends—Saturday and Sunday—but the cowboy goes on Friday. How is that possible?’ And then you would wait for the person to say ‘I don’t know’ and then the punch-line for the joke is: because the horse’s name is Friday! See? He is riding a horse named Friday, so he is technically on Friday! See what I mean? That makes more sense. That is much funnier.”

I am proud of my self that I have used my (rudimentary) detective skills to figure out the set-up of the joke after hearing the botched punch-line. It is like “Jeopardy” for jokes.

Tall is not so happy. He snaps at me angrily, “Those two jokes are good, so don’t force me to change them!”

We drive home in silence. That’s funny, I thought we were going to have some quality time.

(“Micro-managing Other’s Verses”)

No comments:

Post a Comment

When you write a comment, it makes me feel like I won the lottery or at the very least like I ate an ice-cream sundae. (This has nothing to do with the fact that I did just eat an ice-cream sundae.)