Laughter Is a Labor of Love

What do you find funny?  A few years ago I did a little stand-up comedy at a club in town for a weekly open-mike night.  After my first five-minute set, the manager gave me a video tape of the act and asked if I’d like to host the regular Saturday night show.  I was honored and stunned by the offer.  The next time I spoke to him, a few weeks later, he said he didn’t think I was funny and I thanked him for his constructive criticism.

He was what you might call an “American giver.”  (A variation on the inappropriate term “Indian giver.”)  But he did have a point in that I always tried to do different stuff when I went on stage and never worked at developing a polished routine.  An old TV commercial used to say “a dab’ll do ya,” and dabblin’ will do you in.

But I don’t want to babble in a bubble all morning, especially since it’s Labor Day and there’s work to be done.  Have you ever had a problem with your eye?  I do right now.  It’s not because I’ve accidentally impaled it on a chopstick–I haven’t; I left my chopsticks in San Francisco, unless it was Seoul.  The authorities wouldn’t let me bring them on the flight as they mistook them for weapons.

My left eye has become inflamed and red.  I’m not sure what’s wrong with it.  It doesn’t hurt too much, but it looks like a sac of blood.  It’s even kind of pretty in a way.  Since today’s a holiday, I have to wait till tomorrow to have it checked out.  I wish I could withstand physical pain better the way people do in Korea, but I confess I’m a wimp.  Deep breathing can help mitigate the sting of minor aches and pains, but since I want to go back to sleep in an hour I had to pop a painkiller (naproxen), which meant having to eat a bowl of cereal with some chopped-up strawberries and bananas, which means adding more lipids to my steadily growing abdominal collection.

The other day I was in the train station of a major American metropolis eating a turkey sandwich and a plastic cup of fruit salad, watching a video on safety tips for the country’s terrorized populace out of the corner of my eye, which had yet to turn into a cute little ball of blood.  The narrator explained how the dogs working for the security guards could sniff out explosives, “the same way you can smell popcorn coming from the office down the hall.”

I thought:  That’s true.  Popcorn is a kind of explosive.  

Only now I’m afraid to eat the stuff.  I’m afraid if I do I’ll end up looking like that pope with the stretched-out howling mouth in the Francis Bacon painting (it’s apparently a portrait of a pope who colluded with the Nazis, and I’m not talking about old Benny-dick).

I guess he ate too much popecorn.

I saw one of those dogs at the San Francisco airport last week while I was waiting for my suitcase to appear on the baggage carousel.  I thought the dog was looking for drugs.  I guess that would have made him or her a drug dog.  In a way, dogs are drugs because they make people feel so good (although I wouldn’t recommend smoking them–you’d have to use an awful lot of paper).

Cats like catnip.  What’s a drug dogs love?  My family once had a Jack Russell terrier who was addicted to chasing skunks.  He always got sprayed and one of us would have to pick him up and stick the stinking critter in the soapstone sink, then rub some special cleaning stuff all over him and wash him off.  He had a good attitude about it and didn’t whimper or writhe the way I would have (not that I’m dumb enough to run after a skunk, though almost).

After rinsing his fur with warm water, his captor would dry him with a towel set aside for the purpose (it acquired its own special smell too, although it was more doggy than skunky), then lower him to the floor and let him run back outside.

He would immediately roll around in the grass, plowing a furrow through the ground with his head to ensure he got respectably dirty enough to preclude scorn from his canine peers.  

Oh, well–at least he didn’t run back after the skunk.  He’d wait a couple of days before doing that.

Another time the dog–let’s call him Spanky–was standing vigil in the dining room as my dad was carving a roasted ham for lunch.  The ham somehow managed to topple from the platter it was on and tumble to the floor.  Spanky sank his fangs into it faster than Zeus can snap his fingers.  With Zen-like reflexes, my dad grabbed the far end of the ham and, rather than try to wrest it from the terrier’s tenacious grasp, sawed off the piece caught in the dog’s mouth with the knife he was holding like a mountain climber biting off his own arm to save his life and rescued our porcine lunch for us.

We later awarded my father with the homemade equivalent of a Nobel Peace Prize for his heroic accomplishment.

It’s all about instinct, folks.  Not that we should act like dogs and go around sniffing one another’s butt.  That might not go over too well in some circles.

I apologize for the above remark; my editor’s taking the day off.

Happy Labor Day.  If you have a dog, give him a big hug.  Afterwards you might want to take a shower, just in case he’s carrying Lyme disease-infested deer ticks.  

The ticks will thank you for your pains.


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