What's funny? What isn't? And why do I never get a laugh when I tell that joke about the moose?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

No Rhyme, No Reason

Last Thursday was “Poem in Your Pocket Day”.

It’s potentially a cute idea: Walk around all day with your favorite poem in your pocket. Then, share that poem with people throughout the day.

Wellllll….my first problem was that I misheard the celebration as “Poet in Your Pocket Day.” I visualized cramming Maya Angelou in the pocket of my brown tweed jacket (my “author” jacket) and felt that neither she nor I would be well served by the experience.

When I got that straightened out, I began wondering about just how many times I would be able to use the phrase, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” without getting slapped in the face.

Answer: Three.

As I cast about looking for a poem to carry around (I picked “Jabberwocky”), it occurred to me that there isn’t a lot of funny poetry.

If you think about it, most classical poetry is pretty grim stuff--all about Love and Death, the Death of Love and the Death of One’s Love. Donne, Shelley, Keats--none of these are likely to tickle one’s funny bone.

Even so-called “Light Verse” isn’t particularly funny. The poetry of Edgar A. Guest and Company usually the covers the same material as the Classical Poets--only with one-third fewer calories.

For the most part, even the wittiest of the so-called funny poets aren’t laugh out loud funny. Lewis Carroll, Shel Silverstein and even Doctor Seuss are mostly whimsical. (I suffered from whimsy for years until I stopped eating radishes.)

I don’t know enough about modern poetry to draw many conclusions about it. It does seem to be more of the same, though.

(Oh, I also contend that free verse is CHEATING!!! I see a bunch of poets sitting around whining “Rhyming is too haaaard! Why does it have to rhyyyyme?

Because it’s a POEM, that’s why! You bunch of big babies!!!)

In any case, there is one notable exception to my assertion that there are no funny poems--and several of you have already started composing emails to point it out:

Yes, limericks are funny. Or at any rate they can be funny. The best of them are clever AND funny, like a well told joke. This is first one I remember:

There once was a lady from Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside
And the smile on the face of the tiger.

Limericks can even be educational:

There once was a lady named Bright
Whose speed was far faster than light.
She departed one day
In a relative way,
And returned on the previous night.

For a while, we amused ourselves with meta-limericks:

There once was a man from Peru
Whose limerick ended line two.

Which was followed by:

There once was a man from Verdonne

And finally:


But the original format is best, I think.

With that in mind, it’s time for the first ever Awkward Silence CONTEST:

I’m going to provide the first line of three limericks. You guys write the rest. Post your results as comments, and whoever’s limerick is the best will win a PRIZE worth virtually nothing at all, and bragging rights for all the world to see.

Contest rules: None to speak of. Friends and relations of the Awkward Silence’s Fearless Leader are encouraged to enter, as are total strangers and sworn blood-enemies.

Multiple entries are encouraged. (wink)

Entries must be timestamped by 11:59 pm on May 31. Try to keep the limericks relatively clean. Winner will be selected by Fearless Leader--arm twisting and lobbying are encouraged.

Sound good? Here we go:

1) A small boy confined to his room


2) The latest computer software


3) The Lone Ranger riding on Silver



  1. The Lone Ranger riding on Silver
    Was eating a large navel orange.
    When asked "Where's the rhyme?"
    He replied "I've no time,"
    So vamoose before I turn purple.

  2. The latest computer software
    Allows me my *feelings* to share.
    But nobody wants
    To know what my mind haunts.
    So I exit, pursued by a bear.

  3. A small boy confined to his room
    Allowed his dark notions to loom.
    'Til he figured out how
    To make them real *now*!
    And thus he became ... Doctor Doom!

  4. The Lone Ranger riding on Silver
    Said "Those bandits are going to pilfer."
    When Tonto asked "How?"
    He replied "Come, look now.
    "What do *you* think we rode up this hill fer?"

    There once was a man from South Orange,
    Whose room had a real squeaky door hinge.
    So he said "I must oil it.
    "But if that doesn't foil it,
    "I'm going right out for a bar binge."

    Yes, I know the "rhymes" in that one depend on two different pronunciations of "Orange." But the second one is correct. If people tell me I have to say "Oar-a-gun" and "Floorida" because "that's the way people who live there pronounce it," then they can d*mn well pronounce "South Orange" the way *I* do.

  5. Jay:

    Nice work, adopting my proposal that "Silver" rhymes with "Orange"...points for that.

    I can't believe NOBODY else has a limerick to offer...

  6. Jerry, I know you have no control over what ads Google puts on this blog, but I think that you'd be as appalled as I over the postings on this link:

    >Laugh Bamster Out - Now
    >There once was a man named Obama... >Best Limericks on the Web

    Now I didn't stay on that site long enough to find out whether any posts there say *nice* things about our President (or about whether the site would keep them up if anyone did), but as long as we're doing limericks here ....

    There once was a man named Obama
    Whose opponents were quite prone to drama.
    But their anger was such
    That they'd protest too much.
    Why, they'd nail him for dropping a comma!

    (Or, "They'd even insult his wife's mama.")

  7. (OK did Google actually parse my last post, or are they just giving equal time? Now there's an ad for:

    >Official Obama Website
    >Support Barack Obama by Joining
    >Organizing for America. Act Now!


  8. BTW, this post, and another of the ads that have appeared with it (promoting tours of a certain Irish town) suggest a possible reason why our friend Paul gets bigger laughs than you. The Murphy (or Muirpheagh) clan, after all, is/was based in Limerick.

    (I'm supposed to be working right now, so I won't try to come up with completions for "There once was a fellow named Murphy," or "There once was a fellow from Limerick.")

  9. Hmmm, could the absence of limericks here by anyone but me be, itself, an example of "the awkward silence"? If so, I suppose it's also an example of why Jerry likes me in his audience. (Why he likes me in his poker game is another matter, though possibly related.)

  10. Could it be they're all sissies?

    A limerick's rhymes can be pretty
    They're read in the country and city
    My readers ignore
    My calls to the fore
    Because they're required to be witty.


  11. A limerick contest like this is
    An event often marred by near misses.
    But when Mr. Lazar
    Noticed too few, by far,
    He asked, "Could it be they're all sissies?"

    The above is doubly self-referent, because it not only mentions the contest in which it's an entry, but also is itself the kind of entry it describes, namely a "near miss."

  12. Less than six hours to go, y'all....

  13. OK, so what's my prize already?