Sunday, January 17, 2010

17 JAN 10: Ten Years' Laughter

The older I get, the fuzzier my memory seems to become. I discovered Saturday night that I was one week off, in figuring a big anniversary. So maybe it's just as well I've never been married....

But anyway: this past week marked ten years since I began writing comedy for the Internet. Before there was this blog, there was an e-mail comedy service called LaughLine. I hoped to make a living through monthly and annual subscriptions - and this was back when lots of people still paid for subscriptions to newspapers.

Plenty of people and companies offer joke services for clients such as radio stations. My goal was to do the same sort of thing about the news of the day, only at a discount price more people could afford. After all, what could be better than a good cheap laugh?

Co-workers and friends seemed to laugh often at the jokes I told, so I figured LaughLine had potential with a wider audience. The offer was five issues a week, for only five dollars a month. But when your relatives don't even send checks in a show of support and compassion, that's a sign of trouble.

I still have e-mail from a radio talk show host in Kansas City, who was selected at random to try LaughLine for a week. He wrote: "Get out of the comedy business.... Comedy is much more than buzz words and overused sophomoric references.... I would suggest making your promotional material funny." This guy claims to be a professional comedian, but his reply was more like Michael Savage.

Apparently a lot of people agreed with that man, because there weren't enough subscribers to make LaughLine successful. It reached the point where I tried giving away issues for a month. Not that many people took me up on it - and I'm still waiting for one former Columbus radio personality to send me the five bucks she promised.

The plug officially was pulled on LaughLine 11 Oct 02. I noted in the final edition it had 713 issues - so I respected Babe Ruth, by stopping one short of his home run total.

It turns out this blog now has more readers in a day than LaughLine ever had in subscribers. So if you're a regular reader: 1) Thank you very much. 2) Your sense of humor may not be as sophisticated as you think. And 3) do you also look for free lunches at supermarket snack tables?

To mark a decade of comedy writing, we'll borrow from the Ledger-Enquirer and post occasional "this day in history" flashbacks from ten years ago. The first few are ahead, after we check some current local items from the weekend:

+ The Martin Luther King Junior Day parade was rained out for the second time in three years. What would Dr. King think of this? Would he scold the organizers for letting down? Or would he call for a boycott of downtown businesses, until they started selling umbrellas?

+ In contrast, parents and friends of St. Patrick's School in Phenix City hurried to clean up damage from a Friday fire. Administrators hope to reopen on schedule Tuesday. You tell me which group has more burning desire....

+ More than 800 people lined up at the Columbus Career Center, to apply for 250 jobs with the auto supplier Mobis. You'd think an automotive company could find a creative way to hire everyone. After all, NASCAR teams need seven people simply to change four tires and fill a gas tank.

+ The deadline passed to enter WTVM's "Right from the Start" dream wedding contest. Critics might consider the contest rules old-fashioned, because couples CANNOT live together prior to the wedding. But then again, the rules don't demand the couple be male and female.

(I'll be fascinated to see how many couples enter this contest, especially with the, uh, "no shack-up" rule. To hear some ministers talk about modern romance, the three finalists probably will be a battle between Baptists and Jehovah's Witnesses.)

+ The Williams Brothers performed in concert at the Columbus Civic Center - but from the video I saw on WXTX, there wasn't a very big crowd. Maybe someone leaked the truth that this was a gospel music act, and Andy Williams wasn't part of it.

+ The commander of Alabama's state anti-gambling task force resigned. Why? Because David Barber went to a Mississippi casino and won $2,300. [True/AP] Sometimes a slot machine can convert people better than a preacher can.

+ Kentucky remained unbeaten in men's basketball, by escaping Auburn 72-67. The attendance at Beard-Eaves Coliseum was 11,669 - and for an Auburn home game, that means at least one-third of the crowd left celebrating a victory.

+ Instant Message to the University of Tennessee: I guess this is too late -- but I finally figured out an answer to your dilemma Saturday. In fact, you could have solved two problems at once. Conan O'Brian would have made a fun head football coach, and he already has orange hair.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <--

LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK/10 JAN 00: Overheard over the weekend: an older gentleman walked into a convenience store and described a car wreck he'd seen. In his words: "He ran the red light, down at the red light...."

If only these drivers would run red lights at the GREEN light - well, no, wait. Maybe if they ran green lights at the red light - but then they wouldn't be red, would they?!?! Never mind....

11 JAN 00: Many people in our town have trouble with their spelling - in fact, even the media do. The other night, one station put this severe weather statement on the screen: "A tornado WANING is in effect...." We weren't sure whether to run for the closet, or go outside to see the tornado disappear.

12 JAN 00: The campaign for President is finally getting to the serious issues. Someone asked all the contenders what was the first car they owned! (True) Albert Gore revealed his first car was a Honda. Funny thing, though.... we kept waiting for him to say he INVENTED the Honda.... or maybe built it himself....

13 JAN 00: Georgia state officials have issued an apology. Due to printing plant problems, this year's booklets with income tax forms are being delayed. They DIDN'T have to apologize, you know - most of the taxpayers aren't missing them one bit.

14 JAN 00: In case you've forgotten, Monday is the Martin Luther King Junior holiday - which means banks and post offices will be closed. A Boston newspaper reports Dr. King is on a Vatican short list to be declared a martyr of the 20th Century. Suppose he DOES receive that title. What do you say to the family? Do you shake their hands and say, "Congratulations on being related to a martyr?"

17 JAN 00: Saturday night we stopped at a famous burger place, and were surprised by the prices. The "Quarter Pounder" was on the 99-cent menu. But the "Quarter Pounder WITH CHEESE" cost $1.99 - TWICE as much!

"Let me see if I have this straight," I asked the young woman behind the counter. "A quarter-pounder is 99 cents, but the quarter-pounder with cheese is A DOLLAR-99?!?!"

"No," she answered. A long pause followed, raising my hopes.

"It's 2-13." She added TAX!

"That's the most expensive slice of cheese I've ever seen," I observed. She didn't respond to that. (I ordered something else!)

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