Brothers in Comedy

I know I’m not the only one who can’t wait to think of the next one-liner and spends the majority of his life watching things go by, hoping for a good setup to a punchline.

Gosh, it goes back to my high school days when I started a notebook to collect jokes, those I had written, others I heard from friends or from comedians I admired on TV. Of course, I tried to write enough funnies to fill an air shift when I got into radio. As my involvement deepened, I’d write more jokes. Soon, I was putting out one-liners that went to Radio Online show prep for other disc jockeys to use and to be considered each night for Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” monologues. I sold quite a few over a 10-year run.

I know that Pedro Bartes over at the Jet was also a contributor to Jay. We both would “fax” in our jokes, along with some other comedy-writing pals of mine, and then keep our fingers crossed when watching the monologues to see if any of our material was used.

These days, of course, you’ll hear my jokes on my morning radio show on KRKO, and all are posted each week on my joke website, wackyweek.com.  I send out a weekly collection to a lot of people in a mass email (and, if you’d like to be added to that list, just shoot me an email), including Seattle Times‘ sportswriter, Dwight Perry.  Every now and then, Dwight will sneak one of my lines into his column and for a comedy writer, it’s just great to get some kind of verification that someone else found your joke humorous.

Another comedy writer Dwight frequently quotes is Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com.  Dwight’s column is where Jim caught my attention and so I visited his website and found out a few things about him. He’s a TV weather guy in Charleston, West Virginia, that loves to write jokes. He also lost his wife several years ago to cystic fibrosis. I loved that he described himself in his profile as “widower, dad.”

There was a part of me who saw all this and basically felt like this was me in a parallel universe, where life dealt him some blows, but the drive to keep funny kept him going. He likes to describe himself as “the most prolific joke writer on the planet.” I know, by quantity, he’s got me beat.

So, over time, I’ve occasionally dropped him a note about one of his jokes, or noticing a typo that he might want to fix and each time, he was gracious and appreciative. Then, on one of my recent visits to his site, I saw that he’s running for political office in the state of West Virginia.

Suddenly, the degrees of separation got smaller. You see, my dad was born in Scotland, but was raised in West Virginia. I wrote to Jim to report that connection and here’s what he wrote back:

I have read the Appalachian accent is basically Scottish in nature as a lot of Scots came over here early on to work the coal mines and then ended up settling here long term. Many thanks again!

Jim

Yes, my dad, his dad and brothers found their way to steel mills and other jobs, whatever they could get. At least, before they were drafted or enlisted.  By the way, what he was thanking me for was my donation to his political aspirations. I barely know the guy, but I know he’s a family man, that loved his wife and lives to write jokes. I think we need more of those kind of people in office these days.

Should you want to do something crazy and contribute to his political campaign, even just $5, I know that’ll freak people out as they wonder, “Why is all that Seattle money heading his way?” Donate here.

I give you laughs on a weekly basis. If you find yourself being unable to wait, always check out Jim’s blogspot.

My brother in comedy.

Tim Hunter

 

Goodnight, Jay!

Leno

We knew it was coming and the day finally arrived.  After two decades of hosting “The Tonight Show”—with only a brief intermission—Jay Leno gave up his desk and the show will head off to New York, where Jimmy Fallon takes over.

Lots can be said about Jay, the history of the show, the Conan debacle, Letterman versus Leno, etc.  However, I find it sad that there are so many bitter people out there, who feel they need to take just one more jab at him before he heads off into the late night sunset.

I guess I don’t understand the hate.  So when exactly was it that you worked with him? Oh, your feelings are based on something you read or that was passed along on the Internet, where Abe Lincoln once warned us in a tweet never to believe everything you read.

Winners draw detractors.  A quick reminder about all the smack being said about the Seattle Seahawks before Sunday’s big game.  There was a large part of the country that believed the posts they read or the commentators who used Richard Sherman’s post-game rant as free license to paint villain all over the team.

Jay Leno may not be your cup of tea, your style of comedian, but he’s a funny guy. He’s paid some good writers over the years, present company included, to come up with timely, topical gags to use in his monologue.  For 10 years, I was lucky enough to be able to contribute to that opening segment of the show.  Each week, I would send out the week’s jokes which I also posted on my website.  One of the biggest personal rewards I’ve had over the years was having my sister in the Midwest letting me know that Jay had just done one of my jokes that she had read in my email earlier in the day.

That told me that if things had been a little different, I might have played in the big leagues as a writer.  When I started writing gags for Jay, it paid $50 a joke.  By the time it wrapped up ten years later, it was $75.  Do some digging on my website and every joke that you see posted in the color green, that was one of the ones Jay bought.  The last joke I sold him was around three years ago, when union writers apparently got miffed about how many jokes Jay was buying from a non-union person like me.

Jay gave me a chance to play the bigs.  I tried a couple of times to get into the Letterman room, but it’s a different beast.

The other night, when Russell Wilson appeared on “Late Night”, I watched a bit of the monologue and was reminded again of why Dave doesn’t work for me.  There were some clever lines sprinkled amongst mannerisms and general comments. I don’t know how it evolved, but the audience breaks out on applause whenever they recognize Dave just told a joke.  In my mind, I’m thinking, “Really?  It’s that much of a crowning achievement?”  With Leno, and most of the other late-night folks, there might be an occasional applause outburst, but it’s usually just laughs and the show keeps moving.

Sure, Jay’s old.  OK, older. He needs to be replaced, because….well, sure he’s been #1 in his time slot for a lot of years….and, uh….oh yeah, Jimmy Fallon will attract a younger audience.  There’s some truth there, but also a couple of factors to consider:

1)     The majority of your present-in-the-moment late-night audience is just plain older.  Younger viewers don’t stay up to watch a TV talk show, older viewers have older habits.

2)     The average age of Jimmy Fallon’s current audience is only a few years younger than Jay’s. Read about it here.

3)     Don’t get me wrong, Fallon is fresh and funny.  But there’s going to be a portion of Jay’s audience who will resent his departure and leave the show.  Where will they land?  Kimmel?  Letterman?  Conan?  And, as the viewership fragments, who will ascend to #1?

Jay-haters, you can now go back to leading a fulfilled life and find some other #1 person or show to criticize.  Jay has left NBC—again—and, most likely, for good this time.  Oh, how I would love to have him stroll into FOX when his non-compete clause is up and re-launch over there, to further fragment the late-night audience.  Then again, he might just stick to doing personal appearances, tinker with his car collection and enjoy life for as many years as he has left.  I hope it’s a lot Jay, because you deserve it.

Thanks for letting me play along.

Tim Hunter