Charles Bukowski

The Joke

it often happens when the party is going well, somebody will say, "wait a minute, that reminds me, I heard this joke, it will only take a minute and I promise not to tell more than one." he leans forward and begins to tell it, and this is the worst part because you know it will not be funny, and even worse than that, not even plausible, but he goes on as your stomach feels as if you had eaten a rotten egg, your reach the punch line long before he gets to it, then he finishes, looks about. there is silence, no laughter, not even a smile. "wait," he says, "don't you get it?" "I understand," I tell him. then he leans back, thinks that I have no sense of humor, have had a bad day, or that he has overestimated my intelligence. he could be right on all counts, I know that I often watch famous comedians who make millions tell awful jokes while the audience roars with appreciation and across the nation numberless others join in from their living rooms as I sit there and think, this stuff is bad, very bad, there's little doubt about it. yet some drunk sits in a room with me and is offended because I don't roll on the rug when he lays a dead egg that makes even the gods cringe. but they are never offended enough not to return and toss in a new joke as bad as the first, or worse, returning to the first, having forgotten the previous agony. in all my decades of joke- listening I've only heard one that is worthwhile, it goes like this- no wait, I've forgotten it. you're lucky.

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