Columns are a pain in the funny bone


By Jeff Linville - [email protected]



On Tuesdays I write a weekly column that runs on Thursday.

Some weeks I have to think a bit on a topic, but usually something happens over the weekend that gets me fired up, so I show up to work ready to spit nails. Most of my columns have been about informing the public of things that make me upset and might make readers upset, too, if they knew the whole story.

Last week I was proofreading stories when I came across Bill Colvard’s column on brie. Cheese, that’s what he wrote about. Nothing overly serious. It was light-hearted and funny. Kind of like having a conversation with Bill around the water cooler (if we had a water cooler).

Over the past few months I have griped about Courtney Love, the state of today’s music, how the Hornets can’t get any love because of the Panthers, privacy, laws that restrict freedom, how the NFL has always had thugs, baseball Hall of Fame voting, Black Friday shopping, Syrian refugees, book snobs, Internet time thieves and international business laws.

Over that same period, the only feel-good column was about going to the county fair as a teen.

Someone who has never met me would read my columns and think I must be a miserable person and very poor company.

But I’m funny! Really, I promise!

Those who have spent any time at all around me know that I can’t be serious for five minutes, no matter the situation. I have cracked jokes during mad rants, at family funerals, when I was laid off eight years ago, even during the discussion where my wife and I decided to divorce. I can’t help myself.

Why is it every time I sit down to write a column, funny goes right out the window?

This week I was determined to write a lighthearted, funny column.

Then I sat down and started griping about the Super Bowl. I deleted that and started over.

Then I griped about the Super Bowl halftime show. Again, I deleted.

I consciously tried to think funny, but the only thing that came to mind were questions from stand-up comedians like: If Advil only wants me to take two tablets every four to six hours, then why did the company make them sugar-coated? Why do we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway? If Teflon is so non-stick, then why doesn’t the coating slide right out of the pan? Have you ever considered how a chair would be made if our knees bent the other way?

But a column full of those would be plagiarism.

I was at a conference in San Diego 15 years ago. The wealthy sponsors had a dinner party at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. I sat with the V.P. of sales swapping jokes and funny stories for an hour. When we got to looking around, a huge crowd of people had gathered around to listen in. See? I was funny, I promise!

Once I performed in a storytelling night at the Mount Airy Public Library and killed it. The crowd was very appreciative, and my friend Claire said I should go on the road telling stories like Hal Holbrook doing Mark Twain.

But this column is like Kryptonite.

The computer isn’t to blame. I can be funny in emails and on Facebook, even if the humor doesn’t always come through in print.

A dozen years ago I tried online dating, and my profile was quite funny. But I didn’t get any dates with it, so all you women out there who say the first thing you look for in a man is a sense of humor are lying through your teeth. Or if you’re from Lowgap, you’re lying through your tooth.

Hey, see? I made a joke without even trying.

Perhaps I’m trying too hard. Like in high school when I tried to joke with the guys on the basketball team so they would like their team manager/videographer. Maybe I need to relax.

Of course the same athletes that will tell you to relax and let the game come to you are the same ones that will tell you that you have to be aggressive to win. So don’t take life advice from an athlete — unless it’s Eugene Robinson last week reminding the Panthers how he got arrested before the 2004 Super Bowl for soliciting a prostitute. That’s some advice you might want to consider.

Ah well, it looks like I’m out of space for this week. I’ll think on this some more and try to come up with a funny column for the future.

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By Jeff Linville

[email protected]

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

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