Again, some fast food workers in some major cities are striking to bring attention to their low wages, demanding $15/hour. Nevermind what might be in the mcnugget – we’ll solve that mystery later. Let’s tackle this wage thing because as we know fast food workers have it worst than anybody in the world past or present. I’ve heard that as the strikers marched, they chanted and sang songs but nobody could understand them through the shitty headset and microphone. ha ha!
But, let’s laugh a little about fast food! Here are some jokes I sometimes tell. They do not translate to the page that well. Just read with sarcasm.
My local McDonald’s is pretty awesome. You can go through the drive-thru and get a large coke with the lid almost all the way on. You want the fries upside down in the bag – you don’t have to ask. They got you covered.
I love In-N-Out Burger. I go through the drive-thru about 2 times a week. I know in about 30 years, I’ll have to go to go through the Walgreens drive thru to get prescriptions. Basically, Walgreens is In-N-Out Burger for old people.
I went through In-N-Out Burger the other day, ordered it “to go” but I ended up eating it in the car. I called them when I got home, because I know they are so organized. I said “this is customer #327, and it’s time to update your records cuz I said “to go” and I ate it in the car!”
Finally, not that funny, more of a ‘stoner’ type thought (I’m not a stoner but I have stoner thoughts), apparently is my air-tight theory about In-N-Out Burger being the type of burger joint Hitler would run. In-N-Out Burger is a Nazi front:
1. In-N-Out Burger. Three burgers on the men (Third Reich); white uniforms? served in brown-shirt colored to-go boxes.
2. SS – secret sauce? (or special sauce)
3. Nazy Germany was basically in and out of France in a matter of years. What is on their menu – burgers (german) and….french fries (!) – it’s obvious In-N-Out Burger believes germans and french are compatriots.
4. I consider the yellow arrow an artistic representation of a saluting arm, which intersects the “N” in In-N-Out – N=Nazi.
There it is. Couldn’t be any clearer! Not that funny but really, I am always suspicious of organization that operates so efficiently. I do love In-N-Out Burger – for the food (yes, it’s fast food but it’s tastier than the others) – and how they operate – they pay a decent starting wage. They seem to hire efficient, pleasant, hard workers.
Perhaps it’s a regional thing. Perhaps those workers in the big failed cities have so few opportunities not because of the fast food industry but for other reasons. I’ll leave that to the experts, but here’s a news flash – fast food strikes are not in the top 10 worries of most Americans.
More seriously (and if you’re reading this far, thank you). I worked fast food during high school in the late 1980s ($4.25/hour – according to this calculator that is the equivalent of $9 so, news flash – minimum wage has always been, you know, low). It’s a good first job. It’s an easy job. Yes, it’s true, easy jobs can be stressful and not so fun, but overall, the skills required to work fast food are minimal. There was also a lot of goofing off (gee, really? a bunch of high school kids in charge at 11 pm? what could go wrong?) Unless you have plans on being a manager and building management skills, it’s a place to learn basic human interaction and teamwork. A place to learn punctuality, cleanliness, customer service, and basic math skills. But since so many people are special and stars of their own special world, these skills are often hard to learn. Fast food restaurants (and workers) are not a necessity like some public works employees/police/fire/hospital so I don’t see their edge in terms of getting a higher wage or forming a union (btw, if they unionize, any wage gains would probably go to the unions, so knock yourself out, strikers). In fact, the fast food product is bad for you – like candy. Like cigarettes. Like the WB channel. And, sorry, but it’s the type of work that a robot can and will do very soon.
Here’s a few jokes related to age that I tell when I do stand-up. They are not personal and probably not the best ever jokes but they’re amusing.
My grandma has a smart phone. She has an app on it called Instagramma. It takes pictures of things she didn’t have has a kid. It comes with an electronic pill counter. And with it you can send am Instagramma photo and a $5 check to your grandchild for his/her birthday.
There are dating sites for all types. There is one for people over 50 called Ourtime.com. I think there needs to be a dating site for people over 87 years old called Overtime.com – because at that age, that’s what you’ are in – overtime. Find someone fast, get it and hit it. You go out, exchange power of attorney forms….or perhaps for people over 99 years of age – call it SuddenDeathMatch.com – you find your match and begin dating within 3 hours. Short walks, salt free dinners…and not to leave younger people out of it – a dating site for 3 year olds? Naptime.com. Boom.
My grandma likes to say “we didn’t have that when I was a kid” usually pointing to my phone and I’m like “give it a rest” not everything was invented in 1970. Or did you think I was calling you in 1982 from my Atari phone? Shouldn’t you be writing a check for $2 somewhere?
(okay joke #3 isn’t there yet but the way I tell it is better than on paper – always is).
The last of my cat jokes is one I came up with recently after a trip to the visit with my cat Butters (yes, Butters). Goes a little something like this (or, as Hedberg would say, “It goes exactly like this…”)
I took my cat the vet the other day. The vet says my cat Butters is too fat. Overweight by a couple of pounds. Fat shaming my cat right there in the office, two feet away from my cat and her chocolate donut. I cover Butters’ ears.
“She can hear you,” I said. “Let’s ease up on the descriptors. “I know the book read by animal docs “All Creatures Great and Small” exclude fatties but doesn’t mean you have to be rude.”
He goes “well, she is overweight.”
I said “No kidding? A cat named Butters is overweight? Her name isn’t Vegetable Oil for a reason. I’d be upset if my cat named Butters wasn’t a little tubby, thank you.”
So he finishes checking Butters and she’s fine. I ask him, “So what’s the downside of having a fat cat?”
And the vet says “well, a shorter life-span.”
And I said ” ‘No, I said, what’s the downside?’ Because what I heard you just say is that my time scooping the litter box is going to be shortened a great deal, and that sounds pretty good to me.”
(so, that’s how it goes. again, better in person. cat jokes are the new airplane jokes, imo). (by the way – I like the joke/story above because it applies a ‘viral topic’ (Fat Shaming) to a pet – if I were better storyteller, I could expand on the whole topic of fat shaming via the cat – maybe I will later.
Bonus story – dramatic real lives of cats:
The other day (8/26), my other cat, Mia Wallace the Cat (so named because she has brown hair and likes to throw up occasionally….) died unexpectedly. She was about 11 years old, seemingly healthy. But, on Tuesday morning, her back legs weren’t working right so I rushed her to the hospital (almost just like JT rushing UT to Lance’s house to get the little black medical book and “the shot”). I got her to the vet, and it was quickly determined that Mia was going to Cat Heaven on the express bus.
Almost as quickly, was me going to the front desk to pay the bill for the work that had been done and the cremation to follow. The woman said “I’m sorry to hear about your cat. It’s $205.”
I was thinking “what does she charge when she’s not sorry. Jesus. Was that brainiac doctor from CNN, Sanjya Gupta, back there working on the cat? Bill Nye the Science Guy – is he working in the back?” But, whatever, you pay (seriously, the folks at the vet hospital were great) and you go home. Without your cat.
No more Mia Wallace cat jokes. Not right now. This is a good example, though, of joke-telling jokes that are personal and not your ordinary stuff. Makes it easier to remember, makes (sometimes) a connection to the audience. If you are in a line-up of comedians all talking about one common subject, you may not be heard/remembered. Tell something a little personal, a little honest, something that reflects your personality/interests, then I think you will do better as a funny person (whether or not you do stand-up).
Last week and this week I wrote a few sentences breaking down some jokes, just to see what aspects of the jokes make them funny (are you bored yet? nothing says snooze like talking about what makes something funny).
One thing that I think might help a new stand-up comic is to avoid certain words. I am by no means an expert so take with a grain of sea salt. The few examples outlined below aren’t gospel and certainly words and phrases used depend on the comic’s persona, goal, intonation (delivery), etc.. I’m just writing here, not judging. Not yet, that is, you unfunny person.
Words or phrases I recommend you avoid if only to be funnier:
1. “I hate” said seriously while setting up a joke, along with negative adjectives. Or even just stating an opinion while on stage. You lose the opportunity to be sarcastic which means you may be missing out on laughs. I suppose if you’re the type of joker who isn’t sarcastic this may not apply. But even in a social, non-stand-up comedy setting, trying to be funny with “I hate” may not be as effective as being overly sarcastic with “I love.” Or describing anybody you really despise (ex- or current Presidents/Governors,/celebutards) with negative words aren’t as effective as overly positive praise. “I hate George Bush” (or “Obama”) big whoop – you and a million commenters on Yahoo news have said the same thing. But “I just looooove George Bush [or Obama]- I can’t get enough of his brilliance and courage…” gets the same point across. You are performing comedy and so statements like this are easily understood as sarcasm.
What might be funnier in a typical set-up for airplane/airport jokes (let’s say the joke is about someone at a ticket counter but the person sets the place by bringing up airports/travel).
“I hate airports…stupid security, lame baggage handlers” – okay, you’ve described something we all hate. Thank you, Stand-up Describer.
“I just love airports….brilliant, super-sharp security guards, the incredibly honest baggage handlers…”
Be sarcastically positive and you may get more laughs. The crowd should know you are being sarcastic get your point. Just “I hate…” is too short, not funny in most cases. I suppose there are times to use this, perhaps a punctuation to an already delivered.
Perhaps some exceptions to the ‘I hate’:
If you say “I hate terrorism” while doing stand-up comedy, that is as funny as saying “I just love terrorism” – Terrorism, unlike voluntary air travel or cab rides, is so awful that it is absurd for a comic to have state the obvious – nobody really seriously enjoys terrorism. Same goes for hating Nazis – a pretty easy stand to take, tough guy.
I think can apply to other verbs or adjectives. Whatever you are introducing before the joke, set it up my either using sarcasm or exaggeration, not straight reportage.
2. “My ______ are funny” or “c’mon, that’s funny, guys!”– setting up a joke with “My friends are funny” or “my dad is funny” is like saying “I think” in a personal essay. It’s lazy (wait, I should say “It’s lazy, I think”!!). Think of a better introduction to whatever joke you’re going to tell about your funny friend/relative.
I would rather hear “My dad is just amazing, like in a Forest Gump kinda way. The other day he let the neighbor borrow our toaster…..” than “my dad is funny. the other day he let the neighbor borrow our toaster” (this is just some type of joke set up – I don’t have a punchline, okay). The takeaway is that most anything that you are saying or describing SHOULD be funny if you are performing a set so you don’t have to tell us it’s funny.
Related to this: If you have tell the audience that what you just said is funny, then you delivered it wrong or it’s not funny. You can communicate your displeasure in a better way than just stating that what you said was funny. Say something like “okay, then, we’ll have to agree to disagree on that last one” or something. I hate hearing (new) comic complain, while on stage, that the audience isn’t laughing. You can complain if they aren’t listening, but if they are listening and not laughing, you better find a better way to communicate.
3. “Last week” or “the other day” – this I am guilty of and I’m not sure there is a fix. For the working comedian (which I am not), I imagine they have enough to remember than to trying to pick specific days of the week to set up a joke, and they are performing longer sets so it’s not as noticeable. It may also not be that important – more like filler that goes unnoticed by the audience. However, I noticed the other day when I had three jokes in a row where I started by saying “last week” – it was noticeable enough that I called myself out on it (got a laugh) but still. I think trying to deliver a joke where something “happened to me last week” is common enough that it’s okay. But avoid setting up so many jokes that ‘happened last weeks’ or ‘just the other day’. Even if it’s “On Saturday I ran into my ex.” as opposed to “Last week I ran into my ex”
4. “Is this thing on?” (tap mic a couple of times) – this is so goddamn old…I can’t wait until something different comes along to indicate that the mic may not be working. Unless you are in a David Lynch movie, and are in the Great Northern trying to hold a town meeting, stop saying this.
That’s it. See, that wasn’t so tough. Just a few words/phrases to think about when performing comedy. Tighten up the writing/ideas by eliminating these lame words/phrases. Obviously one may use these and any other word but try to be original with your set-up. We all hate airports so you don’t have to say it. I will not say I hate people who say “I hate airports” but will say “aren’t people who say ‘I hate airports’ so very clever?”.
In the past week or so, I’ve written about two jokes that I perform (here about a dead dog, and here about dead cats). It may be boring as hell or, hopefully, interesting to someone out there. One thing that I brought up is that it’s important to know why a joke works but it’s also important to know that sometimes funny can’t be analyzed or answered.
By the way – as I said before, these blog posts about my stand-up comedy is more for me than anyone – a circle jerk to analyze my jokes since nobody else will, right? So, if you don’t think it’s useful or funny, no worries. Go to tmz or whatever.
I think books or interviews of comedians about what is funny, etc. can be boring. Here I’m just breaking down a joke for my own purpose and for others – you don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to know how a joke may work or doesn’t work. There are plenty of funny people who don’t write/perform stand-up comedy. There are too many people who don’t have a sense of humor and might believe they will never have one. I think some people are naturally funny and some aren’t. But just because you are not naturally funny, doesn’t mean you can’t learn some structure of a joke or see how others think in terms of what they believe to be funny (geez, that’s an awful sentence – I apologize).
When I began doing stand-up comedy a few months ago (after a break) I had one set that had such a ‘joke’ or statement by me that got a much bigger laugh than I anticipated.
The set-up. I was invited to tell some jokes at a small bar in the small town I live in. The bar is in an odd location in town (right by some railroad tracks, next to some other odd businesses, but nearby is the town post office). So before I am introduced, I decide I have to somehow mention that the post office is nearby – as if I’m only there to a) tell jokes and b) drop off my mail (aka, “get shit done” like a real adult).
So, my words were something “when Mike asked if I wanted to come down here to tell some jokes, I asked him where the bar was. He said “down by the post office” I said “I’m in.”
That’s all I said and it got a big laugh. Again, a large part of it was my delivery and persona because I am pretty calm on stage and so it looks like going to a place ‘near the post office’ is something that would intrigue me.
In the line “I’m in” there was humor in that because it I said it as if I was agreeing to rob a bank with a team of hardened criminals or agreeing that doing comedy next to a post office was a no-brainer and obviously going to be a great venue (turns out it was).
But it’s not really a joke, right? I can’t tell it again (maybe I can) but the way I said it was more spontaneous (the idea wasn’t as I had decide about 30 minutes before to mention it somehow).
That kinda gets into when a comedian says something that seems off-the-cuff or inspired by something that happened in the bar/club that evening. They may have ready-to-go one-liners or they may actually think of something fresh and new and funny in response to something.
If you are going to do stand-up comedy, and your act is the kind that can break away into ‘observation’ about your surroundings, getting there a little early, looking around at then neighborhood, etc, is helpful. I guess I would call that ‘localizing’ your set, something the best comics do but the more you do it, the better you’ll get and you can have fresher ‘observations’/funny lines compared to other comics (example – I’m sure every comic visiting San Francisco is going to joke about the steep hills – may be funny but not exactly original. Look for something more local that that if you’re visiting!)
Anyway, I’ve strayed from the topic that sometimes a comedian will say something (planned or unplanned) that is not structured in a usual ‘joke’ format but still is funny – mostly due to timing/personality of the comic and….magic.
Let’s try to take the fun of out comedy by analyzing jokes. Ha! Actually, this is more of an exercise for my benefit. I did this earlier and plan on a few more post going over my jokes (but not all will be about dead pets/people – I promise). Anyway, part of the purpose is I write down a joke, have it saved on my blog but in writing about it, I may learn something.
As I mentioned before, any jokes I discuss are by me and are funny(funnier?) when heard in person due to my awesome presentation skills (or they are not funny at all).
The last joke I analyzed was about a dead dog and bereavement time. The joke below is about potentially dead cats but I write it here because it’s also very timely! Topical humor, people!
I pulled into my driveway the other day. I looked over and saw a neighbor of mine with a bucket of water and a box with some feral kittens. He was getting ready to drown these poor kittens! I immediately got out of my car, grabbed a stick, and walked over there and said “hey, asshole, I see what you’re about to do. I can’t let you do it. We are in a water shortage – a drought! Use this” and I throw him the stick. (to audience I say something about even animal abusers being more socially responsible, etc…
(this joke does not translate too well to the page and the wording in the joke I’ve written may not have the impact. It also makes me sound like a monster. But in drought-ridden California, it’s funny).
I think this jokes works for several reasons:
1. My presentation is always of a pretty calm guy, a short nerd, so the idea of me grabbing a stick and confronting anyone is, hopefully, funny (when I first told this joke, I said “baseball bat” and when the crowd laughed, I was surprised – didn’t even occur to me that it was a funny image. But it was so I kept it. Another version has me telling the guy that the water he’s using better be ‘gray water’ (dirty) or to do this awful extermination while taking a shower.
2. Topical – here in California, it’s drought drought drought, and this is a darkly humorous take on the impacts of the water shortage – so bad that a (bad) guy can’t even some feral kittens.
3. The word “feral”. Drowning cats or kittens is awful. I use the word ‘feral’ to at least soften the blow a little because we associate feral kittens as a nuisance, like cute squirrels that could be dangerous. Maybe it doesn’t matter but I think it’s interesting to note it, that it is something I include in this joke as a possible buffer.
In one of the variations, I had a tag line “swing away, Merril. Merrill, swing away” a quote from the film Signs, about an alien invasion that is, in part, thwarted by their aversion to water (the character Merrill is a baseball athlete who swings his bat at some glasses filled with water to fight back against an home-invanding alien).
That I got to add that tag line was fun for me. A small inside joke for those who had seen this movie and got the connection between the water and baseball bat. I may still include it when I tell this joke.
A comedian may get bored with some of their jokes and I think adding little bits like this to the main bit can keep it fresh (you can remove/add different ‘insider’ jokes if it helps.). The main premise stands – some jerk stopped from drowning cats NOT because it’s wrong but because of the drought and the waste of water it represents.
Like the joke about the dead dog, this joke also catches the crowd’s attention because immediately they are presented with an image of my neighbor preparing to drown a box of cats – holy shit, right!? So, they snap to attention, see where I’m leading to and so forth. Not the smartest joke, but it engages their mind to think about a) the crime/morality of drowning cats and b) the drought and nanny-state rules/fines over wasting water.
That is all. Again, I’m writing this more for me, but also so that potential comedians see how one might view a joke after it’s been created and why it has the impact/effectiveness that I think it has. If you are thinking of performing stand-up comedy or writing jokes, you better understand a little why something is funny because you’ll save a lot of time but then you will also find those jokes that are funny for NO APPARENT REASON – it will happen and in those cases, that is just plain magic (I will discuss one of these moments some time later).
I could be totally wrong – this may not be funny at all to you, in which case you are invited to click away, Merrill. Merrill, click away.