A Columnist Walks Into a Bar, and There's No One There

By Marc Dion

June 11, 2021 4 min read

I sat on my living room couch today and told myself jokes. I'm semiretired, and I have time to tell myself jokes. Eventually, my wife came home, and I had to stop telling jokes and talk to her. That is love as it is lived. If she hadn't come home, I might still be there, sweating in the June heat, telling myself jokes.

What this little experiment proves is that I know a lot of jokes.

Most of the jokes aren't nice, either. They're racist, homophobic, sexist and xenophobic. The rest are just plain filthy. I do know a few "clean" jokes. I learned them in the third grade.

I've been a bartender, and I've been a good bar customer. I've done manual labor, and I've been a reporter on a daily newspaper. People, mostly other men, told me jokes.

Cops have told me jokes at the scene of a stabbing, though not if it was fatal. I've been told jokes in bars, in offices, in break rooms, on loading docks and in the dead minutes before a shift ended.

"Guy walks into a bar..."

"Guy gets home from work..."

"Guy tells goes to confession..."

"Guy's wife meets him at the door..."

No one has told me a joke in 10 years, and the last guy who did was over 70, and he told me the joke between bouts at the fights.

"Jewish guy marries a Christian girl," the joke went. The guy telling it to me was Jewish.

Other than that, ba-da-boom, ba-da-bing, jokes are dead!

Where did they go?

I think a lot of them became memes, and the rest of them fell victim to the modern world. The modern world is like National Public Radio; anything that isn't "ironic" is a "human disaster." There's not a lot of room in that world for jokes about Martians and elephants and one-eyed strippers.

But the old time lexicon of jokes had some purpose. I could walk into a strange bar, in a strange town, and the first five jokes I heard would tell me who was that town's most despised minority group.

"What does Obama have in common with JFK?" a guy said to me after Barack Obama became president.

"What?" I answered, knowing it was a joke.

"Nothing... yet," the guy said.

That was when I should have seen Donald Trump coming.

Joke World was more than just funny; it was reassuring. Blacks weren't threatening. They were stupid. Mexicans couldn't take your job. They were too lazy. Women were either sexually ravenous or sexually frustrating, but they were always sexual. And blondes? Well, you know...

I liked Joke World. Every white guy liked Joke World. We made up the jokes. We told the jokes. We were not the jokes. Never. We worked. We turned the wheels that moved the world. We were the world's only serious people.

Maybe we're better off without Joke World, though I'm pretty sure that some people still live there, and a great number of people are registered to vote there.

I'll miss it a little. Sitting at the bar, by yourself, looking at a racist Facebook meme just isn't the same. The beer is flat. The bartender is a robot. The guy two stools over is a skeleton carrying an automatic rifle. He just shot 15 people in the parking lot. I'm almost out of money. The air conditioning is broken. The cigarette machine is gone. And nothing's funny anymore.

To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book is a collection of his best and joke-iest columns called "Devil's Elbow: Dancing in The Ashes of America." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Nook, Kindle, GooglePlay and iBooks

Photo credit: Christian_Birkholz at Pixabay

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