Riddle me this


Riddles Comedy Club, 5055 W. 111th Street, Alsip, Illinois 60803

I often try not to think about comedy clubs. Then, suddenly, Riddles is put in my path. Why is there a comedy club here? I usually drive up and down 111th Street. A very mundane experience. I know all the usual landmarks by heart: Beverly Arts Center, Burrito Station, the fire station, Mount Greenwood Park, the  Oak Lawn Dolphin Club. All the usual landmarks that I begin to not see after seeing them so many times. But then one day, I see the Riddles Comedy Club! And I can’t avert my eyes. I’m staring at it with my mouth gaping.

Just a few years ago, I visited the Riddles club in Orland Park with the hopes of performing at their open mic night on Thursdays. I wrote some jokes. And you better believe that they were very, very funny. So funny that I was afraid that someone would die laughing. I went to Riddles a few times just to check out the ambience. My very first night there, I was told that I wouldn’t have to pay a cover charge if I was an open mic performer. As tempting as this invitation was, I politely declined. Okay, I admit it. I was afraid to go on stage! I had flashbacks to when I actually did go up on stage.

Anyway, when I was finally comfortable with the club, I decided to perform. I wrote some more killer jokes. I thought about rehearsing, but I was afraid to sound too rehearsed. So, I didn’t rehearse. But believe, I was ready! Oh, yes, I was! Or so I had fooled myself into believing When I get to the club and tell them that I want to perform for open mic, they tell me that open mic has been cancelled. How disappointing! Well, not really. What I really meant was, “What a relief!” Especially, since I was invited to stay to watch the show without paying a cover charge. Well, open mic night was cancelled because the starring acts had arrived a day early and want to perform in order to warm up for their weekend performances. I must that I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I was also greatly relieved that I didn’t have to perform.

Whenever I get the urge to perform again, I get really motivated. But then, I lose the urge when I realize that I would have to leave the house about 8:00 pm and return until after midnight. I used to enjoy that, but I didn’t have to get up early to go to work. I would usually wake up at the crack of noon, go running, and then relax before I went to the comedy clubs. I have become such a homebody lately. I really enjoy staying home! Of course, I occasionally leave the house. I not exactly a shut-in.

I plan on going to Riddles very soon. As a spectator. Luckily, they don’t have an open mic night. Yet!

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Mexican sense of humor


 

Exhibit A: Mexican sense of humor

Mexicans have the best sense of humor in the world. No one laughs more than a Mexican. They’re always joking around and they are always laughing. Just watch them and see. Many people often ask me why I’m always laughing. I never actually have an answer because I don’t know why I’m always laughing. Sometimes, I laugh for no apparent reason, which makes it easy for me to find a seat on the train. When I was in México, I noticed my cousin David Rodríguez laughed just as much as me and just as loud. My sons always complain that I laugh the loudest whenever we see a movie. I can’t help it. My mother and I always told jokes and we weren’t afraid to laugh. My abuelita was also quite funny. Our whole family is always laughing. If you ever go to a Mexican party, you will hear continuous laughter. It’s just our nature. We lead simple uncomplicated lives and enjoy every moment of life. As long as we have a place to live, food to eat, and drink to drink, we’re happy as a tamal in a corn husk. And no matter what tragedy occurs in our lives, we’ll just laugh it off. I’ve heard Mexicans tell how they lost their job, their house, their car, etc. and make everyone listening laugh while they told their sad tale. I admit it. I’ve laughed, too. My friend José was a carpenter who had once cut off his index finger with an electric saw. One day, I saw he had two fingers bandaged and I asked him what had happened. He told me how he was cutting wood with an electric band saw and his mind drifted a little. Right from the beginning he slipped into the typical Mexican joke-telling mode. “Remember how I told you how I cut off my index finger the last time,” José, and I remembered how he had made me laugh then. “Well, this time, I cut off my index finger AND my middle finger!” He started laughing with his contagious laughter, and I couldn’t help but laugh, too. “¡Chingado! I did it again!” he said to me. “Then I couldn’t find my fingers right away because they went flying across the room!” I regret to say that we both laughed hysterically during his recounting of this catastrophe. Of course, he never did finish telling me the story because he was laughing too hard. But even in a crisis, a Mexican will find humor.

¡Ja, ja, ja!

Mexican jokes


My business card in 1986

When I was growing up, in an age before everyone tried to be politically correct, everyone told ethnic jokes. They were always insulting and mean-spirited to the whatever group was targeted. Sure, some people were offended by these jokes, which only led to them being the target of more ethnic jokes. However, these jokes also brought a lot of joy and laughter among friends. For example, I worked in a peanut butter factory, named Derby Foods, with the ethnic groups who lived in Back of the Yards. In general, we all got along together very well. Shirley, one of my Polish coworkers, loved to hear any kind of joke because she loved to laugh. Her real name was Ursula, but she preferred to be called Shirley. Anyway, she especially loved to hear Polish jokes. She always insisted that I tell her any new Polish joke that I heard. And when I didn’t learn any new jokes, she insisted that I retell her the old ones. Whenever I told her Mexican jokes, she told me she liked the Polish ones better. In this age of political correctness, I will not tell any Polish jokes lest I offend anyone. But, I suppose it would be okay if I told some of the Mexican jokes that I still remember. I’m not doing this to propagate any negative stereotypes about Mexicans, but merely as a scientific exercise to preserve our humorous past. Now, I’m not saying that these jokes are actually funny anymore, but once upon a time, people actually laughed at these jokes. Some of them are actually quite dated. Okay, you have been forewarned!

  1. Why can’t Mexicans be fireman? They don’t know the difference between José and Hose B.
  2. Mexican weather report: Chili today. Hot tamale.
  3. Why do Mexicans wear pointy shoes? To kill cockroaches in the corner.
  4. What is the name of the Mexican telephone company? Taco Bell.
  5. Why don’t Mexicans have barbecues? The beans keep falling through the grille.
  6. How can you tell if you’re at a Mexican birthday party? There are more adults than children.
  7. What do you call a Mexican basketball game? Juan on Juan.
  8. What do you get when you cross a Mexican with an octopus? I don’t know, but boy can it pick lettuce!
  9. Why doesn’t Mexico have an Olympic team? Because every Mexican who can run, jump, or swim is already in the U.S.
  10. What do you call a Mexican in a BMW? A valet.

Upon further reflection, I retract the above listed jokes because they are in extremely bad taste. With apologies to Ursula, I mean, Shirley!

A Pole, a Lithuanian, and a Mexican walk into a bar ...

The Chicago Way


Picasso Sculpture, Daley Center, Chicago, Illinois

Today, I read the The Chicago Way by Tom McNamee in the Chicago Sun-Times in which he talks about jokes that work only Chicago. Well, I would like to share some of those jokes with you, my fellow Chicagoans. He starts out with “Noel, Noel … So I took the bus.” I remember hearing a different version of this joke at Holy Cross School told by a nun: “Some Christmas carolers are under the El tracks downtown singing, “Noel, Noel …” Along comes a drunk and tells them, “Then take a bus!”

My friend Vito Vitkauskas wrote this Chicago joke that I used to use in my comedy routine: I once broke my arm in three places. Haltsed, Lincoln, and Fullerton.

Ken Green, in today’s Sun-Times, wrote two funny haikus, or as he calls them, Chi-kus:

The CTA bus
a very rare animal
moves in packs of three

In my house we vote
Even my uncle votes
May he rest in peace

Here are some of the other jokes printed in the column:

  1. How many Chicagoans does it take to park a car? Seven. One behind the wheel and six to rearrange the kitchen chairs.
  2. Why is Chicago known as the city that works? Because whatever the problem–a parking ticket or a murder indictment–it can be fixed.
  3. We all know why the chicken crossed the road, but why did the lady duck cross Walton Place? To get to the Drake.
  4. I heard Mayor Daley has a plan to get crime off the streets. Yeah, he’s going to widen the sidewalks.

Language jokes


Dr. D. laughing in Spanish.

As you may have noticed, I like jokes. Here’s a riddle. What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call a person who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call a person who speaks one language? American.

A Swiss man, looking for directions, pulls up at a bus stop where two American tourists are waiting.
Entschuldigung, koennen sie deutsch sprechen?” he asks. The two Americans just stare at him.
Excusez-moi, parlez vous francais?” he tries.
The two continue to stare.
Parlare italiano?” No response.
Hablan ustedes español?” Still nothing.
The Swiss man drives off, extremely disgusted. The first American turns to the second and says, “Y’know, maybe we should learn a foreign language.”
“Why?” says the other. “That guy knew four languages, and it didn’t do him any good.”

A man tells his friend, “I’m going to learn German.” His friend says that German is a hard language to learn. The man replies, “How hard can it be? I’ve heard three-year-olds speaking it.

“I’m glad I wasn’t born in France.” “Why’s that?” “I don’t speak French!”

A man gave his wife a parrot. The next day, they’re eating dinner and the man notices that the parrot isn’t in its cage. He asks, “Where’s the parrot.” The wife says, “We’re having it for dinner.” “What? That parrot spoke three languages!” “Well, why didn’t it say something?”

A student fell asleep during an English professor’s lecture on pronouns. Upset, the professor wakes up the student by asking him to name two pronouns. The student replies, “Who? Me?” “Very good,” says the professor.

This linguistics professor was lecturing the class. “In English,” he explained, “a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, such as Spanish, a double negative is still a negative.” “However,” the professor continued, “there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.” Immediately, a voice from the back of the room piped up: “Yeah … right …”

Politically (in)correct


Riddle Comedy Club, Alsip, Illinois

I haven’t been to a comedy club for a couple of months now, but I keep thinking of one joke in particular that I heard while I was there. You have to remember that comedy clubs are the last bastion of politically incorrect jokes. So anything goes there. In a way, it’s very refreshing to be able to go back in time a couple of decades or so to when free speech meant exactly that.

Anyway, the joke I keep remembering makes me laugh every time I recall it. I don’t even remember the name of the comedian, but I saw him at Riddles at the open mic night. “Are there any Mexicans here?” he asked, I assumed he asked this because he was not of the Mexican persuasion. No one answered up–not even me. I wanted to say, “I’m Mexican,” but I couldn’t get the nerve to shout it out. Besides, I wanted to see what he would say if no Mexicans were present.

After a long silent pause, he asked, “How many Mexicans does it take to change a light bulb?” No one answered and after another long pause, he said, “One. They’re just like everone else!” And everyone laughed, but I think I laughed the loudest.

Barrel of Laughs


 

2509 W. Marquette Road

Last night, I went to a comedy club for the first time in a very long time. I went to Bill Brady’s Barrel of Laughs in Oak Lawn, Illinois. I remember Bill Brady from when he was at the Comedy Womb. I can honestly say that Bill Brady is just as funny today as he was back then. I had meant to write my own standup comedy routine in order to perform it last night, but I never actually finished editing my act so I went to observe the new talent on Open Mic Night and hopefully learn from them. Well, I’m not sure if I learned any practical lessons since all these comedians reminded me of my past experiences on stage. At least, I observed that the performing standup comedy sure has changed for the better! The atmosphere was actually very congenial and conducive for training new comedians. They actually had a sign on the stage that prohibited heckling the comedians! Now that’s what I call coddling the comedians.

Since I was a very young boy, I have had this secret desire to be a standup comedian and I’m trying to get my nerve up to go on stage again after a brief hiatus of about 21 years. I’m not sure what ever attracted me to standup comedy in the first place since I stuttered and spoke broken English until I was in high school. Whenever I saw comedians on television, I always watched them with affectionate laughter and listened to their every word, memorizing their jokes so I could repeat them later. Since I live in Chicago which is a breeding ground for all kinds of comedians, I eventually tried my hand at standup comedy with mixed success. My main problem was my stage fright that always hindered me from being comfortable before a large crowd, but not painful enough to prevent me from performing. I worked at improving my comedy act and eventually performed on some cable TV show no one had ever heard of, including me until they asked me to be on the show.

Before I ever actually performed standup comedy, my friends Vito, Jim, and I went to some comedy clubs to observe the comedians. We planned everything for our first performances. We tried working together as team at first, but we were too much of individuals to work together as a team. Eventually, we each wrote our own act that we would perform individually. We did help each other writing jokes for each other and polishing each other’s act. This was all fun and nerve-racking at the same time! Although we never mentioned it to each other, I know we really dreaded our first time on stage. We memorized, rehearsed, and then performed our acts to each other before our debut. We didn’t actually all perform for the first time on the same night because we performed when we had managed to control our stage fright enough go on stage. I believe Jim, the bravest of the bunch, performed first, followed by me and then Vito. Needless to say, we each made a disastrous debut! But we were extremely proud of ourselves for following through with our plan and actually going on stage.

Now that I think of it, I’m starting to not only feel that same fear again, but also that same hunger for success again. That’s why I plan on going on stage in the near future. But first I have to fine tune my jokes.

These three guys walk into a comedy club ...