In the global world of comedy, “Say something funny” is the ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD), claiming more lives and quick-witted tongues than the WMDs stored on temporary U.S. military bases scattered across the sands of Iraq.
On the list of top Say Somethings, “Say something funny” holds the second spot, wedged between the frontrunner “Say something romantic” and “Say something to help cheer me up.” “Say something clever” and “Say something (uncomfortable pause here) anything!” round out the top five.
Anyone who has been involved in a romantic relationship knows the underlying power of “Say something romantic,” especially when ensnared in the midst of a heated moment of unbridled passion. Nothing kills this moment, besides the sound of symphonic snoring, faster than being put on the spot by the volatile “Say something romantic” game changer.
FADE IN: You’re looking into your lover’s eyes whose pupils have metamorphosed into green flashing lights, indicating the love train is right on schedule, and before you can blink, the green lights flash red and you get the pull-back, followed by “Say something romantic” as she probes your slumbering soul through your now dilated pupils.
Granted, most experienced lovers bred out of the Boy Scout always-be-prepared ilk have catalogued a number of responses in their mental rolodex, under “E” for Emergency, for such occasions. But execution is not always a guarantee in these on-the-spot moments, especially when your hormones are doing everything in their power to execute a coup d’etat on your brain.
First, you can say nothing and officially kill the moment, quite possibly forever.
Or you can try and say something that doesn’t sound disingenuous or ripped off from Dylan Thomas or Arthur Fonzarelli — who successfully mastered these situations by not saying anything at all and tilting his head and/or snapping his fingers. (Not bad for a guy who never moved out of his apartment above his best friend’s garage, eh?)
Here are some romantic gems I’ve stockpiled for such occasions:
1. Who needs romantic words when your beauty gave me wings to transcend such mortal trappings?
2. I knew we were destined to be together forever the moment Cupid shot his fated arrow at us, skewering our hearts together on a soul-mate shish kabob.
3. My love for you is like my love for you, only way stronger.
4. You were the first shooting star in my parallel universe and now that we’ve crossed, nothing can tear us apart – not even our feuding parents or the restraining order your father had the courts put on me.
5. Can we just look into each other’s eyes and let them speak the words that cannot be found to accurately describe our love?
For the record, none of these proved worthy of successfully wooing my would-be lovers; although I’m still batting .800 on the pity scale, not to mention I’ve had a few unsolicited offers from Hallmark greeting card headhunters.
Like its distant cousin “Say something romantic,” “Say something funny” also comes equipped with a lot of baggage and unrealistic expectations on the part of the person calling you out, who usually does so to impress other people at your expense. Such was the case during my formative years while growing up with six children in the family.
The competition for attention in my family was fierce, not to mention I was the fifth born of the second three-pronged tier of kids, so I had to somehow find my own niche. My sister, number four in the clan and four years my senior, was the beauty queen of the family and was often introduced by my parents with “Is she drop-dead gorgeous or what?”
My brother inherited the same genes as my sister and was content playing right field, but occasionally fielded the heralded “He’s so cute” compliments from my parents and sister’s friends.
Meanwhile, I inherited bad eyes and was cursed with a pair of glasses in second grade that had lenses resembling the bottoms of 1970s Coca-Cola bottles. I had my work cut out for me, so I turned to my four-eyed muse Woody Allen for inspiration. After all, his comedic script-writing talents helped him write himself into script splaying alongside a gorgeous leading lady who invariably had to kiss him before the final credits scrolled down the screen.
Knowing my penchant for saying something unpredictable and off-the-wall, my mother would strike preemptively in mixed company, especially among a group of adults I had not met, by introducing me: “Oh, this is Tommy,” she would say, as if she was either saving me for last, hoping her company’s attention span would turn to something other than roll call, or she nearly forgot she had a fifth kid between numbers four and six.
“He’s so creative,” she would say. Fearing her new acquaintances didn’t believe her, she would follow up with “Say something funny, Tommy.”
Great, I thought. My mom pimped me out, yet again, to score bonus points with her newfound trial-basis friends. Her very own court jester to break the ice, which I imagined they sunk in their martinis after I had finished performing my stand-up bit.
Unfortunately I was not a human Pez dispenser of candied witticisms, on-the-spot anecdotes for any occasion, or canned jokes, so I was usually stricken with mental paralysis. Having learned that the say-something-funny button on my back did not always work, my mom would break the uncomfortable moment by telling one of her own rolodex anecdotes catalogued under “F” for “Funny” and spin one of her top “One time Tommy said this or said that” yarns to help illustrate that I was indeed creative and that she was not losing her mind — despite the myth at the time that women who give birth to six or more children were bound to go crazy and were lost forever in the yellow wallpaper.
Over time I did manage to come up with my own defense mechanisms for these uncomfortable moments, whether it was my mother or one of my friends trying to impress a new friend by putting me on the spot and telling me to “Say something funny.”
The quick out was to simply reply “Something funny,” which not only bought me time to think of something that was actually funny, but helped my gauge my audience. If they laughed at this sophomoric retort, I knew I had an easy mark. If they looked at me quizzically and wondered if that was the best I could do, I knew I had my work cut out for me — thus increasing spite for whomever put me in this predicament in the first place.
Having “Say something funny” hang over my head all my life, waiting to fall on me like a cartoon anvil, has left a new strand of mental scars in my mind’s DNA, or at least that is what my shrink Therapist Bob tells me.
And it was Therapist Bob who suggested that I take my mother’s lead and strike preemptively and take control of “Say something funny,” before it finally does me in and sends me packing to the funny farm. He suggested I start a humor blog and name it “Say Something Funny,” which will be the first step in battling the very three words that have haunted me since childhood.
That said, I present to you, dear Reader: “Say Something Funny.”