As a reader service, grubstreet is reproducing some recent items from the "President's Page" section of the American Humour Association's website (www.aha/hahaha.org). AHA president Morty Gross has a BA in Comedical Studies from the University of Las Vegas and is the author of the forthcoming book "Humour in the 1960's: it seemed funny at the time".
Is the light bulb burned out?
The light bulb has been an almost incandescent fixture around which jokes are built. (How many CIA agents does it take to screw in a light bulb? Five - one to screw it in, two to extract a confession from the bulb, one to tape the confession, and one to destroy the evidence), But, hey, let's face it, you've got to be contemporary these days. People are increasingly looking to us in the comedy business for leadership. The world is going LED, LEED, halogen, fluorescent, and just basic green. So it seems like it's time to take the light bulb out of its socket to me (socket to me, socket to me - sorry - just promoting my new book).
Let's me honest: light bulbs aren't part of the joke, they're just the platform around which jokes are built. Couldn't we build the same body of humour around, say, the tree or the solar panel? (How many hippies does it take to install a solar panel: 50 - 1 to put it on and 49 to break into a chorus of "Let the Sunshine In". How many Republicans does it take to plant a tree near the Ronald Reagan Memorial Library: it's infinite - they'll all be poisoned off - don't do it).
The AHA welcomes members' suggestions for new joke icons: the best will be published next month, and a winner drawn at random will receive an autographed picture of Mickey Rooney.
Copyright: time to flex our muscle?
Someone's cell phone rings and it sounds a riff from the Rolling Stones or ABBA. And wouldn't you know it, the band gets a royalty payment. But if someone tells you "stop me if you've heard this before", and you don't, and it's a good one, and you pass it on, what creative protection is there for the comedian who first told the joke? Yep, you guessed it, none at all. And that situation's going to have to change if we want to nurture comedy in our culture.
Performing rights organizations are vigilant in making sure that paid public performances or broadcasts yield royalty payments - and they have a field force to make sure stores, bars, pubs and the like play by the book. Why should it be any different for jokes? If someone tells a good, creative joke and someone else repeats it, there should be a royalty payment in there somewhere.
There are only two barriers to making this happen - or maybe three, so whose counting, what am I, a rocket scientist? First, we've got to convince the politicians to make some legislation. That means lobbying, but we comedians are a powerful lobby. All we have to do is focus our jokes on the people whose minds we want to change (So this Democratic Senator from Illinois walks into a bookstore and says "I need something about Tom Paine" and the bookseller says "that would be antacids, at the drugstore next door"). Resistance will melt away like facts in a grocery store tabloid.
Second, we've got to have an enforcement system. Again, here's where the power of comedy comes in. "Certain interested parties" have indicated to the AHA that they would be willing to staff an enforcement system - with very effective sanctions - in exchange for a piece of the action and a life of the contract moratorium on jokes involving violin cases, cement overshoes and swimming with the fishes. In addition, your president has initiated talks with a former director of the Bulgarian secret service about recruiting seasoned agents to form an enforcement task force. And this is only the tip of the umbrella.
Third - ok, so there were three, what do you expect, a funny mind and a beautiful mind -we have to gain public acceptance of our proposal. But it seems to me that using the techniques in step one and the people in step two we can have the public eating out of our hands in no time.
So just remember, next time you pass on a joke: what about the poor shmuck who came up with it?
AHA offers skills development courses to maintain certification.
As members know, it is mandatory for members of the AHA who wish to show the professional designation "Certified Humour Professional" (CHP) after their names to take a skills upgrade exam every three years, or at least two days of professional training courses every year. To meet market demand, we continue to expand our course offerings, which this year will include:
"Get a download of this" - internet terms to use in your jokes that everyone will understand.
"Working with your inner dummy" - what solo acts can learn from the classic wooden dummy comedy teams.
"Props and sound effects" - what still works and what's old hat. The drum roll? The newspaper? The cigarette? The martini?
"New ways to make people laugh" - a primer on pushing credibility well beyond its limits, led by Idaho Senator Larry "wide stance" Craig.
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Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.
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