When I was seven I became interested in learning to tell jokes. My father and mother never told jokes, and the jokes I heard at school rarely appealed to me, but I was mesmerized by the way my Uncle Bob told jokes.
Uncle Bob, my father’s brother, was of great interest to me for many reasons. He was the survivor of a terrible car accident that had left most of the right side of his body paralyzed, and he moved and spoke with great effort, sometimes taking several seconds to express a single word. He was a chain smoker, and his relationship to cigarettes was endlessly fascinating to me.
To get a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket, to extract a cigarette from the pack, to get the cigarette between his lips on the functional side of his mouth, and then to light the cigarette with a lighter, was a tremendously difficult and time-consuming undertaking for Uncle Bob, an undertaking I watched with rapt attention hundreds of times.
There were so many ways he might fail at this endeavor, so many precarious moments along the treacherous course from pack to mouth to lit, yet Uncle Bob rarely failed in his efforts—his first toke of every new cigarette thrilling to me. He did it!
Along with his constant smoking, Uncle Bob was a heavy drinker and a habitué of bars where he learned many of the jokes he told us, my father and I. Many of Uncle Bob’s jokes were set in bars and involved drunks, and though I didn’t understand why his jokes were supposed to be funny, I loved the construction of his little stories: establishing the setting, introducing the main character or characters, building the story to a climax, and delivering the punch line.
I also loved Uncle Bob’s reaction to his telling of a joke. He would deliver the punch line, and then, whether anyone laughed or not, he would slowly open his mouth and emit a bellowing sound, more groan than laugh—his face turning red and his body shaking with mirth.
So about twenty years ago, I got a call from the brother of a friend who was to be the master of ceremonies at a Chamber of Commerce gala, his first time performing for a large audience. My friend had told her brother that I was not only a good joke teller, but that I could teach other people how to tell jokes. The gala was only two days away and this brother of my friend was desperate to learn a few jokes he could tell to loosen up the crowd.
For some reason his request brought to mind a series of psychiatrist jokes, which I proceeded to tell him. When he stopped laughing, he asked if I would repeat the jokes very slowly so he could write them down. I did so, and when he had the jokes written out, he told them to me. His timing was not good and he kept putting the emphasis on the wrong words, but after a half-hour of coaching, he started to get the hang of how to tell these particular jokes. I suggested he keep practicing and call me the next day, which he did. After one more telephone coaching session, he performed at the gala and got some big laughs, or so he said.
Here are the jokes I taught him in the order he delivered them.
So a guy goes to see a psychiatrist. When the hour is up, the psychiatrist says to the guy, “I think you’re crazy and should be locked up.”
And the guy says, “Hey wait a minute. I want to get a second opinion.”
And the psychiatrist says, “Okay. You’re ugly, too.”
A guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office with a chicken on his head.
The psychiatrist looks at the guy and says, “What’s all this about?”
And the chicken says, “I don’t know. I woke up this morning and there he was.”
A guy goes to see a psychiatrist and says, “Doctor, my wife thinks she’s a refrigerator.”
The psychiatrist asks, “How long has this been going on?”
The guy says, “Four days and three nights.”
“Well,” says the psychiatrist, “give it another few days and if she still thinks she’s a refrigerator, bring her in and I’ll talk to her.”
“The thing is,” says the guy, “I haven’t been able to sleep and I’m going crazy.”
“You’re worried about her,” says the psychiatrist, nodding. “That’s only natural.”
‘Well, it’s not so much that,” says the guy. “It’s that she sleeps with her mouth open, and you know that little light that goes on when you open the refrigerator door? It’s on all night.”
Which reminds me of another psychiatrist joke I didn’t teach him because it wouldn’t have been appropriate for the Chamber of Commerce.
Two psychiatrists are having lunch, and one of the psychiatrists says, “So… the other day I was having breakfast with my mother and I made quite the Freudian slip.”
“Do tell,” says the other psychiatrist.
“Well… I meant to say, ‘Mom, would you pass the butter.’ But instead I said, ‘You bitch, you ruined my life!’”
Speaking of funny stories, if you haven’t seen my first attempt at a music video, a kind of musical parable, here is the link to Eva Waltzing on YouTube.