The other day as we were walking to lunch, listening to my brother Jeff fumbling to come up with the punchline to a joke he was telling, I was again painfully reminded of my family’s complete inability to remember jokes.
I have five brothers and sisters, and you would think that at least one of us would be able to tell jokes, but we can’t. We can make sarcastic comments that are fairly funny, and there was a very late night conversation between my oldest brother (who was going through EMT training at the time) and my youngest brother (who has always been a bit of a hypochondriac) about a medical condition called upper sphincter blowout which was probably the only time I laughed hard enough that I was concerned about physical injury. But if you want us to recite a joke you’re out of luck.
Every once in a while one of us will forget that we can’t and try, but the joke inevitably trails off to a disappointed conclusion as we either a) mess up the punchline in such a way as to render the entire thing useless, or (more likely) b) stop and try to remember what the punchline involved.
I have exactly two jokes that I can remember, and both of them involve math or numbers. (*)
The reason I’m fairly convinced that there’s a genetic basis for all of this is that I remember when my sisters were young. Jojo the Enforcer was about five years old and had the best memory for non-joke things that I have ever seen. My brothers and I would cheat during games of Memory, and Jo would still win. KB (or Karen-poo as she introduced herself the first day of kindergarten) was still eating her meals in the highchair, but she had an amazing vocabulary for a three year old.
Now, the joke that they were trying to tell was from a Bennett Cerf book. The book version is: “What time is it when an elephant sits on the fence?” “Time to get a new fence.” As you can imagine, this is humor that appeals to little kids.
Here is the routine as told by my sisters: “What time is it when it’s time to get a new fence?” “An elephant!” And then they would dissolve into laughter. Sometimes they’d leave off the part about the elephant because they were laughing so hard. They told this joke at least once a day for about two years. And laughed every time.
Oh well. On the plus side, nobody in my family will bore you with an endless litany of blond jokes. At least we've got that going for us...
• Joke 1: Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate 9. (Say it out loud. I have to think about which numbers are involved for a few minutes before I tell this.)
• Joke 2: A Polish man is on the left side of an airplane flying near the Grand Canyon when the pilot tells the passengers that there is a good view on the other side of the plane. The man goes to the other side to look out the window and the plane crashes. Why did the plane crash? Because the Pole was on the right side of the plane. (This is an engineering joke. I can’t even remember why it’s funny.)