Sunday, June 4, 2017

Why You Aren't as Great as You Think You Are

I'm sorry to tell you this, but you aren't as great as you think you are.  If it makes you feel better, neither am I. 

If you ask a random person to rank themselves on a scale between one and 10, they might say something like "I'm average.  Probably a 7."  

The problem with this statement is that on a 10 point scale the "average" should be 5, yet in large survey's most people rank their appearance between 6 and 8.  Perhaps this is why if you ever tell a woman that she is a 5 she's likely to take it as an insult.  Especially if you're on a date with her.  

We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but for a majority of things we tend to rank at or near average with the rest of the population.  While we can understand how this must be true, it's hard for us to really believe it applies to ourselves.  That's because we tend to believe we have a better grasp of our abilities than other people do, and as such rank ourselves better than most when it comes to what we are capable of.  This is one of many cognitive biases that everyone has, which is sometimes referred to as the overconfidence effect.  

In short we like to believe that we are better people than we are.  At least in Western cultures like the United States.  In many Eastern countries, such as China, Korea, and Japan people are much better at estimating their actual abilities compared to others.  Much of this can be attributed to the value Western culture puts on self esteem.  That self esteem has it's benefits, but it makes us look quite ignorant when you see how it can inflate our opinions of ourselves in mathematically impossible ways.  For example...

93% of Americans believe they are a better driver than most others.  Or as George Carlin put it, "Did you ever notice anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?"  This means when you are yelling at the "maniac" who just cut across 5 lanes of traffic, he is calling you and all other drivers "idiots" for getting in his way.

Perhaps one reason why we think we are better drivers than so many others is that we rarely see people who drive the same way as we do.  You can drive for 5 hours on an interstate and never see the driver one mile ahead of you who is driving the same speed.  During the 5 hours you always stay one mile away from each other and out of sight.  Instead you only see the "maniacs" who keep passing you, or the "idiots" who you keep having to pass.  At the same time we ignore our own driving faults, but notice those of other people.  I once had another driver give me a dirty look because I was talking on my phone while driving.  Instead of feeling embarrassed for my dangerous driving habit I felt righteously indignant when I noticed the other driver had a little dog sitting on his lap.  In my mind I reasoned my phone driving might not be the safest, but at least my phone won't step on the steering wheel or lick my face while I'm trying to change lanes.  

These biases don't just affect people we don't know.  When it comes to the office, 70% of us believe we have better leadership skills than most of our coworkers, and 85% of us believe we can work well with others better than they can work well with us.  Amazingly, 25% of people believe they are in the top 1% when it comes to working well with others.  These statistics alone explains why Congress is so dysfunctional.  You end up with a room full of people who feel they should be the leader, and believe the only thing keeping them from working with the opposition party is that those "idiots" can't make an effort to reach across the aisle. 

One area where the overconfidence effect can vary among Americans is intelligence.  It still exists, in that 55% of Americans believe they are smarter than average, and only four percent can admit they are less intelligent than most people.  However rich white men are much more likely to inflate their IQ than a less successful minority woman.

Men on average overestimate their IQ by 5 points, and an average woman underestimates her IQ by 5.  That inflation increases or decreases when you factor in success.  Basically it's white privilege denial.  A white man who is born into a rich family has a much higher chance of success than anyone else.  It's a lot easier for that man to convince himself his success comes from his intelligence, leadership skills, and ability to work well with others rather than just admit he was born with an advantage.  

Again, this overconfidence effect is one of many cognitive biases that everyone has.  Try to keep it in mind when you think yourself superior to others.  And in case you believe that you aren't affected by these biases, know that you aren't alone.  85% of people in the US believe they are less biased than the Average American.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What's in a Name?: 3 Tips for Naming Your Kid

Parenting is hard.  Everyone screws it up, at least a little.  I've always said that your first kid is your practice kid.  The one that you make all the mistakes with, before doing a hopefully better job with your next kid.  This might be because I'm a second child myself, and I like to think my parents did a pretty good raising me.  To their credit they did a good job with my older brother too, or at least the best they could.

I have two children, and I am very proud of both of them. I would say I'm doing a pretty good job as a Dad, but I will be the first to admit I'm far from perfect. I even like to joke that my oldest child Brayden is such a "practice" kid that we should have named him "Mulligan."  

The point is that anyone can be a parent, with absolutely zero qualifications.  We require you to pass a test and get a license if you want to drive a car, but if you want to be responsible for another human being you just have to forget to use birth control.  Even parents who actively want to have kids and read up on how to be a good parent often have little to no real world experience before they take a helpless child home from the hospital, or if you are like my wife, a birthing center.  One of the obvious flaws in this model is that one of the most important decisions you make as a parent is also one of the first... giving your child a name.

Of all the choices you make for your kid, their name is the one that will follow them through the rest of their lives, and beyond.  It will be how they identify with their peers at school, possibly impact what type of job they have as an adult, and will be chiseled onto their tombstone after they die.  Yet this important decision is given to. Young, inexperienced parents thousands of times every day.  No wonder so many of them screw it up.  

Of course I'm not saying that your parents gave you a bad name, unless it's Francise in which case you have my sympathy, but there are many mistakes that new parents routinely make while picking names, and in hopes of saving some of the future generation from a rough life I'd like to share some of them with you.

Tip 1:  Be Original
My wife once asked me if I wanted to name our son Ryan Jr, and I couldn't say NO fast enough.  I have never been a big fan of naming your children after yourself, unless you are a member of a royal family and want to maintain the image of a stable government.  Perhaps this is because my Father is a Jr and he's never been a big fan of that suffix.  First of all, adding a Jr to your own name is just lazy writing.  That says that you don't have an original idea for a name, or worse you are trying to extend your importance to future generations by forcing them to carry your name for their entire life.  That's what surnames are for. My last name connects me to my children, and they don't need a first name to make sure everyone is extra clear.  

In some cultures children are given a paternal and maternal surname.  I think that would be a great idea for our society as a way of providing more value to the contributions of women in the family.  As it is now women don't get a family name to fall back on, which might explain why I have never met a woman who has Jr. In her name.  On top of all that, Junior has a lesser value in the English language, it devalues the efforts of your kid and forces them to live in your shadow.  Don't be that parent, put some effort into your child's name.

Next you need to take a look at the list of the 20 most common names for your country in the past year, and make sure you don't use any of them.  I know you like the name Kendra, but this year so did everyone else.  That means a child with that name will have two or three other kids in their same class with the same name.  As a Ryan who was in a class with two other Ryans and a Brian I can tell you that gets old really quick.  The worst part is that those children will often start being referred to by a nickname to avoid confusion.  Then it doesn't matter how much you liked the name Kendra, your daughter will only respond when you call her Kat, or something equally ridiculous.  

Tip 2:  But Not To Original
Randomly jab a few butttons on your keypad and I guarantee somewhere there is a person with a name that is close to that.  There's nothing wrong with getting creative with a name, but stay away from the absurd.  There was once a couple who named their child ABCDE (pronounced Ab-se-day).  Not only is this name going to confuse everyone who ever reads it, but it wasn't even that original.  Around 5 children in the US are given this name every year, proving that every original idea has already been thought of by someone else, even the bad ones.  

What's more, studies have shown people with more common names such as Mike or Cindy, are much more likely to get a job offer than those with exotic names.  Perhaps this is because there is a stereotype that parents who name their kid Philestio didn't do the best job raising them.  Or maybe it's an establishment thing where guys named John are much more likely to hire people named John because that feels familiar to them.  

Tip 3:  Spell it like it sounds
Some parents try to split the difference between familiar and unique by using a common name with an uncommon spelling.  These are the Jeni, Myke, and Jeralds of the world.   What these parents forget is that most of the time, when people will hear your name they will need to write it down.  Every time you make a reservation, or fill out an application you will have to explain to them that it's Mary with an "i".  I know that seems like a minor issue, but it's also an annoyance that they will have to deal with hundreds of times each year.

Similarly don't pick a name that's hard to pronounce when you read it for the first time.  When that happens you are never sure when someone is talking to you.  

"Brit party of 4." 

"Do you mean Brythe"

It also helps if you can avoid names that sound similar to other common names.  Growing up with the name Ryan, people were constantly asking me if I actually said "Brian" when I introduced myself.  This is a mistake I made with my son Brayden.  I thought it was somewhat unique until I started telling people and they started asking me if I was really saying "Brandon" or "Braydon".  I don't think that would have affected my choice of a name, but by the time I realized the problem it was too late to do anything about it.  

In short, be able to say it when you read it, spell it when you hear it, and not copy others too much.  Once you have the name down, you can go forward and screw up the other parts of raising your kid. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Top Things to Joke About in 2017

Happy New Year!

Thank God 2016 is finally over.  Now we have a whole new year of things to complain about.  And when it comes to complaining no one does it better than comedians.  We are constantly using social trends, news events, and new technologies as fodder for our new jokes.  And while no one knows what the future holds there are some things that we can expect to happen in 2017 that we know will be easy targets of jest.  Wether it be on stage, or just social media here are a look at the top things you can expect comedians to make fun of in 2017.

#10 Social Media Itself
Remember MySpace?  Its that thing Robert Downey Jr. mentioned in the first Iron Man Movie.  Now it's been replaces with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Not to mention a dozen other various sites that I can't keep up with because I'm not a 16-year-old girl with unlimited time.  If there's one thing they all have in common it's that people always move on to the next thing, then make fun of those that are still using the old thing.  Expect the same with social media.  Will Twitter and Facebook be gone by 2018?  Probably not, but I wouldn't be surprised if the hashtag #youstilltwitter becomes a thing, or it would if hashtags were still a thing. #youstillhashtag

#9 Brexit and the Breakdown of the EU
In June 2016 many people in England woke up to realized that they had broken up with their EU girlfriend the night before, and now there's no getting back together.  The decision to leave the European Union will be a long and messy process which will take several years, but will begin in March with the start of exit talks.  How is this going to be funny?  Well for one thing it's not clear if it will be a "hard" Brexit or a "soft" Brexit.  So there are the obvious penis jokes about pulling out.  It might be hacky, but it's still funny.

#8 ISIS and the Middle East
Yes, Syria and the rest of the Middle East is a crap fest right now, and there are no signs of it getting any better.  If anything it is going to get worse.  So why is it on this list?  Well it isn't.  ISIS is.  ISIS is the new Nazi, and if there's anything we comedians love it's a target everyone loves to hate.  The fact that ISIS isn't known for taking a joke makes them even more of a target.  We just have to make sure the comedy focus on the people and not the religion that they claim to represent.  We don't want another Muhammed Cartoon incident now do we?

#7 Virtual Reality
2016 was the year that Virtual Reality arrived in the home.  With the Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, and a handful of other VR headsets making their debut.  Now that the technology is finding it's footing it's only a matter of time before things like virtual porn become a a thing.  Bringing with it a whole new meaning to playing with your joystick.
Virtual Reality also has a learning curve for new audiences which means a lot of VR fails.  We've already seen a handful of videos of people crashing into things while wearing VR headsets go viral online.  Expect some VR memes to follow.

#6  Star Wars Episode VIII
Word on the internet is that Mark Hamill is actually going to have to speak to earn his paycheck this time.
After the success of The Force Awakens and Rouge One, you can expect a year long hype for this much anticipated addition to the Star Wars Universe.  It will be sad that this will be Carrie Fisher's swan song, but in good taste or bad there will be a lot of jokes about bringing her back in CG form like they did in Rouge One.
Personally I'm going to focus my jokes on Kylo Ren - aka Ben Solo.  Particularly about how a character with two such good looking parents ended up turning out so ugly?  No wonder he decided to wear a helmet and turn to the dark side.

#5 Nintendo Switch
It's been a rough few years for Japan's favorite Italian plumber.  Nintendo has found itself a distant third place in the video game wars.  In March the company is revealing it's new Switch consul to compete with the XBox One and Playstation 4.
The gimmick is it's a home consul that you can take with you on the go.  So now when mom's tell there kids to play outside and get some fresh air the kids can take their video games with them and play them at the park.
What's really interesting is Japan has made Mario part of the advertising for the 2020 olympics in Tokyo, and if the Nintendo switch is a failure then you can expect a lot of jokes about the olympic committee considering a Playstation mascot instead.  Might I suggest Kratos from "God of War".

#4 Russia
Remember when the Cold War ended?  Well, Vladimir Putin doesn't.  The guy seems to have spent the last couple decades building a really long sharp stick which he is now using to poke the United States.  From screwing with our election, to threatening another nuclear arms race, Russia is making things feel like the 80's again.  While it's easy to make fun of the former KGB Putin, the fact that he is so friendly with Donald Trump makes him all the more a target.  Personally I can't wait for pictures of the two riding horseback together while shirtless.

#3 Drones
The future is here and it is making people lazy.  After the success of Amazon drones delivering packages, other companies are getting in on the action, which could means 2017 could be the year pizza and beer literally drops from the sky like mana from heaven.  Even Walmart is getting in on the action, meaning those people who shop there at 2am are going to lose their last excuse for getting out of the house.

#2 Binge Worthy TV
It took 6 years of boobs and bloods, but Winter has finally come to Westeros.  And it brought with it Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons.   The seventh season of Game of Thrones is expected to be such a major TV event the 2018 Emmy's have already started putting their name on the trophies.  The show is as awesome to watch as it is easy to make fun of, so you can expect a lot of fun poked at the show as well as the fans, and probably George R. R. Martin once he finds out that no one wants to read books after they've already seen the movie (or in this case TV show).
Similarly you can expect jokes directed at any other binge worthy TV show, such as the Walking Dead, and of Marvel's Netflix shows, and House of Cards.  Particularly the latter as it gets compared to the number one butt of all jokes for 2017...

#1 "President" Donald Trump

A comedian making a joke about Donald Trump is like an executioner being asked to behead a giraffe.  There is so much material to work with you don't know where to start.   Yes, he prefers a 3am tweet over a press release.  Yes, he is endorsed by the KKK, and hired their hero Steve Bannon to be his top advisor.  Yes, he's thrice married, has a history of trolling beauty pageant changing rooms, and he seems to want to bang his daughter.  Yes, he's sexist, racist, xenophobic, and elitist.  But if that wasn't enough there is all the illegal stuff he's done.  He's a tax dodging, bankruptcy filing, fraud settling, pussy grabbing, Russian ball fondling, antitrust violating, Cuba Embargo breaking, accused rapist.
He's like the drunk uncle from Thanksgiving who has the influence of a billionaire and now the power of the President of the United States. It would make for a hilarious movie, but is terrifying as a reality.  That's why it's all the more important to laugh at the fear.  It's the only way we are going to survive the next four years with any sanity.
To give you an idea of just how big of a joke Donald Trump will be in the coming months, one of the hot joke gifts of the holiday season was toilet paper with his face on it.  Proof that Donald Trump is going to catch a lot of crap from everyone.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A "Spirited" Story of Shame

 We all have stories in our lives that we don't like to tell.  Sometimes we are embarrassed by them.  Sometimes we are ashamed.  This is my story about the time I almost killed someone.  But that is not why I don't like talking about it....

I don't mean to brag, but I went to college on a sports scholarship.  And by "scholarship" I mean $300, and by "sport" I mean the Spirit Squad. 

That's right.  I was a male cheerleader, or as I prefer being called "a guy who held up cheerleaders by their butts." 

As you might guess, cute cheerleaders had a lot to do with why I joined the squad.  I know a lot of guys think males cheerleaders are "gay".  These are often the same guys who prefer to join the football team where they can wear tight spandex pants and slap each other on the butt.  (Much less gay)

I can't really criticize people who make fun of male cheerleaders, because for years I was one of them.   When I was asked by someone on the spirit squad if I would join, it was hard not to laugh in his face.  He pleaded with me that they were really short of guys for the squad and needed more and eventually I agreed to give it a try.

The next day I was introduced at cheerleader practice as a potential recruit and immediately all the girls perked up.  A cute little 95lb blond was the first to speak up.  "Perfect!  He can practice with me" she chirped.  Then in a fluid movement she yanked off her warm up pants, revealing a pair of short shorts.  Those shorts were then pulled off exposing even shorter spandex shorts underneath.  Then, like in a scene from a letter to Penthouse, the blond walk over and said "Show him where to put his hands on my ass!" 

For the next hour I practiced throwing the 95lb blond into the air and catching her butt in my hand.  Afterwards they asked if I would like to do the same thing for three more months, as well as get paid a small scholarship, be given lots of school sports gear, and go on a trip to Disneyland (Regionals were in L.A.).  I wanted to say "you had me at grabbing butts" but instead I just said "sure." 

Thus I became a member of the University of Idaho Spirit Squad for the fall Basketball season.  Every game I would clap, chant, and throw cheerleaders into the air.  Unfortunately as the season went on I got better and better at what I did, and that meant I started moving up in weight class.  Instead of the 95lb cutie that I started with I was soon throwing a girl who weighed 110.  She was followed by another and another of increasing weight until I was eventually throwing up a cheerleader who weighed around 160lbs.  Now there is nothing wrong with a cheerleader weighing that much, but she probably shouldn't be flying in the air.  At least not when I'm the one who is supposed to catch her.

This is how it came to be that I almost killed someone.  (Obviously I didn't or I wouldn't be writing a humorous blog about it.)

It was shortly after I was paired up with the previously mentioned 160lb cheerleader.  Not only was I supposed to throw someone who was heavier than anyone I had thrown before, but I was also asked to do a new throw move.  I'm sure you don't give a crap about cheerleader throws so lets just say that I was supposed to catch her, but instead she tumbled behind me and came down head first on a hardwood floor. 

An hour later I was with the rest of the squad in the emergency room finding out the girl I dropped would be in a neck brace for the next 4 months.  The doctors said she had fractured a couple vertebrae in her neck, but fortunately didn't damage her spinal cord. 

It's an interesting feeling to think that you almost killed someone (or at least nearly paralyzed them from the neck down).  Feelings of guilt, panic, and shame are pretty overwhelming.  Fortunately I was surrounded by a group of people who felt obliged to cheer me up.  (Probably because it was in their job title.)

The "veteran" cheerleaders on the squad told me this kind of thing was fairly common and many of them had suffered similar injuries in their career.  I remember thinking "You women are crazy!  You're willing to risk permanent injury just so you can be popular!"  Looking back years later it makes a lot more sense.

After the dropping incident I continued throwing cheerleaders for another month (albeit at a lower weigh class).  The season ended and I graduated shortly after.  Do I regret my decision to join the Spirit Squad?  No.  In fact, had I not graduated I probably would have done it again the following semester.   However, the experience has not been without repercussions. 

My sister-in-law loves to make fun of me for being a college cheerleader.  What's more, she was at the basketball game when I dropped the girl and likes to chide me about it whenever she can.  I'm sure I'm going to have to explain to my son some day why his Aunt keeps calling me "butter fingers". 

As for my soon-to-be born daughter...  I always thought being the father of a cheerleader would be nerve racking because of all the horny boys looking at her.  Now, if my daughter tells me some day that she wants to be a cheerleader I can tell her it's too dangerous and she has to play a safer sport.  Perhaps hockey...

Monday, August 12, 2013

How "I" write a Joke

     Probably the most common question that commedians are asked is "How do you write your jokes?"  It's the same way people ask musicians how they write their music.  While everyone can see and understand how a joke or song is presented on stage, it's really hard for someone unfamiliar with the process to understand how to create it out of nothing.

     Even though joke writing is simple the process can be complex.  This is in part because it differs for every comic.  George Carlin has said in past interviews that 98% of his material he knew would be funny before he ever said it on stage.  On the other spectrum Jerry Seinfeld is famous for fine tuning his jokes over countless sets until it is "ready".  Most comics fall somewhere in between, but ultimately a joke starts as an idea, then is formed into a single joke, refined after several presentations on stage, and then expanded on into a larger bit.

    One of the best ways to describe this was done in the comedy documentary "I am comic" which I will briefly paraphrase:

First you have a basic set-up punchline joke.  Several insert and tag jokes are written around the joke until it becomes a "bit."  Several bits formed together create a "chunk" of material (anywhere from 5-10 minutes).  Several "chunks" put together create a "set" of material (30-60 minutes).

      In this model bits are usually about a single topic such as an ex-girlfriend.  Another bit about breaking up with said girlfriend, and a third about getting back on the dating scene could be combined into a "chunk" about relationships.

     This format also makes it easier to understand how we comics can memorize a 60 minute set word for word.  Instead of memorizing the entire 60 minutes we focus on memorizing each bit individually.  Then we just have to remember which bits go together in each chunk.  It makes it a lot easier to mix up the set without forgetting which jokes we have already told.

     Again this is all general information about how comics write jokes.  The specifics of writing jokes vary greatly from comic to comic.  The easiest way of explaining my process is to take you step by step through a recent joke that I incorporated into my set-list.


     Every joke starts with an "ah ha" moment.   Something that you think of or that comes up which you realize could be a joke.  Anyone who hangs out with me long enough will notice that I will routinely say in conversations "I need to write a joke about that."

     This particular joke came while I was driving with my family in a Cost Co parking lot on a busy weekend.  It was one of those parking lots where everyone is moving really slowly and you start getting frustrated with other drivers.  As it happens my wife and I were stuck waiting for an extremely large pick-up truck to back out of a parking spot.  With the exception of people who need them for actually transporting large loads or going to off road locations, I never understand why anyone would ever need such a large vehicle.  This particular truck seemed even more so as it was unnecessarily suspended an extra foot off the ground, making the bottom of the door 2 and a half to 3 feet above the ground.  My wife and I noticed that the truck was pulling out of a handicap spot and started joking about how any handicap person would even be able to get into such a vehicle.  That's when I noticed that the truck's license plate was from Texas, and I told my wife "maybe being from Texas qualifies as a handicap".

     My wife let out a loud laugh and I knew a joke was born.  Now all I would have to do is write it. 


     When I say that I "write" jokes I really mean that I "form" jokes.  Writing implies taking pen to paper and creating a paper trail of material.  If I'm lucky I'll remember to write an "idea" down so that I don't forget it later, but even this is rare.  My "writing" consists of me saying the joke idea out loud to myself, hearing how it sounds, and then finding a way to make it sound smoother.  I then repeat the process until I have a somewhat polished idea of what I can say on stage.  Almost all of this writing is done in my car.  I drive 50 thousand plus miles most years for comedy so that leaves me with a lot of free time to talk to myself. 

      Shortly after I saw this Texas truck I began a 20 hour drive to Oklahoma where I was performing at a couple of clubs.  Along the way I formed a joke about the topic. 

      At this point the joke followed a standard "a funny thing happened on the way to the show" format.  I began by describing the biggest truck that I had ever seen, finalizing that it was parked in a handicap spot.  (I figured this fact alone would get a laugh) then describing that the truck had a Texas license plate followed by my punchline about how that qualifies as a "handicap."

      The joke was now written, but I wasn't sure if it was funny.  The only way to tell would be to try it on stage.


      Sometimes when you write a joke it gets the reaction you expect.  Sometimes it gets the opposite, and sometimes it gets a surprise laugh where you weren't expecting.  This particular joke got a combination of all three when I delivered it on stage in Oklahoma.  Yes, the expected punchline got a laugh, but a secondary punchline seemed to go unnoticed by the audience, and something I didn't think would get a laugh did. 

      On the first night that I told the joke I got a laugh after mentioning that I had just seen the biggest pick-up of my life.  I didn't really think that in-and-of itself was funny, but to southern crowds it had the appearance of me being a naive northerner surprised by the good-ol-boy ways of the south.  Whatever.  A laugh is a laugh and I'll roll with it. 

      Mentioning the handicap spot got a laugh, aided by an improvised tag of how anyone in a wheel chair could ever get into such a vehicle.  But when I mentioned the license plate from Texas there was no laugh, at least not until I said the obvious punchline of that fact qualifying as a handicap. 

      I had hoped the punchline would get a double laugh by leading the audience towards the punchline, then stopping just short for a moment and letting the smart people in the audience figure out where I was headed and then spoon feed it to the rest of the audience.  This didn't happen, but it's not clear if that's because it's not funny or because the audience wasn't smart enough to make the connection.  (Welcome to the south)

      As I somewhat expected the joke offended several "Texans" in the audience, but they were easily silenced with a stock joke about congratulating them on being smart enough to get the joke.

     After the week of fine tuning I now had a new introduction for the joke, a new way to deliver the punchline, and a follow-up tag.  In essence I had my "bit" and it read like this:

Things are different down here in the south.  I think I saw the biggest pick-up truck of my life this week. *
You know the kind of truck I'm talking about.  Extended cab, extended bed, giant no-way-is-that-street-legal tires.*
It had a suspension that put it three feet off the ground, and here's the kicker.... parked in a handicap spot!*
As if anyone in a wheel chair could ever get into that vehicle.*
No handicap sticker either by the way.  Normally that would make me upset, but this particular truck had a license plate from Texas, and I think that qualifies as a handicap.**

Apparently there are some people from Texas in the audience who were offended by that joke.*  Well good for you being smart enough to understand it.*

(* indicates pause for audience laughter  **pause for potential applause)

     That is how the joke currently is performed on stage.  It won't stay that way for long.  I'll continue tweaking it.  Taking out parts that don't work that well and adding more tags.  Eventually the "bit" will be good enough to add to my joke Rolodex (which I keep in my head) and I can use it whenever I'm in a "blue collar" area. 

      This bit is about 50 seconds long and contains about 7 audience laugh moments.  If I'm lucky I can write about two such bits a week.  I'll keep the ones that work, and fine tune the ones that don't.  That way by the time I perform at the same room I will have 15-20 minutes of new material.  The trick is to take the time to write all of the jokes down so I don't forget them.  At least thanks to this blog I have this one bit backed up. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ha Ha in the Hereafter

I like to think of myself as a good Christian.  And by that I mean I make it an effort to go to church every other month or so.  Last year on one such Sunday I saw something that I had never seen before.  A near death experience.

You would think near death experiences would be more common in church since most of the people in attendance are so old there is a good chance some of them knew Jesus personally.  I'm sure when I'm older I'll attend church more.  It's like an all night study session before a big final. 

The near death experience I witnessed was not a major scare.  A man had a heart attack in the middle of a church service.  Fortunately it was a minor one and the man was alright.  Paramedics came and took him away while most of us secretly mumbled our jealousy of how he got to leave early. 

Although the man didn't die it did occur to me that if you have to die, church isn't a bad place to do it.  For starters you are already in the place where your funeral will be held, and you are dressed in your Sunday best.  Slap a little blush on the face and you're ready for your open casket.

Secondly, I'm not sure how the point system of heaven works, but I'm guessing dieing while in church has got to count as a bonus.

"Were you a good Christian?" asks Saint Peter.

"Was I?  Let me tell you where I just came from!"

I wonder about the afterlife sometimes.  In movies they always show dead people walking around stuck in whatever outfit they were wearing when they die.  That's great if you get hit by a car on the weekend while wearing cargo shorts and a t-shirt.  But what if you get hit by a car on Halloween?  Now you have to walk around for all eternity dressed as a sexy kitty?  What's worse, you're a guy!  Sure it seemed like a funny idea on your way to the party, but by your third century in the afterlife the joke has to start getting old.

The other way they show heaven in the movies is with everyone dressed in white.  White suits, white dresses and white robes.  Not bad if have a dark skin tone or hair color, but think of all the poor red heads.  For a ginger with freckles, having to wear white forever is it's own type of hell.  Or at least hell for everyone who has to look at you (insert gay cliche snap).

My biggest concern with the heaven/hell concept is it so often is portrayed as an all or nothing scenario.  Either you get to spend eternity in bliss, or are cast into a foreverness of suffering.  I always wonder about those who fall just short.  Can you imagine if you are just about to get into heaven, but are denied access because a week before you died you ate the last girl scout cookie without offering to share it with your wife?  Now you have to wait out the end of days getting poked by a pitch fork because you can't resist Somoas.

Will I get into heaven?  I guess it depends on if God has a sense of humor.  I'm hoping he does, otherwise heaven would be a pretty boring place.  I don't like the idea of taking the hereafter too seriously.  It seems like it would take too much fun from the here and now.

As a child the concept of death used to be my biggest fear, but at some point I just stopped worrying about it.  I realize there is a good chance that neither heaven nor hell exist, but it seems to me the chance of an empty nothingness is even more unlikely.  It's a law of science that matter and energy can be neither created nor destroyed, so it seems to me the same is likely true for a soul or consciousness.  In some form or another my life energy, whatever you wish to call it, will go on.  The only question is where.

If, however, my assumption is false and my death brings only oblivion.  I take solace in the knowledge that I will never know I am wrong.  Therefore my theory on the hereafter can only be proven true and if it's not then it doesn't matter. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Chicken and the Egg Solution

       Here's a fun thing to do the next time a Philosophy major tries to impress you at a party by asking a bunch of theoretical questions such as "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"  Look them right in the eye and say "the egg".  Then when they will undoubtedly ask "What did the egg come from?"  You can respond with a simple "Something else." 

       At this point you can do one of two things.  Either walk away and leave them confused or continue to stare at them until they ask you to explain.  If the latter happens roll your eyes like you are talking to an idiot (philosophy majors love it when people openly mock their intelligence) and then give them the following explaination.

The Chicken and the Egg Solution:

      The underlying argument about the chicken and the egg mystery is that the cycle of chicken to egg and back to chicken appears to be a loop and where as a circle has no beginning or end the mystery seems unsolvable. 

     This argument is faulty because we know there was a time when neither chickens nor eggs existed and therefore the loop had to start somewhere.  Genetic studies show that modern chickens were domesticated from multiple wild bird species between 5,400 and 8,000 years ago.  Thus at some point in that time frame the chicken and the egg made their first appearance.  The trick to identifying when is knowing what counts as a chicken.

     To define a chicken you must have some definition that separates it from its similar bird ancestors.  It doesn't really matter what this definition is (height, weight, temperament, beak size, etc) as long as you realize that one does exist and can be scientifically identified. 

     Thus you can imagine that as the wild birds were slowly evolved into what we consider the modern day chicken there was a wild bird that was very similar to modern chickens, but fell just short of what could be defined as a chicken.  It then had an offspring (egg) that was just different enough from it's parent that when it hatched and grew up it qualified for the definition of the modern day chicken. 

     And on that day the first chicken was born from an egg that was produced by something similar, but ultimately different from a chicken.  Hence the egg came first!