It's ten degrees funnier inside.
Congratulations on entering the Public Domain Comedy Guide.
Before we begin, though, you should all take the Public Domain Comedy Oath:
I, (state your name), do solemnly swear to uphold the good name of Public Domain Comedy as fervently as I possibly can. I promise to use my comedy loudly in public places, thereby giving my material to others as freely as others gave my material to me. I promise to laugh loudly when others engage in a showing of Public Domain Comedy, thereby encouraging them in their quest to be funny and additionally showing others within earshot that Public Domain Comedy actually works. And finally, I promise not to use my Public Domain Comedy for monetary profit of any kind. To do so would be wrong and may guarentee me Middle Act status at any number of comedy clubs across the Midwest.
There! Now you're in!
Do you feel funnier? You will!
Here's a FAQ:
"What is Public Domain Comedy?"
Well, Billy, "Public Domain Comedy" can be defined as any joke or wisecrack that at one time in history was funny and original but has now been so absorbed into the mainstream that it is constantly accessed by even the most unfunny of people.
Did you know ...?
That you have already had an opportunity to engage in Public Domain Comedy on this page? Did you spot it? Did you do it?
Well, if you, when taking the pledge, instead of actually stating your name said the phrase "State your name" and then chuckled to yourself ...
Congratulations! You just dabbled in Public Domain Comedy!
You see, the "State Your Name" PD Joke was many years ago a funny and fairly original gag from the Bill Murray film, "Stripes." However, the joke was a) funny enough and b) easy enough for most people to remember so that it disseminated itself throughout the schools, courtrooms and VFW halls across this fine land of ours.
And now that you know what it is ...
Let's learn some!
Movies - Cars - Driving - Hall of Fame - Lunchroom - Christmas - Restaurants
Thanks to George Lucas and his sound enhancing invention THX, one of the most popular and surefire laughgetters for the non-pro is only a movie ticket away.
The "Turn It Up" Gag
Once the THX sound swell has reached its ear-splitting peak and faded out to silence, the adroit Public Domainer will yell out at the top of his lungs, "Turn it up!" Big laughs from fellow audience members are guarenteed.
Best delivery conditions: If the audience cheers the loudness level of the sound swell, the joke will land more solidly than an Olympic long jumper hitting a freshly raked pit of sand, provided the PDer waits until the cheers just begin to fade.
Worst delivery conditions: If the sound in the theater is actually not loud enough. In these cases, the joke can be misinterpreted as a complaint and, well, nobody likes a complainer. Use your judgement. A good PDer is always ready to analyse a comedy situation and react accordingly.
The "The Audience is Listening" Gag
When underneath the THX logo the phrase "The Audience is Listening" appears, the acting-enabled PDer will say in a questioning voice, "What?" Hearty chuckles and approving smiles from surrounding audience members can be counted on. (You may even receive validation from Neo-Luddites in the audience who feel that your joke was a strike against The Man for all this Surround Sound technology - see, sometimes PD Comedy can make you look smart too.)
Best delivery conditions: The louder the THX sound swell, the better this joke will hit. This is also a performance-dependent gag, so any rehearsal time spent refining your delivery will not be time poorly spent.
Worst delivery conditions: Same as "Turn It Up" gag. No one likes a whiner.
Cars have always been the ultimate indicator of social status. And the anarchy mindset has always been the key to comedy success. Just look at the Marx Brothers. Well, thanks to the fact that wherever there's a lot of cars, there's always a lot of people, this means that there's always a potential audience for the ever-ready PDer.
The Limo Gag
When exiting a sporting event, there is almost always a limousine waiting by a public exit, seemingly mocking the have-nots in the crowd. The astute PDer will look over at the limo, alert his/her friends and begin to head toward the limousine only after uttering the phrase, "Oh, my car's here." You'll be sure to have many people chuckling all the way to their cars, many of them secretly wishing they had thought of that one.
Best delivery conditions: The bigger the crowd you're in, the bigger the laughs you'll get. It also helps to be dressed either a) in shabby (but not transient) clothes or b) in some sports team-supporting outfit that involves face paint or a rainbow afro wig.
Worst delivery conditions: If the limo actually is your car. Nobody likes a smart ass rich guy.
The "Lights Are On" Gag
Often at a public gathering, such as a sporting event, lecture or play, there will be an announcement that some absent-minded driver has left his/her lights on. And fortunately, for the sake of Public Domain Comedy, sometimes that car is an expensive make. If the announcement is anything similar to "There is a blue Mercedes, license number 12345, with its lights on," the quick-thinking PDer will immediately stand up and say in an audible voice, "Oh, that's my car." Needless to say, the response is always a high dose of mirth.
Best delivery conditions: Anywhere, anytime. This one always works.
Worst delivery conditions: See "Worst delivery conditions" for the Limo Gag. The same rule applies.
Research has shown that we spend 20.43 percent of lives inside of cars ... okay, I made that up but it sounded good and scientific. But we do spend an inordinate amount of time behind the wheels of our horseless carriages. And this means that we have plenty of opportunity to indulge in a little free-wheelin' PD Comedy!
The "Put Down"
This is a more minor bit of PDC but it'll make you feel like the King of Comedy none the less. Whenever you are driving in your car and observe or interact with another driver who performs a misjudgement of the standard rules of the road, insert the word "nice" in front of the description whatever error he has just committed and you'll have yourself and your passages chuckling all the way to your intended destination.
1) The driver in front of you slows and turns but doesn't not activate his turn signal. In this case, you can utter the phrase, "Nice turn signal." Wait for the laughs.
2) You slow to a stop at a lighted intersection. An unobservant driver screeches to a halt next to you, having misjudged or not noticed the red light. Look over at the driver, then look back out your windshield and snidely state, "Nice stop." Hilarity ensues.
Best delivery conditions: When you've got people in the car. Obviously, all good jokes go better with an audience. Also, the more flagrant the infraction, the better the "put down" will land.
Worst delivery conditions: Not many. However, it is best not to let the other driver see you deliver your gem. This could escalate to finger-giving and possible stronger confrontations if the other driver proves not to have as good a sense of humor as you. Public Domain Comedy, like all comedy, carries a certain amount of risk with it. Remember, a laugh is almost always gotten at another person's expense.
At any point during the day, provided you live in a town where you know people, you may encounter a situation in which you are driving next to a person you know. And if you are, then you, my friend, have just hit the comedy jackpot. Because driving next to an aquaintance is without a doubt the most furtile soil for any comedy-planting PDer who's serious about his/her craft.
Here's your list of comedy options:
1) The Angry Driver - Pretend that your friend in the opposite car has upset you in some way with his/her driving. Yell such phrases as "What the hell's wrong with you" and "Watch where you're going" and accompany your expletives with the proverbial "flipping of the bird." The more you hurl, the more they'll howl. Nothing is funnier than safe aggression.
2) The Drag Racer - Grip your steering wheel in the 10 and 2 position and hunch your back into a "ready for action" posture. Hard set your brow and look slowly over at your friend. A simple determined nod of the head will whimsically say to your audience of one, "Let's race." And you might just have them racing ... to the hospital for oxygen after laughing too hard!
3) The Sleepy Guy - Once your friend knows you're there, he/she's going to look over from time to time. And nothing will bust their guts more effectively than to see you either leaning back in the driver's seat "asleep" or slumped forward with your forehead on the steering wheel, "catchin' a few Zs." They'll wish they were in bed so that they could rest up after the prolonged laugh you'll have just given them.
4) The Wolf - Look over at your counterpart with lascivious eyes and yell out such phrases as "Hey, hot stuff" and "Looking good," optionally accompanied by the occasional construction worker's catcall. Best thing about this one: It's even funnier when delivered between two members of the same sex. Mock homosexuality is a big part of PD Comedy and you'd better start dabbling in it now, that is unless you don't enjoy getting lots o' laughs.
5) The Critic - Yell loudly over at your friend, "Hey, get that piece of junk off the road!" From a stranger, it could cause hurt feelings. But coming from the mouth of an ally-PDer, it's just plain hysterical.
Best delivery conditions: Obviously, the bigger the audience, the bigger the laughs. The good thing is that whether your audience is in your car or your friend's car, either way you're going to look like the Shecky Greene of the Auto World.
Worst delivery conditions: If you in fact don't know the person in the next car. Seasoned performers have a creedo: "Know your audience." This could not be more apropos than to the specialized world of "Friendly Fire" PD Comedy.
Chapter Four: The "Funny Expressions" Hall of Fame
For many lay people, even PD Comedy can seem like just too much work. And so, just as the mathematics world teaches us that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so the average citizen in search of laugh-getting behavior may dip his/her searching feet into the cool pond of "Funny Expressions."
Now, granted, funny expressions are being forged every day by some of our more astute and hard working comedy minds. But then, that wouldn't be Public Domain Comedy now, would it?
The Hall of Fame
"Sick Puppy" - True, it was around for a while (liguistics books place its invention at sometime around the late 18th Century) but it took that guy from the "Police Academy" movies to really usher it into the Hall of Fame and lock the doors behind it when he uttered the phrase, "You are one sick puppy," in the 1980's film Mannequin. (Oh, and for the record, I lied about the late 18th Century thing. Sorry. That may someday itself be a tasty bit of PDC.)
"Happy Camper" - This phrase has probably been uttered by more middle-aged Midwestern women than the phrase "Who wants more bacon?" The interesting bit of science associated with this expression is the phenomenon of the "Built-In Laugh." For some strange reason, even unbenounst to the PD community, this expression seems to draw an audible chuckle from its speaker EVERY TIME IT IS SPOKEN. From this we must surmise that, yes, it must truly be just that funny.
"... From Hell" - The interesting bit of trivia surrounding this Hall of Famer is that it was only ten years ago that this PD gem was actually funny! Richard Lewis, the truly gifted comedian, could evoke endless laughs from even the most jaded of comedy afficionados. But alas, like the camera taking the picture of a Native American Indian, the PD community has stolen the soul of this joke forever away from Mr. Lewis. But is this a bad thing? Heck, no! Because it now belongs to you, the attention seeking PDer. Now, you may simply insert the phrase behind any noun of choice and you've conveyed in a humorous way your displeasure with said noun.
Chapter Five: Lunchroom Antics
One of mankind's primal needs is food. And one of mankind's unwritten primal needs is the need for a good, hearty laugh. And no where else do these two desires meld more perfectly together than in the lunchroom (or restaurants in general - it's just that the word "lunchroom" makes me laugh). So - ding,ding! - your order of freshly baked hilarity is ready at the pick up window. Enjoy!
The Tray Drop
The excitement of food and the laws of gravity oftentimes form an unholy alliance for both waitresses and diners bearing trays from a food line. And when these forces mix together, said trays are bound to be dropped. PDers everywhere, as long as they're conscious, will be quick to start applauding, thus saying to the dropper, "Good work!" And as anyone who studies the mechanics of comedy can tell you, this one's funny precisely because ... well ... you see, it's not "good work" to drop a tray full of food. Crash + Applause = A rip-roarin' good laugh for all diners!
Best delivery conditions - You must be the first one to clap. This gag is a PD Standard and so if you don't act immediately and without thought, some other more ambitious PDer will beat you to the punch. And once you follow someone else's lead, you are no longer a Public Domain Comedian -- you are just a lemming. Tough, straight talk, I know, but someone's got to whip you people into shape.
Worst delivery conditions - If a tray is dropped from a medical reason, it's best not to launch this gem. Nothing makes you seem like more of a heartless monster than applauding and laughing while a fellow human being is writhing in his food on the floor in the throes of a major heart attack.
(This isn't so much a lunchroom antic as it is a fine piece of ethnic restauranteur performance art , but, well, I haven't written my "Dining Out" section yet, so you'll just have to accept this one being here for now.)
Whenever our tastebuds go South o' the Border, we will find ourselves faced with the opportunity for a fine bit of PD showmanship. Read on.
You see, there are two universal constants in this world -- 1) if you are driving in your car and tune your radio to a jazz station and you can't hear anything, there's a bass solo taking place and 2) whenever you are brought any kind of plate at a Mexican restaurant, the server will tell you, "Be careful, the plate is very hot." And once these words have been uttered by your waiter, you, my friend, have been set up like Babe Ruth getting an underhand pitch from an elementary school gym teacher.
Once the plate is placed in front of you, you now have two options:
A) The Classic - Grab the sides of the plate and yell, "Ow! That's hot!"
B) The Ol' Switcheroo - Grab the sides of the plate, start to scream the comment from "A" and then look at your fellow tablemates and say calmly, "It's not hot." (Caution - this is strictly for the advanced PDer because of the precision needed in the execution. That and the plate might actually be hot.)
Best Delivery Conditions - A sizzling metal plate of fajitas will bring the biggest laugh because of the obviousness of the heat factor. However, you may have to pay for your moment in the spotlight with several burn blisters but, c'mon, it's always worth it for a laugh. Am I right? Of course I'm right.
Worst Delivery Conditions - If you're dining by yourself, this one could just tend to make you look sad to surrounding diners. It's bad enough you're eating by yourself. Don't add stupidity into the mix for any third party viewers.
WARNING: The following section is for advertising executives only!
Hello, ad execs. With Christmas-time fast approaching (it's always fast approaching, no matter what time of the year it is), you know as well as I do that it's time to start producing those holiday ads. And nothing can help pull potential shoppers into your clients' establishments faster than a heapin' dose of Public Domain Christmas Comedy! Just look!
When you think of Christmas, only one person comes to mind. No, not Jesus, dummy! Santa Claus! Yes, the delightful fat man who has won the hearts of millions of children the world 'round with his yearly promise of unearned gains is the surest way to mine your way into the soft underbelly of the general shopping public's psyches. But how can you harness Santa's goodwill power to your benefit?
By producing the PD Yuletide perennial, the "Our Prices Are So Low, Even Santa Shops Here" commercials. Yes, you'll see holiday shoppers thrill to the wacky image of Jolly Ol' Saint Nick romping through the aisles of your number one client's store or market, gleefully filling his shopping cart while a host of perplexed elves look on, shrug to each other and make outrageously funny comments like "If you can't beat them, join 'em" and "Well, there goes our jobs." FUNNY!
Want to put your own spin on it? Well, you can't, because this is Public Domain Comedy, you know. But you can pick from this list of comedic supplements to heighten the hilarity:
1) Incognito Nick - You know, it's pretty funny to think that Santa shops at your client's store. But it's even funnier to think that Santa might not be proud of the fact (not of the fact that he's at your client's store but that he's gotten too damn fat and lazy to produce the kind of quality goods that said emporium is known to sell). In this case, laughs are right around the corner if you put a pair of dark sunglasses on the North Pole resident and even have him try to disguise his voice to the knowing sales clerk. Comedy? You bet. And if a little "ho ho ho" slips out due to Santa's enthusiasm, then it's just ALL THE FUNNIER!
2) Steamin' Claus - Sometimes Santa just can't muster up the good feelings he knows he should when he encounters a potential threat to his toy and gift making empire. And so the age old comedy attitude of Anger can make your PD actin' Santa into a right funny fellow. Just have Chris Cringle crackle and sputter at the once-again knowing sales clerk's declaration of both insanely low prices AND improved warranty coverage. A frustrated Santa is a fun-rated Santa. Hoo HA!
3) "I Give Up" - Giving in to an overpowering force has always been a staple of mirth making (why, just look at the French). And when you have one of holiday mythology's greatest figures toss in the towel to corporate America, well then, you might as well pass out the diapers because there's gonna be a lot of TV viewers "peein' in their pants!" Yes, just start your commercial with toiling elves working on Santa's production line and asking each other, "What happened to Santa?" Then after the obligatory round of exposition from the head elf (revealing the store's low price policy and a few choice specials), you can reveal the meat of the funny: SANTA IN A HAWAIIAN SHIRT! That's right. Father Christmas just said "screw it" and headed to the beach! You'd better pass out the sutures because there's going to be a lot of split sides that will need mending. Yes, this is PD Comedy at its best.
Chapter Seven: Restaurant Riots!
Food. Comedy. It all seems to go together. You don't think so? Well, then, read on, ya #&*!#%@!! skeptic, ya!
Nothing proves to be a more potent combination for the adroit PDer than that of helpless restaurant help and the ever-flying barbs of Public Domain comedy. Did you know that people who work in restaurants are actually required by their employers to pretend that they think you're funny? It's all part of the "customer is king" ethic that makes PDing in your favorite eatery such a fertile and weakly satisfying laugh experience.
And the "false complaint" is just the thing to set the PD community on its ear! How do you do it? Why, just listen up.
Once you've finished a very good meal, well prepared and courteously served by a smiling waitress who is desperately working her way through college by serving food to strangers, wait until said waitress approaches the table to clear away your plates. She will inevitably ask you, "Was your meal to your liking?," to which you reply, "No, it was terrible. I couldn't even eat it." After a heartstopping moment in which she sees both her hard-earned tip and another night of her life fly out the window, she will look down at your plate only to see that you've actually finished your entire meal! Imagine the fun! Then, it's time to deliver the coup d'grace. "You can see how much I hated it," followed by an imp-ish smile, and even possibly a patronizing wink should send both the waitress and your fellow diners into waves of PD hysteria. Oh, the irony!
And if you can pull the gag off with the timid, semi-English speaking busboy, then all the better. There's nothing funnier than confusing an earnest migrant worker who could only hope to one day enjoy a meal like the one from which you've just launched your zinger.
Best Delivery Conditions: The cleaner your plate, the funnier the bit. Why, even the greenest PDer knows that a good contrasting visual will drive that joke out of the park faster than a Mark McGuire Home Run Derby hardball.
Worst Delivery Conditions: If the food really was bad and your plate's full, then ... well, that's known as a legitimate complaint and it's never very funny. In fact, once you've lodged a legitimate complaint with your server, you can pretty much write off the rest of the evening as far as comedy goes because you've now been pegged as a pain-in-the-ass and pains seldom get laughs (unless they're multi-million dollar film and TV stars). Your only saving grace at getting a good PD belly laugh may be found in our next section, entitled:
Time to Pay the Piper!
There are fewer events in the life of a striving PD comedian more ripe with possibility than the bringing of the bill at a dinner table. Why, just look at all the tasty ingredients -- the prospect of spending money, anticipation on the behalf of the other diners as to the price they must pay, the possibility to get easy laughs by offering to pay the tab. You don't need a calculator to figure up the hilarity totals on this sale.
When the bill is brought to you at the end of a meal, there are several opportunities for PD mania. Here's a few of your options:
A) Shock - Oh, sure, all of the "seeing the total" gags are shock-based, but nothing guarentees a laugh better than the simple "take." Simply pick up the bill, look at the bottom and immediately flinch or jolt both your head and shoulders. A well timed blink in the middle of this action can only help to drive that baby home.
B) The Toss - Everyone loves cartoons and in cartoons, things jump around for no reason. And if you've got the physical ability to make that bill leap out of your hands, then you've just doubled your laugh potential. A well placed finger under the bottom of the bill is all you need to pop that check in the air. The laughs will be well under way before that piece of paper even hits the table.
C) The Unsuspecting Guy/Gal - Though we're getting into more complicated gags, the time rehearsing will be time well spent. When the bill is delivered, grandly pick it up and address the table, keeping the bill face down. Begin your speech with a cavalier grandness, one that indicates you're thinking of paying the tab for your guests. "What did we have? A couple of steaks, some salad, a few drinks. How much could it be?" And then, using all your best PD timing instincts, look at the bill, throw in a quick "Shock" or "Toss" (see A & B above) and say, "Who broke the windows?!" It's abstract .... and it's FUNNY!
D) P.D., Phone Home - This one's barely Public Domain but I think it's such a knee-slapper that I'll gladly toss it onto the PD laugh pire. When the check is delivered by your server, pick it up, stare at the total for a few seconds and then declare to the table with a large dose of mock sincerity, "Oh, wasn't that nice of the waitress to give us her phone number?" Then, depending on the response of your fellow diners (meaning if they laugh, don't do this next part because ... well ... they got the joke), look at the total once again, study it closer and then do your favorite double take, shock or toss (once again, see sections A & B above).
And these are only the tip of the laughberg! Have some fun! Invent your own. It's always fun to joke about the spending of money. Always!
KNOCK 'EM DEAD!
Unfortunately, the Public Domain Comedy Guide is not finished. This is all I have so far. But that doesn't we've run out of Public Domain Comedy. Oh, no, my friend. We'll never run out of that.
Just make sure to check back in soon. There's lots more to come. I'm just tired of typing today.
Where do you want to go now?
Home Page - Flaming Shrimp - Sabrina - Be Like Paul - Paul's Showbiz History - Writings and Rantings