How to Make a Joke

Several of us recently had the opportunity to take a class called “Putting Humor Into Your Memoirs.”  The instructor was a local stand-up comic and college instructor,  a very funny lady.

Our first homework assignment was to choose a subject, any subject, then write examples of jokes using the 8 categories and types of humor.  Categories?  Types of humor? There’s obviously more to this joke business than I expected.

O.K., I’ll write some jokes.  I’m having a good morning and I am so ready.  Out comes the paper, I pull myself together, sit down and pick up a pen.  So far so good.

Nothing happens.  I stare at the paper.  I gaze out the window at my view, a flock of Canada Geese and a fast-moving river.  I count the geese.  I get up, get a drink of water, sit down again, wonder how many gallons of river water pass by my window every hour.  I doodle a cartoon featuring a wet goose.  More sitting.

I stare at my cartoon, add more feathers.  In a panic I suddenly realize I haven’t taken out  the morning trash.  Whether guilty or grateful for an excuse, I leap up and rush off.

I sit again, wondering just how one can be taught to be funny.  How can anyone create a joke?  Don’t jokes just happen?  Have I missed getting the “joke” gene?  I’m already realizing I’ve missed the  “pick a subject” gene.  I can’t think of a single funny thing to write about.  I’m a failure.  I give up.

The next day I try a fresh approach.  Absolutely nothing funny has happened yet.  I’ll look around and make something happen.  She wants jokes, I’ll give her jokes.

And so it dawns on me; I’m the joke, agonizing over what should be light and simple.  I’m not Shakespeare, for Pete’s Sake, trying to finish off one of his comedies.  OUT OUT Blind Spot!  Get busy writing.

Life is funny.  Where do I live?  In a residence for the elderly.  Why do I live here?  I’m old.  Old people are funny in our own bumbling ways, and we certainly know how  to laugh at ourselves.

Finally a few anemic jokes begin to form, definitely on the lame side,  but I’m trying.  I re-read the 5 page print-out we were given, study the categories and say to myself:  1st category “Misdirection?  Piece of cake.”

So here’s my first joke:

What is the most commonly used word in the English language after age 60?

(change the question to a statement and you’ll get it – Misdirection – remember?)

Well, that was kind of fun.  Getting carried away, I come up with a list of jokes, all referring to the fact of being old and poking fun.


At The Oaks:  Nearly 200 happy residents and one old grouch who forgot about  OPEN BAR.

Any excuse for a party: new glasses, new hearing aids, remembering a name.

The 3 major food groups here: chocolate, wine and Metamucil.

One of my neighbors is the life of every party, until at least 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. every night.

I have another neighbor who is so skinny she wears her bra backwards and never notices.

I never go to bed early.  I always wait until after my evening nap.

Why are old people such unreliable dates?  By the time we adjust our wigs or hairpieces, our hearing aids, glasses, teeth and walkers, and change our Depends for the 3d time we can’t remember if we were going out or coming in.

Why do we older people arrive at an event an hour early?  Possibly one of 2 reasons – we want time to grab a quick nap before the program begins;

or:    If we happen to be in the wrong  place we can sample the refreshments and still get to where we’re supposed to be on time.

For our last class assignment we’re told to create a Top Ten list, once again coming up with jokes using the 8 categories.  I’m still hung up on the ridiculous side of being old and now I feel more comfortable about the challenge.  ( I’m just thankful we aren’t getting graded.)

And here it is;  my Top Ten list.


10.   No unplanned pregnancies   (exaggeration)

9.   No more high heels.  The last time I wore heels I sprained both ankles falling off the wagon clutching  a jug of Chianti.  Heels are dangerous.  Didn’t do much for the Chianti either.  (misdirection)

8.    “20 is the new 80.”   (Or is that 80 is the new 20?  I never know how those things go.)  Now that I’m in my second childhood, I’m taking up zip-lining, kayaking and 40 year old guys.  (list of 3)

7.  I can eat anything I want and still keep my girlish figure.  It’s in here somewhere.   (exaggeration)

6.    My old motto:  Why stand when you can sit?  My new motto: why sit when you can lean back, kick off your shoes and take a nap?   (motto)

5.     Each wrinkle we have represents a memory.  (Isn’t that sweet?  I made it up.)  Every time I forget something, does that count as a wrinkle remover?   (observation)

4.      You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  Old people, yes.  I learn something new every day, forget it overnight and re-learn it the next day.   (cliche)

3.     My brain is like a sponge, wet, soggy and full of holes.  (comparison)

2.    I no longer attend boring lectures given by pompous windbags.  I once heard someone described as  “bearing a proclivity toward heterogenous promiscuity.”  Couldn’t he just say the guy was oversexed?   (definition)

1.  I can tell all the stories I want to and people believe me!


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