Monday, January 24, 2011

the Joke Tsar

I worked for a land surveyor firm for nearly four years. Aside from the physical strength needed there was a lot of skill required including the physical skill of hitting the top of an 18 inch pipe enough times so it sinks into the ground. Math skills were also needed some simple, and some very complex.
What I didn’t have in skill and strength I tried to make up for in good attitude. One of my proudest accomplishments happened while on the job one morning. But it didn’t involve the work involved.
We drove down to Canyon Lake in Riverside County just about every day. We were able to pick up our favorite radio morning show out of San Diego through its translator signal in Temecula. Without a doubt the Dave, Shelly and Chainsaw morning show is the best radio morning show I have ever heard. They are now on 100.7 Jack FM in San Diego and I listen to their podcasts at work. There are all kinds of regular games and bits they do. When they did ‘Stump the Joke Tsar’ a week ago I was reminded of that morning at work years ago.
Stump the Joke Tsar is simple enough; you call up with a joke. If Dave, the host knows it you hang up in shame. If he doesn’t know it and if the joke is funny, you win. In the summer of 2006 we were driving to the construction site listening to the radio when that contest began. I remarked that I had just read a joke in a book at the library that was pretty funny. Maybe I could call up with it. The work chief encouraged me to so I did.
The thing with radio contests is that there may be ten or twenty incoming lines into the studio with thousands of listeners trying to get through. If you have ever tried to be caller number one at a radio station you will know that your chances are not good. But I got through. I told the joke right away to Emily, who screens the calls and she put me on hold. We turned down the radio in the work truck until we could park. I got out so the rest of the crew could listen and I heard the show on hold.
The bit had been on for a few minutes and Dave, the host, the Joke Tsar, was becoming annoyed. The jokes had to be funny and none of them had been so far. This was the funniest crew I had ever heard. Dabbling in radio years before, I greatly respected folks on the radio and the idea of disappointing them scared me. Soon Dave was shouting the punchlines to the jokes before they were done and disconnecting the callers one after another. He reminded the listeners that he and Shelly and Chainsaw and the rest of the crew were hoping to lose. He was angry and disappointed so far, then suddenly I was off hold and his voice was clear.
“David, in Lake Elsinore, go ahead,” said the Joke Tsar. Another member of the show repeated: “Hello, Dave!”
“Okay, “I said as clear as I could. “Why is diarrhea hereditary?”
Dave didn’t shout at me and disconnect me. He repeated me question and then I repeated it back to him. Chris Boyer, his editor and show know-it-all said some kind of answer that I didn’t understand so I waited a second.
Dave’s voice was now relaxed and cheerful. “I don’t know,” he said. “Why is diarrhea hereditary?”
Dave not knowing was not enough; he had to say it was funny. Here it was.
I replied, “It runs in your genes.” (jeans)
Instantly there was laughter. And then they played a sound effect I had never heard. Bells clanged with an explosion a Tarzan yodel and a voice repeating “winner…winner…winner.”
They congratulated me and told me I won Eddie Money tickets. I got on the phone with Emily again and told her that I couldn’t take the tickets because I was moving that weekend. It didn’t matter though. She was a little surprised and we said goodbye.
The construction guys asked me about the Eddie Money tickets too. But they understood me too because they were fans of the show. The tickets didn’t matter. I had made the host of the best morning show in on the biggest cities in the state laugh. And that day it didn’t matter that I tended to destroy sledgehammers before driving a half dozen pipes. That was the day that I had stumped the Joke Tsar.

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