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The Start of Something Funny
Where does a joke come from?

by Big Daddy Graham


Where does a joke come from? I’m not talking about a joke of the “three men walk into a bar” variety. I have no idea where those jokes come from. It would take a combination of Sherlock Holmes and a much better writer than me to come up with the origins to such jokes.    

Very few stand-ups tell those types of jokes today. Somewhere along the way it became uncool to tell “joke-jokes.” But I love them and start off every one of my shows with such a joke as a salute and homage to them. I believe every one of us should have at least one joke-joke at our disposal.

But once I get that joke out of the way, I then go into my “material.” And I can  tell you where the bulk of those one-liners comes from: simple observation. You’re driving and something comes out of the radio that tickles you. Or a billboard. I might be hanging at a bar and a friend states something in an odd way.

I then lay that “thought” into my “bits” section of my iPhone. Then before I go on stage, I write down 10 of them on index cards. Not the entire thought, just a key word.

Then when I’m 15 minutes or so into my set and I’m on stage with the crowd cooking, I literally take those cards out of my pocket. I then explain to the audience that they are about to be “guinea pigs” for material I’ve never done before. Some get a huge laugh and then eventually become part of my show. Others bomb so bad I never try that thought again.

Here are some index cards that are in my pocket right now.

“Can’t Talk!”
I love it when you call someone and they scream, “I can’t talk right now!” Then why, God forbid, didn’t you let it go straight to voicemail?

Dry Cleaners
I’ve been going to dry cleaners for over 50 years. Just once, just one stinkin’ time, I would love to hand the woman my ticket and have her say, “Oh, here’s your pants right here.” That has never happened to me. Never. The odds are astronomical for that never to have happened just one time. But no, she’ll push that button and the carousel wheel thing will go from here to Kansas and back before my pants  will turn up.

Traffic Light
I have never, in 22 years of living in Jersey, gotten the light at Route 70 and Springdale Road. No matter what direction I approach that intersection from, I get stuck at that light. And I could name many, many other Jersey crossroads. How can this be?!

Cable Bill
Ever wonder if when a woman who lives in the Philippines calls to complain about her cable bill, some dude who lives in Mount Laurel picks up the phone? “Hey, why are you calling me, ya meathead!? I’m in Jersey. I got your cable bill right here!”

Negative Energy
Everyone is always so quick to jump on your case for using energy in a negative way. “Why are you wasting your time getting upset over something that  you can’t control?” I’m sure these same people remain perfectly calm when the person in front of them at the bank is trading in thousands of pennies that they have been saving up since the Korean War.

So why doesn’t someone invent a car that runs smoother when you’re flipping the bird at a car that won’t get out of the passing lane? How about a vehicle that burns less fuel when you’re cursing out some teenager backing out of a Wawa while they’re texting? A car that encourages you to lose your temper. I’m telling you, I’m on to something.

When I was a kid, someone in a TV show or movie was always stepping in quicksand where they would sink their way to a slow and bizarre death. Now I can’t  tell you the last time I’ve seen a quicksand scene.   

Same thing with piranha and mountain  lions. Geez, I recall that there were sewers where if your Wiffle ball rolled down it, that ball was history because the bottom of that sewer was rumored to be teeming with piranha. It’s all gone the way of truth serum.   

As if the words “heart attack” aren’t enough, why must one insist on placing the word massive in front of them? Believe me, if I have two friends of mine die from a heart attack, I’m not going to feel any worse for the friend with the massive attack. And it seems like the word massive only applies to heart attacks. Ever hear anyone complain about a massive splinter?

Spring Water
I was in a Raymour & Flanigan recently buying a pull-out couch. The friendly salesman at one point offered me bottled water, which  I graciously accepted. The water bottle said “Raymour & Flanigan” on it.

Hmm, I was unaware of the “Raymour” spring in the Alps. Or the “Flanigan” streams in Switzerland (which is where I always imagine these streams of water to be).

Car Towed
It’s amazing how much humor there is out there that you couldn’t make up if you tried. I was recently parking my car when I noticed a sign that said “CARS TOWED AT OWNER’S EXPENSE.”   

Like the grubby guy behind the grubby counter when you go to reclaim your car  is going to go, “Yeah, we got your car, but you know what? You  don’t have to pay to get it back. It’s on us.” Thanks a lot, pal. Any humorous observations  you’d like to share? Send them to me at  


Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 1 (April 2018).

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