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This is The Joke That Killed My Night:

It’s amazing how your perspective on life changes as you get older. You begin to enjoy the taste of certain foods like asparagus, you start to appreciate a fine wine, you realize Hitler was right…

It’s a total change-up joke, where the humor comes from the contrast of ideas and, yes, the shock value. This is not a new joke. I have done this joke many times in many rooms with good results.

So I am hosting a a Fundraiser two weeks ago and it was going great. I had the audience in the palm of my hand. Really, it was better than I had imagined. Anywho, I was doing a bit where I ran through some “one-liners,” which was going OK. Not great, but serviceable. I decided to do it to “Canon in D” which was pretty “eh”; kind of a music-playing-joke- telling-Zach-Galifianakis-Demetri-Martin parody lost on people who don’t know who Zach Galifianakis and Demetri Martin is but hell, I was trying something kinda sorta new-ish.

Then I got to The Joke That Killed My Night… and you would think I had sodomized a baby on-stage while reading Mein Kampf and saluting the Nazi Flag. It KILLED my act. Decimated it. Obliterated it. Wiped clean by the wrath of God-ed it. The audience was totally turned against me. All of my good will was gone. I was a pariah and I still had half a show to do.

Why?

I am not going to say how people should act. I understand that different people are sensitive to different things. I can never understand how it feels to be Jewish and have someone make a Hitler joke. I get that.

But if everything up to that point demonstrates that I am being a goof, I am making jokes; I am playing with ideas and concepts, why would you think at that moment that I decided to show my true colors? That I would share with you, a group of strangers, my darker side: “Oh hey, you thought my Fox Reality Show parody ‘Joe Bale of Hay’ was funny so I’m going to let in on a little secret: I’m an anti-Semite! Huh? Huh? Who’s with me?”

I suppose some subjects are never acceptable for some people. Maybe some folks were embarrassed to laugh at such a joke for fear of looking racist. Maybe people just didn’t get the joke or maybe the notion of genocide is never going to be funny to them.

It was a bummer and it ruined my night. I came back with some self-deprecating stuff that they laughed at, but I feel like I had lost them. What was going to be a triumph had turned into a tragedy. What an awful feeling. I learned a hard lesson about stand-up: not all jokes play in all rooms.

As is my way, I beat myself up for the next couple of days. I finally let it go.

Until…

My good buddy GB decided to share something with me. Here is my recollection of our conversation:

GB: Oh hey, I forgot I am supposed to tell you this…

ME: What:

GB: I was talking to [my wife’s] cousin who saw the “Fundraiser” and she really liked the show.

ME: Great.

GB: She liked all the acts, but…

ME: Yeah?

GB: She found that joke so offensive and disturbing, that she couldn’t remember anything else you had done.

ME: (thinking it’s a joke) HAHAHA!

GB: Yeah.

ME: (realizing he’s not joking) She said that?

GB: Yeah, I promised her I’d tell you (emphasis mine).

(Pause as it sets into my head)

ME: You know G, just because you promised her you’d tell me, doesn’t mean you actually have to tell me.

G is a great guy that I really love and care about; but I have no idea why the fuck he would tell me that.

Life goes on…

(NOTE: I should say that a few people came up to me afterwards and said they liked the show and yes, even The Joke That Killed My Night. They got it. And yes, two of them were Jewish.)


  1. Although I wasn’t there that night, I have heard that joke before. I have also laughed riotously at that joke when I’ve heard it. Its not only funny because the change-up works perfectly, but every time I’ve heard you tell it, your timing is perfectly deadpan. I would attribute it to the audience being “older” in terms of humor tastes, or perhaps there was an expectation of “solemnity” that you broke. Again, having not been there, it is pure speculation. But rest assured Don, that’s a damn funny joke.

  2. That is a hilarious joke…

    …To me. I thought by now people would accept the fact that a comedian who evokes a reference to Hitler in his act isn’t doing it to elicit sentimental feelings of the holocaust. Then again, I thought hip-hop was still very much alive. I guess I don’t know much after all.

    Maybe if your joke was penned as follows: “Man, that Hitler… he sure killed, imprisoned and tortured a LOT of people. But, heh, that mustache of his.. how ridiculous was THAT!!!?” You know, not to make light of any of his transgressions, but to point to something that we all can find humor in, mustaches.

    Sorry, I don’t think I’m helping. By the way, I haven’t forgotten that you likened me to Tay Zonday – and I don’t think it’s because of my sexy voice. Jerk!

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