Okay, I confess. I never met a horrible pun or a corny joke that I can resist. The dumber the better.
Q: What did the farmer say when he lost his tractor?
A: “Hey, where’s my tractor.”
See what I mean? There’s something about the naked admission that the joke is stupid that wins me over every time.
A termite comes into a bar. Says, “Hey, is the bar tender here?”
Had to think about that one, didn’t you? I enjoy the delayed response from the listener that I often get, that pause, pause, pause, and then the mouth breaking into a grin, then laughter, then, “I get it now.” Sometimes they sneak up on you like that, and I enjoy that covert operation. The joke seeming to carry no punch at all, and then, a few beats after the last word, it all explodes.
Q: How come there are so many Smiths in the phone book?
A: Because they all have phones.
Bam! Sometimes a corny joke can be so logical it stuns you with its inevitability.
Hmm. . .a directness combined with a covert operation, leading to a surprise that is also inevitable? Sounds like there’s something here that speaks about the way good stories get told, but I’ll leave that all for you to articulate. I welcome your comments. Hmm. . .perhaps another lesson: the good storyteller knows when to stop, when to not say too much, when to let the silence resonate out to the readers, inviting them to fill it.
I’ll be in Vermont for six days starting tomorrow, teaching a workshop in the novel at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Writers’ Conference. Vermont, where it’s illegal to whistle underwater, but where, as the T-shirts say, you can “Let Your Moose Run Loose.” I’ll post something from Vermont if I can avoid the temptation of the aforementioned.