My buddy, Lenny, mentioned that his brother was a civil engineer. Wham. My anecdotal Tourette’s syndrome kicked in. Do you remember the Groucho Marx show where if you said the magic word a bird dropped down? That’s the way my mind works—say the right word and a joke pops out. Anyway, back to Lenny’s brother. Civil Engineering reminded me of a good joke about civil engineers. I had to share it. It was like a treasure my buddy could offer his brother whom he had not seen in a while. But then I found myself stumbling with the set up. I remembered the punch line but you have to get the set up just right especially with a complicated joke like that one. I stumbled through it but a badly told joke is like dropping your ice cream cone half way through. It wasn’t all bad but it wasn’t satisfying either. Also…my reputation as a raconteur was at stake. So, I reworked the material the way you keep trying to remember the second verse of a song you woke up with. Or the dum-de-dum-dum rest of the melody. Sometimes you can make up the lyrics even if you know they’re not quite right.
It just occurred to me, maybe that’s why they pass out song sheets at elder sing-alongs. Or why they sing Happy Birthday once a year for us…to help remember the words if not the numbers. And while I’m on the subject, do you think that’s why people go to church once a week…so we don’t forget the hymns? Same for the national anthem before football games? Anyway, a good joke teller has to be like a grocery store clerk rotating the stock to keep it fresh…bring the old stuff to the front (is that why they call jokes canned humor?) Well, hell, you can’t be expected to come up with on-the-spot humor every minute. You have to wait for just the right gaffe and be ready to pounce with clever rejoinders and ripostes. Between times, it may be necessary to dredge up an old gag to get the patter going. Some of us assume that mission, call it a dedication, to get a party in gear.
So, anyway, wanna hear the civil engineering joke? Oops, I’ve gone on too long. That’s another part of good joke telling…timing.