Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he was hungry.
Yep…that’s the extent of the comedy I produced when I was a kid. I was bad. I mean really really really bad. So bad that my dad actually went up to me one time when company was coming over to the house and asked, “You know when you tell jokes to people?”
“Yeah! I love that!” I replied with as much excitement as an under 10 year old could muster.
“Um…yeah,” my Dad continued. “Your jokes aren’t funny. Please stop.”
Not going to lie I was heartbroken. I was devastated. All my life up until that point I wanted to entertain people. I thought my jokes were hilarious! Apparently I was the only one.
I don’t hold any ill-will towards my dad. Not at all. In my 30 year old brain, I was not funny. Not even a little bit. From that moment when I tried to tell a joke I could tell when people were genuinely laughing with me or just pity laughing so they wouldn’t hurt my feelings. I guess you could say I learned a skill that day.
But all my life growing into my teen years I desperately wanted to be funny. My Brother and my Dad would constantly joke with each other with the rapidity of an improv sketch duo. They just hit all the right points. I would remember actually studying my Dad as he would converse with my Uncle Gord with such jocularity that I tried to mimic them minutes later to my cousins to no laughter at all. I was so upset. I was so bummed. How could I make people laugh? I didn’t know what to do! How could I be as funny as my Dad?
It wasn’t until my senior year in High School that I finally found it. I finally found my funny bone.
I had this large boombox CD/Dual Cassette Player. I got it from my parents one year for Christmas or my Birthday I couldn’t remember which. I would listen to the radio and CDs a lot in my room at night with the lights out. I enjoyed it. It was my peace and quiet time. Allowed me to de-stress. On one of these nights I turned on the radio to a local Toronto station called CHUM FM. It was a Sunday night and it was just hitting 10pm. I had no idea what to expect but what came over the airwaves next would change my life and help me find my funny.
It was CHUM FM’s Sunday Funnies hosted by Rick Hodge. When I heard the show begin and Rick introducing the comics that were coming up on that night’s show I was drawn into the radio. I felt like I was a kid in the 1940’s where the only entertainment was to listen to shows on the radio as they were taken to far away lands with their imagination. That’s what I felt like when I heard the comics tell their bits on the air. I felt like I was in the room as they were being recorded. I heard everything from Seinfeld to Cosby to Carlin to Pryor to Murphy to Foxworthy, Harvey, Engval, Allen (both Tim and Woody), the list goes on and on.
After I heard that first episode, I was so disappointed that it was over. I wanted to hear more! So that week I asked my mom and dad for some blank cassette tapes or any spare tapes they had around the house and that next Sunday night at 10pm I turned on to CHUM FM and sure enough Rick was there bringing me the Sunday Funnies. I had already popped in the tape, hit record and I was beaming from ear to ear. I laughed so hard that night that I would disturb my sister across the hall because she was almost 8 and she had school the next morning. After the show was done, I took the tape out and it never left my Walkman. The entire week I would volunteer to do chores around the house so I could listen to my Sunday Funnies tape. Everywhere I went I had my walkman on so I could listen. Each week hearing how the comedians talked and paused with that sharp comedic timing. I learned vocal technique such as when it’s better to be higher pitched to when it was time to slooow down. Then once Sunday came around, I popped in another tape and I’d repeat the cycle all over again. It got to be such an obsession that my grandma had a whole bunch of sermons on tape that my grandpa had saved before he died. So she dug them all up and gave them to me to record over.
Yes that’s right I recorded over the Word of God so I could listen to Comedy.
I’m certain God would forgive me though. Because as time grew on I became funnier. I would use some of those bits on friends and family and over time I started to see and hear what worked and what didn’t. I actually made my dad laugh, for real this time. When he and I got to riff back and forth after years of wanting to, I smiled inside. I made him laugh. The best moment I can remember was when my dad and I were riffing back and forth as we were picking on my little sister, it got so electrifying, us going back and forth, it made my dad’s sides hurt so much he felt like he was going to have a hernia. Me too now that I think about it. I will never forget that. It makes me smile to this day.
So even though I listened to the greatest comics in the world on Sunday Funnies each week, I’ll still say that my dad is the funniest person I know, and I made him laugh.
Thank you CHUM FM and Rick Hodge. You gave me some of the greatest moments of my life.
As always I remain obediently yours
P.S. I still have boxes full of those cassette tapes. I’ve been meaning to digitize them for a while now. I may have just found an excuse to do so.