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The Funny Farm

“Why did the chicken cross the
road?” Maddie asked the other night at dinner.

“I don’t know – why?” I dutifully queried.

Maddie smirked. “To get to Norton Elementary, fly up on the
roof, and look in through the skylight!”

Cora stared at Maddie. “I don’t get it.”

Yes, Maddie has hit that stage where she wants to tell jokes.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t understand what’s funny.

Here’s the problem: I teach a comedy
improv class. I’ve gone to school for it. I watch Saturday
Night Live and dissect the sketches, breaking them down for my
students to show how they follow (or don’t follow) the rules
of comedy. Yes, there are rules, and yes, there’s an actual
science behind comedy.

So you’d think I’d be equipped to teach my daughter how
to tell a knock, knock joke. I am not. I take it apart and explain
the Rule of Three behind it, or how plosive consonants are funnier
than soft ones. Kindergarteners don’t understand double
entendres, and I should accept that.

But I cannot.

So I spent a weekend meal trying to teach Maddie how to tell a
funny knock, knock or Chicken Crossed the Road joke. And believe
me, that conversation was practically a Saturday Night Live sketch
in itself. Maddie truly didn’t care about the comedy rules
(gasp!) and I could see I was losing her, even as Brian frantically
searched his iPhone to find a joke that would explain the rules in
a way she could understand.

“Ok, Maddie, here’s one,” he said in desperation.
“Why did the broom come to school tired in the

“Why?” Maddie asked warily.

“Because he was a light sweeper!”

Maddie stared. “So he was up late at night worried about
doing a bad job sweeping?”

“No, no,” Brian said, barely hanging on, “you
see, ‘sweeping’ sounds like ‘sleeping’, and
brooms sweep, so it makes a funny! It’s called a play on

Maddie sat silently.

And then she laughed.

“Yeah! A light sweeper!”

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plains.

And as if we needed more proof that Cora the Human Sponge listens
to EVERYTHING we say, she was eating breakfast yesterday and I
cracked a pun about her cereal. Without even pausing to stop
shoveling food in her mouth she said, “Was that supposed to
be a play on words? I think that was not so much funny. You MIGHT
want to try again.”

Remind me not to let them come to my student showcases – I
don’t think my teenagers could take the polite corrections.

I don’t so much love them myself.


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