People say to me, Pearl? Where’d you get that sense of humor; and once you got it, what have you done to try to get rid of it?
And I tell them: I inherited it. There’s really nothing I can do.
My father, the King of Clean Jokes – the man who carried around a little wooden coin inscribed “TUIT” just to present when someone said that they would do something, just as soon as they got “a round to it” – was and is my primary influence.
The first joke he told me was on my way to kindergarten.
“Man walks into a bar,” he says to me, at five. “He sits down, he hears the man next to him tell the bartender, “I’ll have another Waterloo.” The bartender gives the fellow a tall, well-iced drink, then asks the newcomer what he would like to drink. This new guy, he’s thinking the other man’s drink must be a specialty of the house, right? So he says, “I guess I’ll have a Waterloo.” The bartender gives him the tall, well-iced drink and the customer takes a big drink. “Hey,” the new guy says, “this isn’t any good. It tastes just like water!” The man next to him looks at the bartender and says, “Well, it is water. Right, Lou?”
That Dad. What a card.
He told clean jokes when my friends came over, causing me to nip at the heels of my friends in hopes of pushing them out the door. “Hey, Pearl! Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but there’s a guy at the community pool –“
“Oh, no,” a friend would say, “I don’t think I’ve heard this one.”
“So this guy is at a community pool, right? And he gets kicked out by the lifeguard for peeing in it. “Hey,” says the guy, “get real. Everyone pees in the pool.” And the lifeguard says, “Yeah, but from the high dive?”
General chortles all around.
I swore, of course, that I would not do such a thing, tell jokes to my child’s friends.
But we know what a liar I am.
The Boy had some friends over the other day. They were talking about dogs. I couldn’t resist.
“Did I ever tell you guys the one about the talking dog?”
They laughed. They think I’m funny anyway but now I’ve got a joke.
“OK. So a guy walks into a bar. Tells the bartender that he’s got a talking dog and if he’ll just front him a beer, he’ll get the dog to talk. So the bartender gets him a beer, the guy downs it in one gulp, turns to the dog and says, “What’s that up there on top of the house?” and the dog says “Roof!”. Bartender says, “Oh, come on…” and the guy turns to the dog and says, “What’s the texture of sandpaper?” and the dog says “Rough!”. The bartender’s getting upset now, feels he’s been cheated out of a beer. The guy can see this and turns to the dog one more time. “Who’s the greatest baseball player that ever lived?” The dog says “Ruth!” “That’s it!” screams the bartender, and kicks the guy and his dog outside. The guy stands up, dusts himself off, the dog looks up at him and says “DiMaggio?”
And I saw the look on my son’s face: bemusement, love, perhaps a touch of resignation; and I recognized the look as the one I wear myself when my Dad tells jokes.
Turns out I’m a carrier.
Not everything we pass on to our children is in our DNA or trickled down to us in a will.
Some of it is far more serious than that.