My wife, Mary Ellen, is usually a warm, caring, and sensitive person, so when I turned to her the other night at dinner and said, “I can’t think of anything funny left to make fun of anymore. I may have to stop writing my humor column,” I was surprised when she replied, “Could you please pass the salt?”
I first knew I had writer’s block several weeks ago when I awoke in the middle of the night sweating, with my heart palpitating and discomfort in my chest. At first, I thought it was a heart attack. With a heart attack, trained physicians can put you on a table, insert a tube in your leg, and then shove it into your groin and up to your heart to clear the blockage. I should be so lucky. At least there’s a treatment.
I’ve written these weekly column for 22 years, almost 1,200 of them. I have never missed a deadline. So I think Mary Ellen takes my comic ability for granted. She probably thinks it’s easy to come up with a good idea every week. But I need a little more understanding about this issue I am facing. Isn’t that what spouses are for?
“Why aren’t you more sympathetic to my problem, Mary Ellen? I cannot think of anything funny anymore.”
“You always think you have a humor block, Dick. You complain about this every few months. Look, I’ll prove it. Pick any topic and I’ll throw you some straight lines at you. Let’s see how you do.
I picked inflation and high gas prices. That’s what everyone is talking about, and I try to write about current trends. Mary Ellen was ready: “Dick, why did you go to Taco Bell yesterday and eat a burrito for breakfast?”
“Let’s see… I wanted to go somewhere I could get gas for under four dollars.”
“See? You’re still on your game. Suppose I said for our anniversary, I want you to take me some place expensive. What would you say?”
“I’d say, let’s go to the Shell station.”
“Right on the money. Let’s try this: How high are restaurant prices?”
“Even the mafia is eating at Olive Garden.”
“Dick, that was great. I almost cracked a smile. Now, one more straight line. How bad are gas prices going to get this spring?”
“Pretty bad. This year it may have to be the Indianapolis 200.”
“See, you did beautifully. Now quit griping and get back to work.”
“Wait a second, that little exercise proved nothing, I stole those lines from Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah and Jimmy Fallon.”
“Dick, let’s be realistic. You’re no comic genius, you’re just Dick Wolfsie. You have to get material any way you can, even if your method is a little shady. And remember, every column can’t be great. Work with what you have.”
She was right. I can’t come up with an original idea for every piece and expect each one to be hysterical. Sometimes I just have to turn in something that’s mediocre, encompassing a funny line or two that I pilfered from someone else. Then I have to hope you won’t notice.
– Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@ aol.com.