“Drop and give me fifty punch lines!”
I was in agony. The Drill Editor at Humor Basic Training had singled me out for having mangled a particularly droll Robert Benchley line. I began typing furiously while my nemesis continued barking orders…
“Right! Johnson! Take your squad and assault that boardroom with one-liners. Make every rimshot count – make up your own ammo if you’re running low”
“F” Troop! Your mission is to undermine the council meeting over there with snide remarks during presentations, followed by a barrage of stupid questions at the Q and A afterwards.”
“Can we use rapid fire?”
“Negative! Sniping only. And take no prisoners. Move out.”
Life at hoot camp was hell. It either made you funny, or left you nothing but a useless humor analogy – a pair of shoes dangling from a power line on the road to comedy glory.
Raw recruits, we were the class clowns and smart-alecks, the wise-cracking fools who joined up for adventure or a possible freelance gig.
Training was hard and we learned how to use all the weapons at our disposal.
Weapons like Zinger missiles, which we’d fire indiscriminately into meetings or crowds. Zingers were effective for close-in engagements, but for larger battles of wits we’d call in heavy weapons from the First Humored Division. The big hartillery: Euphemisms. Sarcasm. Irony. Innuendo.
We found and used WMD’s – Weapons of Mass Distribution. Newspaper columns. Long range blog posts. Wacky morning radio broadcasts.
We learned how to protect ourselves from vile puns, how to sneak terms like ‘buttocks,’ ‘Governor’ or ‘dog scooties’ into our written material. We set up titter ambushes at banquet-sized guffawltercations.
Sabotage techniques like the fake office memo were employed, or the idiotic survey inserted into the new office training manual.
The hardest tests were reserved for those going for the elite of the elite. The peak of the Hilarity Industrial Complex: The Special Har Service Regiment.
SHS Selection began with dinner parties and social engagements. Seemingly placid environments, in reality they were vicious humor battlefields, filled with banter and sniping. Verbal minefields.
Brutally difficult, applicants were dismissed for the slightest infraction. No quips, sloppy aim, ill-remembered lines from when SNL was still funny – you name it. Anything could trip you up and send you back to barracks, where so called ‘humor’ was limited to bodily function jokes and making odd sounds with armpits. Foot-in-mouth casualties were common.
The obstacle course was stained with the sweat of comrades whose repartee was not quite as rapier-like as their opponents. More than one hopeful had flunked for lack of a timely remark about the shape of his cocktail weenie.
This was not the place for inter-office Top 10 Lists or viral emails. This was serious funny business. This was whimsy on the front lines – the pointy end of the wit stick.
“Company!” the Drill Editor bellowed, startling me out of my reverie.
“This morning we are honored by the presence of Colonel Popcorn of the Benny Hill Battalion, whose lecture on Irony entitled ‘Editors Really Are Improving Your Work’ will commence at 0900 hours, 0930 in Newfoundland.”
“This will be followed by banana cream pies at 1200 hours, after which you will pick up long boards and march comically to the lecture hall for a video titled ‘Slapstick and Other Uses for Politicians’ until lights out.”
“Tomorrow you will undergo a rigorous 10 minute stand-up routine in full Groucho Marx kit with no twitching from the fuzzy moustache! Quit your grumbling back there!”
“Fools Company! Dis-missed!”