By Art Trujillo
Rather than attempt Comedy Central, let me explain that I have absolutely no talent when it comes to telling those long, drawn-out, elaborate situational anecdotes that require a series of repetitive remarks (“and then the genie asked the third man ...) followed by a punchless line.
In fact, where there’s laughter in my environment, it’s usually the result of some slip of the tongue, a one-liner, or something serendipitous, in which people are laughing at me rather than with me. And that’s all right too.
Almost exactly 10 years after I first attempted a joke, I heard it again. Somehow, nobody laughed when I told it, but this time, when told by another, it was hilarious. Or so the laughers indicated. But that also could be the result of the boss-to-supplicant syndrome in which every joke the boss tell is hilarious.
But let’s move on (or, as politicians under indictment are wont to say, “I wish to move forward, put this behind me and admit that mistakes were made.” Or they might make statements to the press, saying Diane Denish’s loss to Susana Martinez “had nothing to do with the Richardson factor”).
In the year 2000, when I worked as a recruiter for the U.S. Census Bureau, my co-worker, Diana Abeyta, and I addressed a group at the Senior Center. Before we took the stand, I assured Diana this opening joke was going to knock ‘em dead.
I then told the group about a dog that had been bred solely for the 2000 census. It was a cross between a pit bull terrier and a collie, like Lassie.
“The advantage of such a dog,” I explained, “is that when a census-taker, who needs to go to far-reaching, isolated houses, gets his leg bitten off, the same dog (or at least the collie part) will then run five miles to get help.”
Reaction? Zero. They rolled their eyes but didn’t roll in the aisles. I guess some people can tell ‘em, some can’t. I heard the same joke at the City Recreation Center, and those hearing it behaved as if that had been the funniest joke of their lives. It probably was a case of the joke-teller’s being in a position of authority: You laugh or, tomorrow, you’re pounding the sidewalks of metropolitan Roy-Mosquero, looking for employment.
Whenever my brother-in-law, former Bernalillo County district attorney Jeff Romero, tells me any in his arsenal of lawyer jokes (don’t be fooled — lawyers know the jokes and love to tell them), I respond with, “Please leave the humor to me.” But all my bravado sometimes works against me.
Jeff will ask, “Why did God create snakes before lawyers?” or “Why won’t sharks attack lawyers?” Then he beats me to the answer, with, respectively, “for practice” and “as a professional courtesy.” That’s when I’d like to advise him not to try these one-liners in front of others, but judging by my own failure to get reaction from the Senior Center crowd, maybe humor is just not my forte.
• • •
I’m usually one to greet tellers and checkers by name, with a friendly “How’s it going?” Surprisingly, I often get a response, but sometimes merely a grunt. For example, once at Taco Bell, after I placed my order, the server handed me my receipt and told me “You’re 268,” referring to my order number. I don’t know why Taco Bell receipts are usually in the 200s.
I responded with, “268? I’m not nearly that heavy.” A flurry of apologies, and she then explained the real meaning of the number. I believe it was the same worker who a week earlier said, “You’re 92,” to which I responded, “I’m not nearly that old.”
Part of the joy of unbridled humor is having people pay me back in kind. The third time I went there, with my usual, “I’m not nearly that old/heavy” spiel, she fished out a receipt with much higher numbers, possibly 298, and insisted that figure represented both my age and weight.
It’s fun also to hassle people like Roberta, a pharmacist at Walgreens, as I go to the drive-up window. Generally, whoever processes the order will ask, “Do you have any questions about this prescription?” I answer with, “Just one question: Will I be able to play the piano when I’m on this medication?
Roberta used to reply, “Oh yes, you should be able to play the piano just fine.”
Then I’m like, “Good! I can’t play the piano now. Maybe this medicine will help.”
How many times can one customer take this one to the well? Now, the long-suffering Roberta will answer, “Oh, yes! You’ll be able to play even better now.” Even some of the pharmacy techs are on to me. I have to learn some new tricks.
• • •
Can we teach an old dog new tricks? I believe we can, but meanwhile, I received this doggone list of new breeds of dogs, in addition to the one bred by the Bureau of the Census. I don’t know who compiled such a clever list, but anyway, here goes:
• Spitz + Chow Chow = Spitz-Chow, a dog that throws up a lot.
• Pointer + Setter = Poinsetter, a traditional Christmas pet.
• Irish Water Spaniel + English Springer Spaniel = Irish Springer, a dog fresh and clean as a whistle.
• Newfoundland + Basset Hound = Newfound Asset Hound, a dog for financial advisers.
• Terrier + Bulldog = Terribull, a dog that makes awful mistakes.
• Bloodhound + Labrador = Blabador, not a popular dog with CIA agents.
• Malamute + Pointer = Moot Point, owned by ... oh, well, it doesn’t matter anyway.
• Collie + Malamute = Commute, a dog that travels to work.
• Deerhound + Terrier = Derriere, a dog that’s true to the end.
• Great Pyrenees + Dachshund = Pyradachs, a puzzling breed.
• Pekingese + Lhasa Apso = Peekasso, an abstract dog.
Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.