What’s So Funny?

“He’s no fun…he fell right over.”


“Stop SLAPPING me!”


“Porgie Tirebiter…he’s a spy and a girl delighter…”
When I was really young my parents had the Bob Newhart comedy album. I didn’t really understand much of it but between his album and Shelly Berman’s, I grew up believing that all phone calls are hysterical!


When I got a little older my brothers introduced me to the Smothers Brothers. Music AND laughs. My destiny awaited. I remember the routine about their mother buying Dickie a dog and Tommy got a chicken. I’m sure there was subtext.


My pal across the street, Pete, would put his parents Bill Cosby record on the living room stereo and we would sit on the back porch and listen with riotous effect. What ten year olds got out of Cosby I’m not sure. Maybe we just liked the funny voices he used.


Maybe it was the glimpse into African American culture that his socio-economic themed passages afforded us.


Nah. It was the funny voices.


Then I hit junior high and high school. I was all in on Firesign Theater. That’s where the above quotes came from. Me and my friend Bob would sit in his basement, with the album on a reel to reel machine and listen to “How Can You Be In Two Places At Once (When You’re Not Anywhere At All)” over and over, trying to catch all the background jokes and effects. It was drug culture humor being enjoyed by two kids hopped up on Flintstone vitamins. To this day Nick Danger and Rocky Rococo mean more to me than Jerry and George.


When I made my brief drive thru of college, it was Cheech and Chong 24/7 but I didn’t enjoy them. I get it. They were stoned. One of them was INSIDE the door…one of them was OUTSIDE the door. I needed more, I guess.


Carlin was a genius and I loved his stuff mostly because he was the first voice coming out of my stereo that cursed, unless you counted MC5.


These days I drive around in a car that has a radio that can get ten thousand stations. I have about six of them set to comedy stations. Sometimes they play Carlin…Newhart…..they never play Firesign Theater. Never Cosby. I have to look into that one. Must be a reason.


The toughest part about listening to so much comedy is that, when I perform, a perfect situation will present itself to hit the audience with something I heard Gilbert Godfrey say earlier that day. Then I have to stop the show, give attribution, feel the rage of the audience when they realize they were cheering and laughing for ME, only to learn that the cathartic experience we had all shared was due to someone ELSE’S genius, not mine.


Shame on me. Shame on me.


I would recommend you all go out and get the rereleases of the Firesign Theater albums but I am pretty sure, even if I listened to them now for the first time, I would find them too much work. We have gotten used to our humor in short staccato blasts. We like them coming at us like the hot kiss of a wet fist. (Another Firesign reference.) Maybe they were just what I needed to hear in that time period between my parents telling me “no” and the girls in school telling me ….”no.”


Do you find the following funny?


A UFO lands in a small town and a local is interviewed……
“The alien had skin smooth like baby’s feet. We took him to the church picnic…where he choked to death on a piece of cheese.”
Still kills me.