36. Back to Patty’s

We walked down to Patty’s together. There was a folkie playing guitar and singing quietly in the corner.

I asked for a bottle of the house red, and menus. Jeff looked at the guitarist. “Paul, what’n hell is that thing he’s doing with his right hand? It’s like he’s playing rhythm and lead at the same time!”

“It’s called Travis Picking – named after Merle Travis. He does this kind of syncopated thing: Alternating bass with his right thumb, chordal and melody notes with his index and middle finger. Nice full sound, eh? This guy is good at it.”

“You have to teach me!”

“I can definitely help you get started. Let me fill your glass. Are you hungry? The burgers here are fantastic.”

“Burgers sound great! I want to eat a dead animal. Would that offend the vegetarians?”

“Some of them, absolutely, but dead animals taste good.”

“Can I ask you something, Paul?”

I took a large swig of wine. “Of course.”

“This may come as a surprise to you, but I’m not naturally a funny guy.”

I knew this was one of those moments where I had to at least appear supportive. I thought of a half-dozen diplomatic responses, but they all got thrown out the window. Instead, they came out as, “Well, der!”

“Arsehole. Seriously, it’s like art. Some sort of early imperfection evolved into a sense of humour. Nyuck, the manager of the Department of Humour and Accidental Death gave a very comprehensive presentation on the topic. Fantastic PowerPoint slides!

“But it still eludes us. While his presentation did point out the importance of the unexpected, he assured us that there is much more to it then just jumping out of broom closets and shouting ‘Ballsack!’”

“Nyuck is a wise manager.”

Jeff gave me a look like he wasn’t sure I meant it. “I mean, I understand how to create puns – they’re a technical form of humour – and I can sometimes manage sarcasm, since it often involves saying the opposite of what you mean, but what about the rest? How do I say funny shit?”

Where to even begin with this. “Please pass the bottle. Thanks. Okay, Jeff. Here’s the thing about humour: It’s just too frigging big of a subject. There are a bunch of different kinds of humour, but studying them won’t help you to be funny.”

“So what do I do?”

Thinking back to all the names he had put on his door, I was hesitant to encourage, but I really did want to help him out. “There’s only one thing you can do. You have to keep trying. Don’t try too hard, but try.”

Jeff looked disappointed, “I was really hoping for something more definitive.”

“I know you were, dude – here’s the bottle – but you may need to talk to someone smarter than I am. When I say something funny, I really don’t think of it. I’m afraid I may have been born a smartass because of that imperfection Nyuck has told you about.”

Jeff sighed. “Okay, I’ll just keep trying.”

“Now I really have to ask: You have a Department of Humour and Accidental Death? That seems a funny mix.”

“We ended up combining the two departments due to cutbacks. Really nobody is safe.”

“That makes total sense. Please pass the bottle.”

We spent the rest of the evening just hanging out at Patty’s. Discussing the guitarist’s technique, watching women walk by, drinking a pile of goat piss. Seriously, if you have to spend an evening hanging out with The Almighty, that’s a pretty good way to do it.