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December 31, 2013 8:27 am

To err is human, to laugh divine

Written by Doug Blough

Before tackling today’s topic — spontaneous as opposed to rehearsed humor — I will pass along a Walmart encounter weeks ago that uplifted my pre-Christmas spirit.

I was fuming that at mid-afternoon weeks before Christmas, every line was so long it looked like, “Gray Wednesday, the second-busiest shopping day of the year.”

In my usual hurry to basically get nowhere to do nothing, I carefully selected the shortest long line. A gal in front of me with less groceries than myself smiled pleasantly and said, “Go ahead in front of me.”

“Are you sure?” I asked insincerely, already inching forward.

“Yes, I’m in no big hurry” she said sweetly.

Pointing to all my dog and cat items, I said “If I didn’t have so many pets, I’d be in ‘10 items or less.’” When the cashier asked for $98, I gasped, “Geez, at that price, maybe I’ll put a few of them down.”

She chuckled, and when I mentioned my newspaper column, she chirped, “Ah, I thought that’s who you were. I’m from Powell and love your columns.”

Now I was doubly uplifted, so to that kind lady, I offer a sincere, “Thank you for the fuzzy memory, (and I did NOT euthanize my pets”). It’s always a joy to meet someone truly nice.

On to our topic at hand: I’ve never been a fan of the canned, memorized jokes. They’re usually not that funny, and it puts undue pressure on me to fake a laugh, often mis-timing it and hearing, “Wait, that’s not the punch line.”

Conversely, I love spontaneous humor, especially when it’s unintentional.

A good example is when my brother Paul (formerly known as Saul) was teaching adult Sunday school decades ago. After reading a passage from the Bible, he said, “And ya know, there is a lot of truth in that.”

Wanting to beat everyone to the punch, I blurted out, “Of course it’s true; it’s the Bible, for God’s sake!”

In an even better example many years ago, I had left my two small dogs at my pet groomer, Hope Sheets’ house. Bear in mind, Hope was and still is, a short but busty gal.

When I went to groggily pick them up early the next morning before work, Hope was still in her low-cut nightgown and when she bent over to pet my dogs, she said, “Your little guys are all ready.”

At that exact second, two of her own dogs bellowed from the garage and I said, “I see you’ve got some big ones.” When she immediately straightened up, blushing, I was thinking, “The dogs, lady; I meant the dogs!”

It was embarrassing, but that’s accidental humor at its finest.

Almost 20 years later, I recently called on Hope again to groom my dog Trina and asked her if she remembered that gaffe. She did and even gave permission to recount it in print. Not only is Hope a fine, busty groomer, but a great sport yet to boot.

Honorable mention goes to the irrepressible Jim Stockberger, who also delivered a church gem once when he requested prayer for “My wife, who has a hole in her rectum.”

He quickly clarified amidst the smattering of giggles, what we’d already figured out: that he meant to say “retina.”

I also got permission to recount the most classic example of spontaneous, yet intentional humor. It was a few years ago at a funeral — a veritable breeding ground for clever quips — when I sat in a folding chair in the back row at the funeral of my friend Clell Wynn’s elderly sister Vernett McGary. Arriving a little late was everyone’s favorite political statesman, Al Simpson, who plopped down in a chair right beside me. The preacher that day was Kurt McNabb, a fiery youth pastor from Clark, who launched into somewhat of a fire-and-brimstone sermon.

“It’s not popular to say, but in a congregation this large, not everyone would go to heaven. Sadly, there are some that would go to hell,” he admonished.

With immaculate timing, Al nudged me and whispered, “That son-of-a-bitch is talking about US!”

No slouch myself at ribald comebacks, I whispered, “We’ll see that (guy) in the parking lot later.”

Of course, we didn’t actually lie in wait and administer a brutal beating to the well-meaning preacher; it was merely a refreshingly irreverent exchange between a couple of aging class clowns.

And maybe that truly is the Fountain of Youth — refusing to grow up and behave. Like they say, “Why take life seriously; you’re never gonna come out of it alive anyway?”

So forget about who you might embarrass or offend; let the inappropriate one-liners fly like there’s no tomorrow. Chortle loudly, obnoxiously and often, my friends.

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