Teddy Wayne is the author of the novels Kapitoil and The Love Song of Jonny Valentine.
BY TEDDY WAYNE
Brevity is the soul of wit, which is another way of saying, of course, that radical condensation is a necessary ingredient—a reagent, if you will—for humor, and that, failing such abbreviation, one risks laboriously overextending and overreaching oneself in a manner tending towards the lethargic and punchless; to take one example, for instance, my aunt’s anecdotes, comic in intent but never in execution, are labyrinthine in delivery and lacking any definitive closure, arduous winding mountain passes of digressive asides and conversational pit stops, as it were, which result in the listener’s gradual waning of attention—but, then, Aunt Nina is a kind person, who somehow makes her own wrapping paper for presents and jars her own gooseberry jam, not that I like gooseberry jam, but it’s the thought (and action, I suppose) that counts, and a 53-year-old widow’s inability to narrate efficiently a potentially amusing story about her cat’s fondness for peanut butter does not and should not besmirch her reputation . . . still, though, if I never have to sit through another interminable Thanksgiving-dinner monologue about her Vermont town’s sluggishly operated post office again it will be too soon, not that I don’t enjoy the occasional oral bucolic slice-of-life, but it reaches a point of diminishing returns, until I can predict, with great certainty, that, once more, the charming if bumbling character of small-town folk shall be revealed; Aunt Nina shall be designated martyr of her small fiefdom; and all of us shall nod and sagely, mutely smile with pinched lips.
Also really funny are dick jokes.
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