The Prodigal Joke
A True Comedy Tale
Once upon a time there was a joke I used to do in my act that never got a laugh. NEVER. I kept doing it. Every night. To blank stares & total silence. But no matter how many times the joke bombed, I refused to toss it aside. I would not give up on it. I persevered. I kept at it and at it. Then one night an amazing thing happened. I did the joke. And it STILL got nothing. So I gave up on it. I dumped it and said I would never do it again. The next morning I woke up and the joke was sitting at the foot of my bed with a revolver pressed to its temple. It implored me to try it again. It said that maybe with a different placement or a better delivery it could work. The joke pleaded for one more chance. But I just laughed & told the joke to fuck off. That may have been the only time the joke had ever gotten a laugh. Crushed, the joke slowly let the gun slip from its fingers & crumpled to the ground defeated and started sobbing. I handed it a bowl of Crunch & Munch and went in the next room to watch the game. When I came back, the screen door was open & my wallet & keys were gone. The joke had skipped town. No note. Nothing. Later I heard the joke had hit hard times and was bouncing from comic to comic selling itself wherever it could. Supposedly for a while it ended up in a magician’s act. Later a stripper started using it as an opener before her live sex show with a donkey. The donkey would be lowered on a pulley and she would tell the joke nude before different men would slowly walk onstage and have sex with her to the hoots of local farmers. It was passed around by sailors and was sometimes uttered by dockworkers in several small fishing villages in Mexico. Finally I heard the joke became addicted to opioids, developed rickets, went insane & hung itself in an asylum in Phoenix. After reading the news in the penny press I felt a pang of regret and decided to try the joke one last time. I launched into it in the middle of a killer set and delivered it with a confidence I had never felt before. The set up was a thing of beauty, my timing was impeccable and I hit the punchline perfectly. There was a huge pause. Then like magic, as if propelled by some divine force…nobody laughed. The entire audience shifted awkwardly in their chairs and stared blankly at me in confused silence. Always trust your gut.