Child Rearin'

Published on October 29th, 2015 | by Richard Black


You’ve Got to Be Joking: Surviving Children’s Attempts at Humor


A wax cast of Freddie Mercury’s teeth.

How does one get a child to tell a decent joke?

This isn’t a set up for a joke by the way I really want to know.

Children have many, many strengths. Nagging their parents until one of them gets a peptic ulcer is the first talent that comes to mind. Producing astounding amounts of phlegm is another. Despite this comprehensive and impressive set of skills however humor lies outside the range of most children’s expertise.

My daughter has recently discovered the medium and I can say without hyperbole that the past few weeks have been the most excruciating of my entire life. I look forward to hearing my daughter’s “jokes” with the same level of enthusiasm I reserve for passing a kidney stone or sitting on my balls. If you’ve ever thought about cutting yourself and lack motivation I’d encourage you to ask a five year old to tell you a joke.

Darcy’s delivery is decent and her set ups are solid. She even delivers the punch lines with a verve and gusto I envy but that’s where everything falls apart. A ham salad sandwich has a more coherent grasp of humor than a five year old.

I love my daughter and because I love her I’ve tried to enjoy these…well whatever in the hell they are. I’ve tried to enjoy them as irony and non sequiturs. I’ve tried to enjoy them with a few pints of bourbon and a bottle of NyQuil. I’ve even tried giving myself a few sharp blows to the head. The sad fact is that no matter what approach I take or how much cough syrup I drink my daughter just isn’t that funny.

I remember my youngest brother going through the same phase many, many years ago. I was a youthful lad of seventeen and Bear was about four or five. His favorite jokes involved pink elephants.

“Why did the pink elephant wear blue socks?” Bear would ask the first person he could ambush.


“Because he had a hat!” Bear would say before breaking into gales of laughter.

One of the few benefits of years of dedicated drinking is that I don’t remember any more of Bear’s jokes. Unfortunately a whole new batch is quickly filling the void.

“Why did the banana go to school daddy?” my daughter asked me just a few weeks ago.

“I couldn’t say honey,” I said hoping, despite all hope, that she would deliver a marginally funny punch line.

“Because she didn’t have a band aid!!!”

“That’s awesome sweetie.”

“Do you want to know why the ghost didn’t go to the bathroom?”

“No I do not,” is my inevitable response.

I always thought I was done with this sort of thing once I graduated college. It turns out that children and young men with substance abuse issues have a remarkable amount in common. In addition to a truly deplorable sense of hygiene neither one has the ability to tell a decent joke.

“This couch is so fucking funny,” I remember hearing one of my deeply stoned buddies say early one morning, “It’s A FUCKING LEOPARD!!!” The couch was, in fact, covered in a leopard print so he was correct in that regard. Everyone else in the room promptly lost their shit but I didn’t get it. Then again I’ve never been a fan of observational humor.


The urethra of Pennsylvania.

“I feel like sperm in a dick,” another friend said as we tooled through a white tiled tunnel somewhere in Pennsylvania at a stoned and stately 35 miles an hour. The boys in the truck giggled for the next five days and I gave some serious thought to developing an opium addiction.

Now that I’ve been out of college and haven’t smoked anything stronger than a menthol cigarette for some time history seems to be repeating itself. The only difference is that neither my daughter nor myself are under the influence of illicit pharmaceuticals.

I’m sure that in a few years Darcy will finally find her stride but I really don’t have that much time. Things are getting dire and I’m considering some pretty extreme measures. Vincent Van Gogh had a kid around five or so right?

Before I do anything too severe I’ve decided to educate my daughter about the nuances of humor.  There’s a good chance it won’t work but there’s also a decent chance that I’ll bore her so much that she’ll never have the desire to tell a joke ever again.

“A horse walks into a bar and the bartender says ‘hey buddy, why the long face?’” I begin.

“HahahahahHAHAHAHA,” Darcy laughs.

“Do you know why that’s funny?” I ask.

“Because you said it like it was funny,” she responds.

UF_LaughingHorse_102815“It’s funny because horses don’t walk into bars but they also have a very long face. It also takes advantage of a short format that surprises the person who is being told the joke. Does that make sense?”

“Daddy I’m bored.”

“Let’s try another one. In order to really get this you have to understand a concept called stereotypes. So a priest, a rabbi and a minister are on an airplane…”

“What’s a Rabbi?”

“A Jewish priest.”

“A juice priest? THAT’S HILARIOUS!!!” Darcy screams and laughs at the same time.

“No, no a person who is Jewish, like the religion, but also a priest.”

“I’m bored.”

“Listen this is important,” I reiterate, “So the plane is going down and the priest looks at the other two and…”

“Can I play with my Legos?”

“Yeah…sure,” I sigh dejectedly.

The odds of success before I have a stroke are minimal. Fortunately I’ve got a back up plan. It’s not a great plan but it’s what I’ve got left. Until Darcy learns how to tell a joke, goes off to college or marries someone really wealthy at a young age I plan on remaining, more or less, inebriated.

You’ll have to excuse me now.

My daughter just asked me if I want to hear something funny and because I’m a good father I’m going to say “yes”. But not before I find the bourbon.

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