Artist's Lane

Hit the ball and drag Joe


The search started with a punchline. My daughter said to me, “I was trying to remember the joke we always told in the family: Hit the ball and drag Joe.” 

She said, “I went to Google search and typed in the punchline and the joke came up.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.”

“I’ll show you.” There it was. The joke. “One Saturday Bob came home tired and disgusted. His wife asked him, ‘How was your golf game?’

“Bob said, ‘The worst game of golf ever. We got to the first tee, Joe hit a hole in one and dropped dead of a heart attack.’

“‘That’s terrible.’

Bob said, ‘I know. For the rest of the game, it was hit the ball and drag Joe.’”

That joke became our family’s favorite punchline. When I made plans for my Sweet Al and me to go somewhere, he didn’t want to go and I had to drag him, I’d use that punchline. The kids would say, “How was Daddy? Did he go?” I would say, “You know how it is, ‘hit the ball and drag Joe.’”

My writer friend and I were talking about timing in our writing. I told her about learning cadence, beats and timing when I studied how to write humor. It’s all about cutting out all the fat words.

Timing weaves throughout any kind of writing and requires getting rid of unnecessary words to get the cadence right. I told her about Googling punchlines and bringing back old, forgotten jokes and teaching a writers’ class on writing humor.

I offered to teach another class in humor and then pow, I remembered my last experience. 

I said, “Absolutely not, I still have the bruises.” 

That Monday morning when I taught about writing humor, it was disastrous. I titled the class, “Bring in the clowns.”

I told them to bring a short article they had written. They were going learn how to turn any kind of writing into humor. Wrong. They kicked and screamed.

I thought I was doing something clever and that the writers would all turn into Erma Bombecks.

Wrong. No clowns in the room. Just blank faces and a few critical looks. They couldn’t do it.

I told them humor is a powerful tool in writing. I’ve written some really passionate articles with strong messages. Some were almost too strong to write about. By using humor, I was able to make my point without offending or accusing anyone.

Like writing about the “turnabouts” at the hospital in Durango. At the time, I was enraged by the ridiculousness of the idea. Sick, in a hurry, and needing a doctor, I went round and round on that turnabout, trying to figure out which lane to stay in. I almost got hit, but one good thing — I was close to the hospital.

I also showed the writers the advantage of timing in their other writings. Sometimes the cadence is off in a sentence and one more word makes the sentence flow.

One writer, an ex-pastor who wrote stories about parables, wrote an article about “Love your neighbor.” It was a sermon. I told him, “No one will remember that sermon and no one wants to read a sermon and be preached to.”

I told him to give me his story and I’d show him how to turn it into a humorous piece. I rewrote his article. I used my Sweet Al as the neighbor. Another family joke.

Al stands at the living room window with his binoculars. He’s not on neighborhood watch, but curious. He has too much time on his hands.

When the kids called and asked about their daddy, I’d tell them, “Alice is watching the neighborhood.” We all laughed. They remember “Bewitched” and Alice Ghostly, the gossipy neighbor, Gladys Kravitz with her binoculars. Humor works best when you can turn it on yourself.

I turned the ex-pastor’s article into a funny story about loving your neighbors. I told him his sermons could be remembered if he used humor. The writer thought I was making fun of the parables and he discarded it. That’s too bad. It was a great article. He could’ve learned something for his other writing.

Humor has saved my marriage for 64 years. When I came unglued at some of Al’s nonsense, I’ve turned my angst into humor and wrote about him.

I told the writers that many of my readers read “Artist’s Lane” for the humor. I’ve learned that writers can write about anything if they use humor. As much as we need to laugh today, it doesn’t work for some writers. It could.

Final brushstroke: That Monday morning only one caught the fever to write humor. You’ll see it in some of his writings. And I told my writer friend, “The more I think about it, forget it; don’t put me on the schedule. I’m not up to teaching a class on how to write humor. It will only be like hitting the ball and dragging Joe.”

Readers’ comments

“Good morning Betty,

“Since we live in the neighboring state of Kansas, we often get the SUN about a week later in the mail. Loved your bold and brilliant January 25th article ‘Should I stop breathing for them?’ It’s keeping a smile on my face today. Yes, they are expecting us to stop breathing, and may likely invent ways to do so.  What an amazing God! -  that we continually have opportunities to humbly shine His light, joy and truth, for as long as we have breath! Joan Kelley”

“Write it! I had lost your address my dear dear friend! Then another dear friend of mine just gave me a year’s subscription to the Sun! What a blessing to see and read about old home! WHAT A CHANGE THO! In just two short years $$$! My first copy, Feb. 1st and I get to read from the AUTHOR! WRITE IT! From your heart I dare say there will not be any dross for HIM to burn away, WRITE IT my dear sister. The ink is wet in the pen. Miss you and look eagerly to see more from you in the paper! Love, Mr. Mark Crain.”

Views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN.